T he Village Library will offer a training class on the Four County Library System Download Zone from 10 to 11 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 15. It’s a chance to learn how to access the library system’s e-books and downloadable audio books through your reading/listening device. The class is free, but advance registration is required. Attendees are asked to bring their electronic device fully charged. Please call the library at 547-8344 for more information. Don’t forget the Friends of the Village Library are holding their Winter Carnival Book Sale from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, and from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m Sunday. The book sale will take place in the Village Meeting Room downstairs from the library.
The revelations of sexual harassment against Hollywood heavyweight Harvey Weinstein unleashed a scandal that engulfed politicians, actors and TV personalities alike. Other than a few surprises with the accused politicians (they already had a low approval rating based on their profession), some of those fingered from the acting and talk show world stunned us. We had hoped that the “noble” personalities we saw on the silver screen or the broadcast medium were as moral and decent off it. In that sense, we were shattered. But sexual harassment is nothing new.
When women started entering the field of sports journalism back in the 1970s, access to the locker room was bound to become a contentious issue. These women faced the problem of violating the sanctity and privacy of the place where men showered, dressed and wisecracked. But they needed to get their stories. Today, with a few isolated exceptions, women are basically accepted in the locker room. But that was not the case 25 to 30 years ago.
One woman in particular, Lisa Olsen, a reporter for the Boston Herald, became THE story in 1990 when she was taunted and humiliated by three players on the New England Patriots. When she complained about it, the Patriots’ owner took the players’ side and made disparaging remarks about her. The blowback toward her by fans was merciless. She not only could not do her job, but was so harassed that she ended up moving to Australia for several years.
At the time Olsen was going through her ordeal, there were other women who were blazing the trail for female sports journalists and enduring much of the same abuse. One of them was Lesley Visser, who was one of the first women to enter the field back in the early 1970s. I remember her well from doing interviews on the field during NFL games and appearing at many other sporting venues.
With remarkable timing, Visser has just released her autobiography appropriately titled, “Sometimes You Have to Cross When It Says ‘Don’t Walk:’ A Memoir of Breaking Barriers.” The Village Library recently obtained a copy. It seems like the ideal time to hear from someone who had to deal with sexual harassment up close and personal when the idea of a female sports journalist was basically non-existent.
Unfortunately, her book is a missed opportunity. Visser barely touches upon the abuse she endured when entering what had been an exclusively all-male field. Instead, she glosses over those incidents and spends most of her time namedropping all the wonderful coaches, professional athletes, mentors and fellow journalists she’s known the past 40 years. It’s total fluff.
To be fair, Visser wrote the book before the brouhaha of sexual harassment became a national story. She clearly wanted to have fun with her book and laud the many celebrities she got to know over the years. It’s clear that whatever abuse she took was worth it because she loves what she does and the good times exponentially outweigh the bad times. Visser said that she never complained to her bosses about abusive behavior because she needed to gain the confidence of the athletes she was covering. Putting up with the hassles must have worked out for her in the long run (they obviously didn’t for Olsen).
Visser does offer an amusing anecdote about having to wait outdoors in Pittsburgh during football season when it was freezing hoping to get interviews with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Suddenly their Hall of Fame quarterback, Terry Bradshaw, emerges from the locker room and comes over to her. She was thinking it was her big chance when he grabs her notepad, signs his autograph, and keeps on walking.
If you like Lesley Visser and enjoy reading amusing stories about sports celebrities then you’ll get a kick out of “Sometimes You Have to Walk When It Says Don’t Walk.” It’s certainly easy reading. But if you are expecting a hard-hitting social commentary on equal access for women sports journalists you’ll be disappointed. Visser clearly suffered the same abuse and embarrassment that many of colleagues experienced, but she didn’t write about them. It’s a shame because she knows better than most what it took to achieve success in her profession.
“Killer Choice” by Tom Hunt presents an interesting premise. The protagonist Gary is left with the dilemma of his wife Beth dying of brain cancer with no hope except for an experimental drug in Germany that is too expensive for them to afford. He gets an offer for the necessary funds by a shady character if he agrees to kill someone. Even if you think accepting such a deal is ridiculous, readers have called the book “a fast-paced adventure” and “extremely suspenseful.”
“Enemies and Neighbors: Arabs and Jews in Palestine and Israel, 1917-2017” by Ian Black provides a comprehensive history of the long-running conflict in the Middle East. For those who want a better understanding of the complexity of the situation, this might be a good place to start. One reviewer summed up the general consensus stating, “A book worth reading, even if you disagree with Ian Black’s specific arguments or his general point of view.”
“Far From the Tree” by Robin Benway covers the topics of adoption, teen pregnancy and foster care in a very touching way. The main character, Grace, is an only child who was adopted. After she gets pregnant at 16 and gives her own child up for adoption, she decides to look for her biological family and discovered two siblings, Maya and Joaquin. Readers have described the interwoven story as “fabulous,” “emotional,” “raw” and “heartwarming.”
David Kent is the village librarian in Cooperstown.