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Beth Mowins on shattering stereotypes in sportscasting

Saturday's match-up between the Denver Broncos and the Kansas City Chiefs on CBS will be a record breaker no matter what the score. That's because it will become the fourth game this year where a woman, industry veteran Beth Mowins, will be the play-by-play announcer in the often male-dominated world of sports.

It's a seismic shift – one Mowins, who grew up as a coach's kid, always thought was coming.

Beth Mowins CBS News

"My dad was a high school basketball coach and my mom was a big sports fan, from Canada actually. So we had some basketball, we had hockey … and then with three brothers, you know, whiffle ball, kickball. Every little kid in the neighborhood played sports … boys and girls," Mowins said. "All the little girls in my neighborhood, we could swing a bat, we could run the bases, we could shoot a basketball."

Mowins would go on to be a three-sport athlete in high school and captain of the basketball team at Lafayette College. But she didn't dream about playing pro ball – she dreamed of covering it.

"All the while you're playing sports, for whatever reason I just had a running commentary going as well. I knew at an early age that I loved sports and I loved to talk about sports," Mowins said.

The toy, Mr. Microphone, played a key role in where she is today.

"Mr. Microphone and a big wheel. I was mobile and I had the ability to project that voice through the little radio that you had to hook your Mr. Microphone up to and broadcast to the neighborhood. I'd go to wherever the game was," Mowins said. "When I asked my mom if I could be a sportscaster and she said, 'Yes, you can,' I didn't really ever think to do anything else. … Any time after that, if somebody questioned what I was doing, 'Sorry, my mom said that I could. So I appreciate your opinion but I'm not gonna listen to it right now.'"

It was at Syracuse University that Mowins began honing her craft working from the local to national stage. She quickly rose through the ranks at ESPN, becoming the network's second female play-by-play announcer for college football.

"Eventually you run into a guy in a position of power who says, 'Well, you know what? Women's basketball is the exact same as men's basketball. She can call a men's game. Well, she can call that, she can also call football or tennis or golf.' Because the play-by-play role isn't the former coach or the former star quarterback. That's kind of the traffic cop. And that is really genderless."


This fall, America's biggest sport on its biggest stage came calling: the NFL on both CBS and ESPN. Mowins became the first woman to call a Monday night football game and the first woman to do play-by-play for the NFL on CBS.

"So you get the phone call from CBS … What's after you hang up the phone and say, 'Yes I'd like to do that'?" Jacobson asked.

"The Monday Night franchise is the spectacular moment. The NFL on CBS is this spectacular moment. … To think that you can be a part of that franchise and part of those kinds of Sundays with all the people that have done it before you, that was a pretty cool moment. I still get goose bumps thinking about it," Mowins said.

"Who was the first phone call after?" Jacobson asked.

"I called my dad and let my dad know. I called my brothers. We all loved sports and going to games and watching games, and so that was a special moment," Mowins said.

Beth Mowins with her mother Beth Mowins

And an emotional one, she said, after losing her mom in 2010.

"A tearful one, really, to be able to talk to them and to think about my mom who was the first one to tell me that I could do it. And knowing that she would be watching," Mowins said. "She'd be looking down and sharing that family moment. And that was kind of special."

"Because she said you could," Jacobson said.

"She said I could," Mowins said.

Her firsts were well documented and scrutinized. Bill Rhoden, writer-at-large for ESPN's "The Undefeated," puts her in elite trailblazing company.

"That question about 'is someone the right person to break through' -- that goes back to Jackie Robinson, you know? Who's the right person? Is it because, in Beth's case, she makes men feel comfortable? I think as it was with Jackie Robinson, she's just – she's exceptional," Rhoden said.

While Mowins may be alone in the NFL, she's not in the world of sports. Other women are breaking into some of the traditionally male dominated roles like ESPN baseball analyst Jessica Mendoza and NBA analyst Doris Burke.

"It's great news in that they've finally broken through, but it's kind of sad that we're talking about this in 2017," Rhoden said. "A lot of us are going to have to recondition our ears to just accept a greater truth, a greater talent."

"There will be people out there who will say you only got this job because you're a woman. What do you say to them?" Jacobson asked.

"How many other jobs did I not get because I'm a woman?" Mowins said. "I'm not gonna run from what makes me unique. I'm not gonna hide from being who I am when I'm on the air. And it's really up to you the viewer to choose whether you're going to accept that or not." 

But until more women like Mowins are accepted, she knows it's her responsibility to keep leading the way.

"You see a girl in the audience in Indianapolis on the CBS game, and dad's pointing up to the booth with a daughter. And you're like, 'Okay, this actually is pretty significant,'" Mowins said. "Yeah, it's a big deal and hopefully you're that leader, that trailblazer that gets down the path and doesn't turn back and say, 'Hey, look at me everybody, look what I've done.' You're that leader that says, 'You have got to come check out this view and look where else we can go.'" 

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