Phyllis George, Trailblazing Sportscaster, Is Dead at 70

Written by on May 16, 2020

Phyllis George, who achieved one stage of fame as Miss America 1971 and one other 4 years later when CBS employed her as a member of the in any other case all-male solid of “The NFL In the present day,” died on Thursday in Lexington, Ky. She was 70.

Her household mentioned the trigger was polycythemia vera, a uncommon blood most cancers that had been recognized 35 years in the past.

Employed as a co-host of CBS Sports activities’s weekly pregame soccer present — which featured the high-profile hosts Brent Musburger and Irv Cross and the playing commentator Jimmy Snyder, or Jimmy the Greek, as he was identified — Ms. George instantly grew to become probably the most distinguished lady in sportscasting.

However together with her beauty-queen background and her modest tv résumé, she was criticized for missing the standard sportscaster credentials. She was not a former sportswriter, like Mr. Musburger, and she or he was clearly not a retired soccer participant, like Mr. Cross.

PictureMs. George was reunited with her old co-hosts Brent Musburger, left, and Irv Cross for a CBS Sports special in 1999.
Credit score…Richard Cartwright/CBS

She responded to her critics by saying that she knew sufficient about sports activities, particularly soccer, to get by.

And he or she was unquestionably a pioneer. To many younger girls who hoped to have careers in sportscasting, seeing her sharing the studio desk with Mr. Musburger, Mr. Cross and Mr. Snyder and discussing the day’s video games was inspiring.

“Generally it’s a must to see it to be it; it’s a must to know one thing is a profession choice to be able to aspire to it,” Hannah Storm, an anchor at ESPN’s “SportsCenter,” wrote in an electronic mail. “Which suggests somebody needs to be first. That was Phyllis George — a real trailblazer.”

Ms. George was finest identified for her interviews with athletes. A noteworthy second occurred in 1975 when Roger Staubach, the Dallas Cowboys’ stoic quarterback, unexpectedly confessed to her: “I like intercourse as a lot as Joe Namath. I similar to it with one particular person, my spouse.”

Late that season, her first with “The NFL In the present day,” she recalled being concerned that she had been chosen by CBS to play a token function.

“I informed Brent I used to be no skilled,” she informed The Orlando Sentinel. “However each week, what you’ve acquired to know is that I get an increasing number of to do as a result of my confidence is rising and their confidence in me is rising.”

Nonetheless, it was not simple being a lady in a male bastion years earlier than growing numbers of ladies gained extensive respect at varied networks.

“We talked just lately concerning the ‘me too’ motion,” her daughter, Pamela Brown, mentioned in an interview. “She mentioned, ‘Pam, I went by all of it’ — all of the sexist feedback and the way throughout industrial breaks she’d have an concept and one of many guys would steal it as if it have been his.”

She remained with “The NFL In the present day” for 3 seasons earlier than being changed in the course of the 1978 season by Jayne Kennedy, one other former magnificence queen. The subsequent 12 months, Ms. George married John Y. Brown Jr., who had constructed the Kentucky Fried Rooster chain and was elected governor of Kentucky in 1979. She was the primary woman of the state for 4 years.

Phyllis Ann George was born on June 25, 1949, in Denton, Texas. Her father, Robert, owned an oil distributorship. Her mom, Diantha Louise (Cogdell) George, was a homemaker. She attended the College of North Texas, however didn’t graduate.

She took greater than a decade of piano classes and aspired to a profession as a classical pianist; that didn’t occur, however she performed piano on the native and state pageants that culminated in her being topped Miss America. For the expertise portion of the competitors, she performed “Raindrops Preserve Falling on My Head.”

Credit score…Related Press

When she was introduced because the winner of the title and commenced her runway stroll, she nodded to the judges and her crown fell from her head.

Her first main job in tv was as host of “The New Candid Digital camera” with Allen Funt in 1974. CBS Sports activities employed her quickly after and commenced to present her assignments, probably the most distinguished being “The NFL Today.”

Bob Wussler, the president of CBS Sports activities, mentioned he wished to rent a lady who would offer a human curiosity angle that male commentators didn’t.

“She’s a heat, engaging, very good particular person,” Mr. Wussler informed The Sentinel. “She brings the common 25-year-old-lady fan sort of facet, which I feel is necessary.”

After being changed by Ms. Kennedy for 2 seasons, Ms. George returned to “The NFL In the present day” in 1980 and stayed till 1984. Early the following 12 months, she changed Diane Sawyer as an anchor of “The CBS Morning Information” with Invoice Kurtis. She was once more criticized, this time for not having a journalism background. After eight months, she resigned.

She went on to host a chat present on the Nashville Community, write a number of books and begin two companies: Chicken by George, a maker of marinated recent chicken-breast entrees, which she bought to Hormel, and a line of cosmetics and skin-care merchandise, Phyllis George Magnificence, marketed by HSN.

Along with her daughter, she is survived by her son, Lincoln Tyler George Brown, and two grandchildren. Her marriages to Mr. Brown and Robert Evans, the Hollywood producer, led to divorce.

Ms. George recalled to The Kansas Metropolis Star in 1995 that regardless of the difficulties she confronted at CBS Sports activities, she would have achieved it once more. However, she mentioned, she mustn’t have achieved “The CBS Morning Information.”

“They didn’t play to my strengths,” she mentioned. “They didn’t play to something I had. They only left me sitting there. To indicate up for eights months, as I did, was the toughest factor I’ve ever achieved.”

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