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SportsColumnistsNeil Best

CBS Sports Network's new all-female sports show is something 'We Need to Talk' about

In this June 8, 2014, file photo, Allie

In this June 8, 2014, file photo, Allie LaForce poses during a red carpet event before the Miss USA 2014 pageant in Baton Rouge, La. CBS Sports Network will air an all-women sports show starting next month. The panel will feature a core of CBS Sports announcers: Lesley Visser, Amy Trask, Tracy Wolfson, Dana Jacobson and Allie LaForce. Credit: AP / Jonathan Bachman

The announcement is dated Aug. 26, so no, CBS cannot be accused of opportunism in launching what it calls "the first-ever nationally televised all-female weekly hourlong sports show airing in prime time" now, of all times.

"Nobody would have believed if you put that press release out last week," director and co-coordinating producer Suzanne Smith said Monday.

So while it's OK to credit CBS with foresight in conceiving a show such as "We Need to Talk," it could not have foreseen it would premiere on the last day of a dispiriting sports month that cried out for women's perspectives.

But this is the month we've been given, so let's just credit the show -- launching at 10 p.m. next Tuesday on CBS Sports Network -- with enviable timeliness and hope it contributes to the debate about domestic violence in sports.

It would have been even better if it had been around a couple of weeks earlier, but as Smith said: "Unfortunately, I do not think these issues are going to go away . . . Sadly, and I hope I'm wrong, but I think next week and the week after and the week after, there are still going to be new issues and room for discussion."

Many prominent, eloquent female sports media voices already have been heard on this, notably including ESPN's Hannah Storm. One "We Need to Talk" panelist, Amy Trask, discussed it with Newsday's Bob Glauber last week.

But now CBSSN hopes its chemistry experiment will lead in new directions with a panel that includes 12 rotating regulars: Lesley Visser, Trask, Tracy Wolfson, Dana Jacobson, Allie LaForce, Andrea Kremer, Laila Ali, Lisa Leslie, Dara Torres, Swin Cash, Summer Sanders and USTA vice president Katrina Adams.

There is diversity of every sort in the cast, including generational, which is important in this case. LaForce, 25, was born 12 years after Visser, 61, became the first female NFL beat reporter during an era when women often weren't allowed in press boxes, let alone locker rooms.

Visser said that though, yes, the show would have led with the topic of you-know-what if it had been on last week or this week -- as every existing debate show did -- "We Need to Talk" at its core will be about sports as much as issues.

"This show is an evolution of me starting out where said, 'No women in the press box,' " Visser said. "It's a show where we really can talk about Green Bay's defense or what makes Gregg Popovich special. So [domestic violence] would have been the No. 1 element, but not the only element. I want to talk about Derek Jeter."

She said she recently spoke to an old friend and fellow sports broadcasting trailblazer, Yankees radio announcer Suzyn Waldman, about the waning days of Jeter's career. "I can't wait until she's a guest on this show," Visser said of Waldman.

CBS Sports Network is not yet rated by Nielsen, so we will not know how many people are watching. But it is a fair bet the audience will be modest initially, and maybe forever.

That's OK. We already have come a long, long way from when Visser started, an era in which finding 12 women panelists in sports media across the entirety of North America would have been a challenge.

"I see this as intelligent, passionate, experienced sports people talking about what happens on the field and behind the scenes, with a unique perspective because they are female," said Smith, who also directs NFL games for CBS.

That was a worthy, logical goal back on Aug. 26.

It's even more so now.

New York Sports