Pi­o­neer Phyl­lis Ge­orge dies at age 70

Kuwait Times - - Sport -

NEW YORK: Phyl­lis Ge­orge, the for­mer “The NFL To­day” stu­dio co-host and 1971 Miss Amer­ica, has died. She was 70.

Ge­orge, the first woman to be a sports­caster for a ma­jor tele­vi­sion net­work, died Thurs­day at Univer­sity of Ken­tucky Med­i­cal Cen­ter in Lexington, ac­cord­ing to ex-hus­band John Brown Jr. The for­mer Ken­tucky gov­er­nor told the Louisville Courier-Jour­nal that Ge­orge died from com­pli­ca­tions due to a blood dis­or­der. Ge­orge has been viewed as pi­o­neer due to her role on the CBS stu­dio show with Brent Mus­burger and Irv Cross. Jimmy “The Greek” Sny­der was part of the show for some of the years.

Ge­orge served two stints on the show — to­tal­ing eight sea­sons — be­tween 1975-84. Mus­burger was a strong backer of Ge­orge, who of­ten had her knowl­edge of foot­ball ques­tioned be­cause she was a woman as well as a beauty queen. “Phyl­lis Ge­orge was spe­cial. Her smile lit up mil­lions of homes for the NFL To­day,” Mus­burger said in a state­ment posted on Twit­ter. “Phyl­lis didn’t re­ceive nearly enough credit for open­ing the sports broad­cast­ing door for the dozens of tal­ented women who took her lead and soared.

“Folks — men and women — were com­fort­able with Phyl­lis talk­ing about their fa­vorite sport. And in New York, Philadel­phia and Wash­ing­ton, they loved Phyl­lis de­spite her Dal­las Cow­boys bias!

“RIP Phyl­lis. Irv Cross and I will miss you dearly.” CBS Sports chair­man Sean McManus ex­pressed con­do­lences on be­half of the net­work. “The CBS Sports fam­ily is deeply sad­dened by the pass­ing of Phyl­lis Ge­orge, an icon in the sports broad­cast­ing in­dus­try who con­trib­uted greatly to the rich history and tra­di­tion of CBS Sports,” McManus said in a state­ment. “Phyl­lis was not only a key mem­ber of a show that re­mains the gold stan­dard of NFL pregame shows, The NFL To­day with Brent, Irv and ‘The Greek,’ but also a pi­o­neer for all women in broad­cast­ing.”

Ge­orge was born in Den­ton, Texas. Af­ter win­ning Miss Amer­ica, she re­lo­cated to New York City and even­tu­ally was hired by CBS in 1974.

One year later, she was in the high-pro­file stu­dio role and it didn’t start off well. Ge­orge said she re­ceived a bar­rage of hate mail and had to prove that he was more than “BQ — you know, beauty queen.”

“When you’re the first, you’re a pi­o­neer,” Ge­orge told USA To­day in a 1999 in­ter­view. “I felt they didn’t know who Phyl­lis Ge­orge was. They played me up as a for­mer Miss Amer­ica, a sex sym­bol. I can’t help how I look, but be­low the sur­face, I was a hard-work­ing woman. If I hadn’t made that work, women even­tu­ally would have come into sport­scast­ing, but it would have taken them longer.”

Af­ter the show won mul­ti­ple Em­mys, Ge­orge fig­ured that proved she knew foot­ball. ESPN’s Han­nah Storm is one of the women work­ing in sports who is thank­ful for Ge­orge’s ef­forts.

“Rest In Peace Phyl­lis Ge­orge,” Storm said on Twit­ter. “A true pi­o­neer who ap­proached her job with en­thu­si­asm, em­pa­thy and hu­mour. She was her­self-charm­ing and funny ..helped her au­di­ences con­nect with some of the great sports fig­ures of the day. Con­do­lences to her fam­ily & all who loved her.” Ge­orge was Ken­tucky’s first lady from 1979-83. She and Brown divorced in 1998. Ge­orge’s daugh­ter, Pamela Brown, is a White House correspond­ent for CNN. Ge­orge also leaves be­hind a son, Lin­coln Brown. – Reuters

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