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The Hardest-Working Girl in Sports

Lisa Guerrero, of Fox Sports Net, will debate all comers on zone defense versus man-to-man, while puffing on her favorite cigar.
Joel Drucker
From the Print Edition:
Cuban Models, May/June 03

(continued from page 1)

Two hours later, shooting wraps up on the "Best Damn Sports Show Period." Tom Arnold wanders outside. He's relaxing with a Montecristo No. 2, high-fiving and backslapping his co-panelists and taking in the last moments of a Los Angeles afternoon. "Lisa knows what she's talking about and she's paid her dues," says Arnold. "She understands that when we're bagging on each other, it means we like each other. So she gives as good as she gets. I tried to fix her up with a friend of mine, and she said, ëI only go out with hot guys, Tom.'"

Guerrero concedes that she usually has no time for hot guys, either. Today's typical. In between her taped and live broadcasts, she's squeezing in a 90-minute pitch meeting at one of Hollywood's preeminent talent agencies. She's conceived a TV show, based on her life as a female sports reporter. "Think of it as 'The Mary Tyler Moore' show come to sports," says Guerrero. "It's a sitcom. That's my life. You can't go into locker rooms with naked men and think that this is a typical day of work for most people."

Unlike most sitcoms, this one would have its roots in drama. When Guerrero was eight, her mother, Lucy, died of cancer. (As an homage, Lisa took her mother's maiden name, Guerrero.) Her father, Walter Coles, a social worker with the Salvation Army, subsequently enrolled young Lisa in acting therapy classes. Coles also decided it would be best to connect with her through sports. As they were living in San Diego at the time, this meant plenty of Padres and Chargers games. By her teens, having moved north to Huntington Beach in the Los AngelesñOrange County area, Lisa was debating Walter on such topics as whether the Rams should play Pat Haden or Vince Ferragamo at quarterback.

"I was always arguing, getting into it with my friends and my father about sports and anything else, but mostly sports," says Guerrero. Her goal as a child had been to play pro football but as girls weren't encouraged to pursue the sport, she played softball, marched on her high school drill team, and pursued acting, playing the lead roles in teen productions of Rebel Without A Cause and Grease. By 17, Guerrero was modeling professionally, earning membership in the Screen Actors Guild and posing for advertisements while taking acting courses.

"It didn't occur to me there'd be a role for me in sports," says Guerrero. Geography proved helpful. In 1980, the Los Angeles Rams began playing their games in Anaheim, a short drive from Guerrero's home. In 1983, she auditioned to be a cheerleader, and was one of seven of 1,100 applicants to earn a position on the squad, all for a whopping $25 per game and two free tickets. Four years with the Rams led to a job with the Falcons in Atlanta, where Guerrero ditched her modeling career and took a 50 percent pay cut to become the team's entertainment director, orchestrating halftime shows and other events. Soon she was recruited by the New England Patriots. "All along," says Guerrero, "I'd watch those reporters covering the game for TV and I'd think, ëHey, I can do this, I'm studying defenses, I understand what's going on out there.' "

Then came one of those career-making moments. Eddie Andelman was a long-standing Boston sports expert who hosted a call-in show on radio station WEEI-AM. On a whim, he had Guerrero on for a cameo. "Immediately all these callers begin challenging my knowledge," says Guerrero. "They all thought I was being scripted."

Andelman knew better. Fifteen minutes extended into an hour, at which point Andelman told Guerrero she should be on TV and that he would produce a show for her.

Beginning in 1993, SportsChannel New England aired "Sports Gals," starring Guerrero and two female reporters, former TV sports anchor Barbara Borin-Franzoso and ex-radio sports call-in host Janet Prensky. When L.A. agent Ken Lindner saw Guerrero on the air, he summoned her to California.

By 1997, Guerrero was splitting her time between sports interviews for local L.A. stations, acting lessons and auditions. It was around this time that a boyfriend, an agent at high-powered talent firm CAA (not the one who'd discovered her in Boston), exposed Guerrero to the pleasures of cigar smoking. "It was during the holiday season, and he'd started smoking them, and the smell was wonderful," she says. Attending CAA's 1997 Christmas party at the House of Blues on Sunset Boulevard, Guerrero tried a cigar and "it felt natural. I like the taste and the strength of cigars. They're rich, heavy and feel terrific. There's a very appealing aftertaste."

Guerrero also feels there's a unique connection between her career and cigars. "A woman with a cigar is very empowering. There aren't a lot of women in sports, and certainly not many who smoke cigars. There's something substantial about a cigar. It requires a lot
of confidence."

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