It's the season's second-most discussed poll. We speak of Playboy's Choose America's Sexiest Sportscaster contest, in which the men's magazine asks readers to vote on its website for the hottest among 10 female TV sports personalities. "The winner," says Playboy sports editor Blair Fischer, "will be asked to pose nude in an upcoming issue."
Darvalous. Ever since the 1970s a number of beautiful women have been castor miscast—as TV sports journalists. A poll such as Playboy's only contributes to the difficulty in distinguishing which females on television are pursuing sports journalism and which are merely pursuing stardom, and in determining whether genuine reporting credentials are prized by network executives. "We're backsliding" is the reaction of Fox Sports Net's Jeanne Zelasko, whom Playboy didn't include in the contest. "When I talk to young women about careers in this field, do I advise them to get a solid background in sports and reporting, or do I tell them to enter a beauty contest?"
According to Fox Sports Net publicist Greg Phillips, Fischer misrepresented the intent of Playboy's editors when he phoned requesting a photo of reporter Lisa Guerrero. "He told us that they wanted to do a story on women sportscasters," says Phillips. "The word poll or survey was never used."
Responds Fischer, "We didn't necessarily know we were going to do a poll right away." Misled or not, none of the 10 contestants have denounced the vote or contacted Playboy about being removed from the ballot. "We're damned if we do and damned if we don't," says Guerrero. "It's easier to have a sense of humor about it." In other words, just grin and—maybe later—bare it.
For some participants there was a limit to cooperation. ABC, for instance, refused to send Playboy a photo of Monday Night Football's Melissa Stark, so the magazine went with the one on the network's website. On the other hand, according to Fischer, he fielded phone calls from the publicist for NBC's NBA Inside Stuff cohost Summer Sanders, as well as from the agent for CBS's multisport reporter Bonnie Bernstein, offering Playboy their latest photos.