On March 13 I had the opportunity to talk to one of my idols in the sports media industry: Ann Ligouri. Ann is a pioneer in this field being the director, host and producer of her own show Sports Innerview, which was on air for 17 years. After many years of being unavailable for viewers, 50 episodes are now available on Hulu to watch. Now that her legendary show is coming back, it was a perfect time to talk to Ann about her career and how she got to where she is now.
We chatted on the phone so I did my best to record the audio for everyone to hear. My audio editing skills need some practice but the content is there and she has many amazing things to say.
Girls and the Game: Interview with Ann Ligouri
1:10 – How did you manage to put on this long running historic cable series and what was your very first show?
From the time Ann was young, she knew she wanted to host her own show. So as she grew up, she pursued the paths to get to where she wanted to be. She studied broadcast journalism at the University of South Florida. Her earliest memory of watching a true woman pioneer was at just three years old. Ann was captivated by the interesting guests and conversations from this show and that memory stayed with her. While she was in NYC working for ABC Radio network, she received the opportunity to host the first call-in radio show for the first all-sports network, WFAN. Ann still wanted to host her own TV show, so she spoke with a female programming executive at Madison Square Garden who said she could get the airtime, but they wouldn’t pay her. So Ann took matters into her own hand and found funding for show, Sports Innerview, which first aired in 1989. Over 17 years, she interviewed more than 600 guests.
5:28 – What was it like sitting across from these hall-of-famers and icons for every week for 17 years?
Ann met a lot of different through her show and covering sporting events in New York. She was able to sit down with current athletes and legends and gain new perspectives on their lives to share with everyone. As an interviewer, Ann was thrilled.
6:41 – Talk about some of the most controversial or fun interviews you had.
Ann talked about different stories including one specific baseball playing being afraid of her golden retriever, Ted Williams and the year of the All-Star game and Bjorn Borg’s legendary career and the difficulty of interviewing him.
10:03 – When you were starting out, what were some of the setbacks you faced?
Ann had a goal of what she wanted to do and she wasn’t going to let anyone stop her career path. She liked the feeling of being in control of her own future, especially when dealing with sexist criticism. Ann enjoyed the business side of her career, and she notes that her entrepreneurial roles in the sports industry business are not for everyone, but it was something she liked.
12:07 – What was it like knowing that with every interview, you were opening more doors for women in the sports industry?
Ann said it was tough being a pioneering woman but she was determined to do it her way and achieve her dream. Ann put a lot of pressure on herself because if she failed, it would her career and possible future women careers in the industry. Ann was prideful, but stays humble with her success in radio and cable.
16:34 – When you were starting out or even to this day, did you ever face sexist criticism and what advice to you have to women in this business facing those comments?
Sexist criticism is not just in the sports industry, and it happens. Ann says you just have to learn how to deal with it because you can’t control what others think or say. Pick and choose your battles. Ann picks to ignore them. Ann talked about a New York Mets player who would tease her and ask her out, which began to bother her, and how she dealt with it because she had to keep it professional. Ann also recommends young women to not dress provocatively and stay professional, even though the comments will still happen because you can’t eradicate the things people say.
19:28 – What does it mean to you that Sports Innerview will now be available on demand?
Hulu has taken 50 of the classic interviews for viewers to stream and Ann is excited about sharing these interviews with both young and old generations.
Comments or Suggestions?
This is my first stab at a podcast and while I know the quality and editing are the best, I’d love to hear some feedback because this is something I might start doing more of.