Lisa Guerrero was often referred to as “the luckiest woman in sports” after landing her dream job as a sideline correspondent for Monday Night Football in 2013. In her new book Strider she reveals how the role turned into a nightmare that led her to a dark place.
Producer Freddie Gaudelli hired Guerrero with the goal of changing the landscape of sports broadcasting by including a reporter who was also in entertainment, Guerrero explained in an excerpt published by Sports Illustrated. But it was ultimately external opinions about her appearance, her knowledge and her value as a sports reporter that became a point of contention between herself and her employer.
“‘Nothing but a teleprompter reader.’ ‘A ridiculous new low for ABC.’ ‘Another example of looks taking precedence over talent.’ ‘A bimbo.’ ‘A blow to women.'” Guerrero listed some of the reactions to the announcement of her hiring. “What had I done to spark such anger? I was stunned, hurt and completely stunned by the media’s reaction.”
As audiences brushed aside Guerrero’s previous decades of experience as a sports reporter, they drew on what they called her “controversial past” as a model, actor and cheerleader. Finally, photos were released of the reporter who put her beginning at Monday Night Football in danger.
“I had a photoshoot done for it FHM, a men’s lifestyle magazine, which would run at the start of the football season. This had been a strategic decision to promote my brand and raise my profile while I was around [The Best Damn Sports Show Period]. But when the media got hold of the pictures of me dressed in black and white lingerie, it reinforced their idea that I had been hired on Monday Night Football for all the wrong reasons.”
Guerrero recalled that Disney executives were “flustered” when they learned of the photo shoot and asked for her spot on their “family-friendly broadcast.” However, she received the reaction to the feigned shock, as the company’s publicity department reportedly ended up negotiating with FHM to put her on the cover.
“Then, for the promotional photos of the show, I posed in a powder blue blazer next to it [co-hosts Al Michaels and John Madden]. Yet the photos that made the cut, including on a Times Square billboard, were not from that official ABC photo shoot,” she continued. “Instead, without my permission, they superimposed a photo — in which I tube with gold sequins dry. top and a come-hither look – that was taken from a modeling job I had done years before.”
While Guerrero believed she was originally hired for her qualifications, she noted that the negative publicity had an impact on her working relationships and how much her producer trusted her to do the job.
“Many eyes would also be on me – judging me, writing about me, commenting on me. Every flub would be magnified. My outfit and makeup – even my lip gloss – would be scrutinized,” she said of the time leading into the first regular season game of Monday Night Football. And despite all her preparation, her producer instructed her to memorize the words he would write for her and not to improvise.
“I believed I knew what was behind this request. Freddie may have been embarrassed by the media’s portrayal of me. I felt he couldn’t fire me because I was his first hire,” she wrote. “So instead of firing me, Freddie would micromanage me. Maybe he thought he’d be the brains behind the bimbo.”
Guerrero continued, “I had been writing my copy for a decade, but suddenly I felt reduced to a ventriloquist’s dummy. When I delivered Freddie’s words, it was unnatural. It didn’t sound like me. I felt like an actress playing a role that I wasn’t meant to play. And there were critics who picked up on this. They would say that I looked uncomfortable, that I looked too much at my notebook. But Freddie had instructed me to deliver his script verbatim. If I didn’t, I would be wiped out.”
She recalled Gaudelli screaming into her earpiece while doing live broadcasts and suffering under the pressure to excel at her job with all the odds against her. That suffering stayed with her at all hours of the day and night, even in her happiest moments.
Now an award-winning investigative journalist, Guerrero can’t believe how dark it got as she wrote about her engagement to baseball player boyfriend Scott Erickson that was suffocated by the undercurrent of depression. “Who decides to get married when they’re also thinking of killing themselves?” she remembered thinking.
She also opened up about experiencing a miscarriage while doing a live sports report.
“I didn’t see that I was on a dangerous downward spiral. I didn’t see that I was completely disconnected from reality. I didn’t see how sick I was – mentally and physically. I was completely controlled.” she wrote.
After that experience, she decided to take a stand.
“I thought about everything I had lost on that sideline – my dignity, my courage, and now my pregnancy. There was nothing left to take. At that moment I vowed to stop letting Freddie control me so much, ” she said. “During the last few games I stopped memorizing Freddie’s notes. I spoke in my own voice. I took my earpiece out during my reports. That way, if Freddie yelled at me, I’d never know.”
If youor someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call 911, or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 or 1-800-273-8255 or text HOME to the Crisis Text Line at 741741.
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