Sunday, October 28, 2007

Talking With Erin Andrews

Following my interview with Tina Cervasio in mid-September, I decided to go for broke, email ESPN, and inquire about the possibility of speaking with Erin Andrews. It took a few weeks and several email exchanges with an ESPN PR rep, but we finally managed to set up an interview for last Thursday afternoon.

I spoke with Erin for about half an hour, during which time I became very impressed with her overall love of sports. It is also obvious that she's a professional, as evidenced by the way in which she took a first-time live interviewer (the Cervasio one was via email) and did her best to make sure I got good in-depth answers regardless of the quality of the original questions (and trust me, there was a lot of stammering and repeating and whatnot; I should probably just stick to writing).

OMDQ: Erin, I really appreciate you taking the time to talk to me.

EA: Yeah, no problem. Thanks for inquiring.

OMDQ: The first thing I’d like to ask you about is your schedule, because it seems like every time I turn on ESPN, you’re there. You’re doing college football, college basketball, baseball – I mean, how do you find all that time? Are you pretty much working year-round?

EA: Yeah, I basically I guess that’s kinda the one thing that I pride myself on - I’m really the one sideline reporter that works year-round, I do basically every sport, which to be honest with you, I have never played a sport, I obviously (intelligible) at all, so I think that makes me more versatile as a reporter because I can cover so much ground, so that’s one thing that I’ve really enjoyed and I take pride in the fact that I’ve done so many sports.

The bad part is that you don’t really get time off because you’re always going and football leads right into college basketball and college basketball leads right into major league baseball. I mean, I’ve worked the last couple of years, my first baseball game, the first opening week we’ve had has been around the national championship, and of course the last two years has been when the Florida Gators have played, so that hasn’t been too fun for me. But it’s cool, I like being involved in all the sports and at the same time it’s neat when the other athletes see that too. A lot of baseball players see me at football games and they call me for football tickets, so it’s kinda cool. It gets conversation going and I think it adds a little bit of credibility to my job as well.

OMDQ: Do you have one sport that’s become your favorite over time?

EA: No, not really because I broke into the industry being an NHL reporter, a sideline reporter, so I think I will always hold that sport near and dear to my heart because that’s how I got my in, but I grew up in the south, so college football is huge to me because of where I grew up, in SEC country. But there really is no particular sport. I think if there was, I would probably try to tone it down and cover a couple sports at a time. But because I like so many of them, I’m not in a hurry to give any of them up.

OMDQ: I think it’s interesting that you mention starting out in hockey, because I was doing a little research and I actually listened to the Bill Simmons podcast that you did, and I thought it was interesting that you didn’t really know anything about hockey before you started that.

EA: Yeah, I didn’t know a thing about hockey. I was reading “Hockey For Dummies” the night before I got the job. I didn’t know A THING about hockey and I think that was one of the best things for me because I learned so much about how to prepare, I learned how to talk to athletes and the coaches, how to deal with losing teams because the team that I was working for at the time, the Tampa Bay Lightning, they were the laughingstock of the NHL, they were the worst team in the league and I was traveling with them, so they’d get on and off the bus and on the plane and even though it wasn’t me that was losing I had to learn to kind of carry myself with the players and coaches.

OMDQ: So, I get the sense that you take pride in being very well-prepared mentally?

EA: I do, yes. I wouldn’t have my job if I didn’t know what I was talking about.

OMDQ: Absolutely. I asked this question of Tina Cervasio, and I’d like to get your take: Do you ever get the urge to “stick it to The Man” and do a game just wearing ratty old jeans and a T-shirt, no makeup or anything, just to say, “Look, I’m not just a pretty face, I know what I’m talking about,” or do you feel that comes through regardless of how you look?

EA: To be honest with you, I think guys would like to see me in a pair of jeans and a T-shirt and no makeup. You know, tonight (Thursday) it’s gonna rain, in Blacksburg, and I’m so excited because I get to wear a baseball hat the whole game and just throw my hair in a pony tail. To be honest with you, I would wear my hair in a pony tail and wear no makeup, but let’s think about it: when people go to their jobs, when they go to an office, they don’t wear jeans and a ratty T-shirt and no makeup, it doesn’t matter if you’re in TV or not. Unfortunately in our business, there’s this thing called “Hi-Definition” television, and every little pimple scar you have or incoming pimple or ingrown hair people are gonna see and whether you’re a guy or a girl, and the guys I work with wear makeup, everybody’s wearing it, you kind of have to, that’s just what the protocol is for television. So, I personally think that a lot of guys would like to see me in a pair of jeans and a T-shirt and I’d love to wear it. But my job, it’s not so much dressing up, it’s just that that’s what we’re expected to wear to work. It’s just like my mom has a dress code when she works at an elementary school and so forth.

OMDQ: Alright, that makes a lot of sense. I’m the sort of person that gets nervous when I have a boss hanging over my shoulder watching me work, so I can’t even imagine what it’s like to be on TV like that and to be in front of millions of people and know that they’re judging you. I think a lot of it is the sense that they’re waiting for a mistake, waiting for a slip-up somewhere.

EA: Yeah, they are, and most people point it out, even sometimes your bosses point it out when you make a mistake more times than not. I’ve learned very quickly in this industry that you have to develop a very, very thick skin and if you don’t, you’re not gonna succeed. I remember one of the first times I ever saw something on the Internet that was written about me I ran out into my parents’ living room and I started to cry. Somebody had written about the size of my nose and that I needed a nose job. And my dad is in television, and I grew up in the industry, so I never found it weird to see my dad on the six o’clock news because that’s what he does, but when I came out crying - and this is when I first started - he just said, “Look, do you want to do this?” And I said, “Yeah.” And he’s like, “Suck it up, because this is what it’s about, and because you’re a female, people are gonna take notice more than anybody else,” so…it’s a fantastic job, it’s an amazing thing to be a part of, I have the best seats in the house, it’s what I want to do, so to me, those little things are worth it.

OMDQ: So do you Google yourself now? Because I know Bill Simmons told you that you probably shouldn’t.

EA: I have seen a couple of things. The one thing is, I check out certain web sites just because I think it’s good reading. I love the Extra Mustard web site on CNN SI. I think Deadspin’s just hysterical. You know, I’ve seen some stuff, but over the past year, it’s gotten worse with me. Every little thing I do, whether it’s eating a sandwich to you know, anything, it’s just all over, or who I’m talking to on the sidelines so that must mean I’m dating them, who I’m having a drink with at the bar, so that must mean I’m dating him, it’s turned into, it’s turned into almost like a mockery, so I’ve stayed away from it. You know, I’ll see some things sometimes if it’s on web sites that I’m looking at, but I won’t Google myself, no.

OMDQ: I think you’re right on in that because it seems like lately that there has been more focus on you. It’s like every blogger (including me) has to write something at some point.

EA: I can’t do anything on the sideline without somebody making a big deal out of it. So, you know what? At one point, I can look at it and be like, “Oh my gosh, why do people care?” But at the same time, it’s so flattering because who am I? I’m nobody. I’m just some (intelligible) who goes to coaches meetings and reads a lot of articles and talks to players and then I filter it back out to people. So, who am I, you know, somebody that people want to either write about or take pictures with or get autographs with. So in a way it is very flattering, and I need to look at it that way.

OMDQ: I actually did a Google search for you, just to see what was out there, and the one thing I noticed was that I didn’t find an “official” web site for you.

EA: Yeah, I don’t have one.

OMDQ: Really? Because I’ve seen Bonnie Bernstein and Tina Cervasio, they have a place where they can sort of showcase their work or things like that. Is there any plan for something like that?

EA: Um, my agent’s talked about it. I guess I’m just kind of like, I look at myself like a big nerd, and I’m just like, would people even go to my web site, and if they did, what would I put on there? Pictures of myself and the crew going out? I just feel like I’m not that big of a deal, why would people wanna look at me on a web site?

OMDQ: Okay, so…you’re in sideline reporting right now. Down the road, I know you’ve said you’d like to have a family, maybe settle down a little bit, you know, not work year-round, but where do you think professionally, ten, twenty years down the road, would you like to be?

EA: Professionally, obviously I’d like to calm down a little bit with all this sideline reporting, maybe just pick a couple sports. But right now, it’s really hard for me to imagine not working the sidelines. It’s just something about being on the field and being near the players and being near the coaches and hearing the inside stories that I really, really enjoy. I’ve gotten to taste a little bit of the studio recently, and I’ve really enjoyed that, but I just feel personally that I have a lot of things I need to perfect on the sidelines before I can think about maybe where I want to go next, because there’s a lot of things I want to improve on.

OMDQ: One thing that I wondered: starting out as a hockey reporter – you did that for a few years, correct? A couple years, at least?

EA: I did it for a year actually. It felt longer, but I just did it for a year.

OMDQ: Coming from that background, do you have any personal insight into what the NHL can do to regain relevance, because they’re grasping at straws a little bit.

EA: You know, I’m sad that the NHL isn’t catching on, because as a person that’s around athletics, I feel that hockey is by far – those players, are the most fit, are the most physical. It’s really frustrating sometimes when you see hockey players, what injuries they play with, and how they’ll still go out there with an MCL tear, their leg hanging off, their arm hanging off, and you see other athletes in different sports get carted off for a dislocated shoulder or an arm injury. It’s really frustrating because I tell ya, I’ve never been around such a competitive or physical group as NHL is, and what’s nice about it too is they remind me a lot of what the Colorado Rockies are: they’re just a bunch of guys. And they just sit around, and they have a good time, and that’s the Canadian in them, and I think that’s also a lot of the fact that they don’t have a lot of notoriety in the states. I mean, in Canada, they’re huge stars, in Russia, in Europe, they’re big stars, but I think that has a lot to do with the fact that NHL I just think they could do such a better job marketing their guys. They are such fantastic guys and they have great stories and they’re wonderful human beings and I just, I wish there would be a different way that they would go about marketing them.

Branching out to women – I feel that NASCAR did a very good job of making these NASCAR drivers almost like sex symbols to the women. I’ve never been to a NASCAR event so I don’t really know, but gosh, they did a tremendous job reaching out, and I feel almost like NHL should do that, because if you branch out to women, guys’ll say “What are you watchin’?”, and they’ll bring the guys to come and watch.

The hardest part is people I think have this philosophy that it’s such a difficult game to understand, well then I’m not gonna understand it. Now, that’s not the case at all…

(And so begins amateur hour at One More Dying Quail. In planning this interview, I took into account a number of details, right down to the best way to feed my son if he needed a bottle at an inopportune time. One thing I didn’t consider: the running time of the tape I was using, which apparently is only about 15 minutes per side. Ergo, we lose 15-20 seconds of Erin’s plan to fix the NHL. The bad news? It was the most interested she sounded in the whole interview. The good news? We were only talking about hockey.

15-20 seconds later…)

…make people wanna watch the sport, because it’s an awesome sport and the athletes are incredible. I’m very passionate with it because I really enjoyed my year with hockey and I’ve stayed very close with a lot of the players and the coaches and people who worked with the NHL and it’s so frustrating that the sport hasn’t caught on.

OMDQ: I can tell that passion definitely comes through – just hearing you talk about it, I can definitely tell that you’re a fan.

EA: Yeah, I loved it, I had a great time, those guys are tremendous. And the neat story for me is when I worked with the Lightning, I said they were the worst team in the NHL and the players were always so good to me and I have like a brother-sister relationship with a lot of the players. And when they won their Stanley Cup and I got my job with ESPN, that’s how I got my in, those boys didn’t forget, and they helped me out, and they gave me stories and I broke stories for ESPN that year with the NHL coverage and they’re just terrific guys and incredible athletes to be around and it’s a shame that the States hasn’t caught on to the sport.

OMDQ: Switching gears: I did not know this until the Simmons podcast, but you’re a Red Sox fan.

EA: Yeah.

OMDQ: That’s just fascinating to me, because all we’ve had for years now is Ben Affleck and Stephen King.

EA: Well, I obviously don’t think I’m as big as those guys are. They’re big time celebrities. But my entire family is from New England, my sister and I were born there, and that’s the reason why I’m in sports. I sat on the couch with my dad and he doesn’t have sons, he just has two daughters, and he made us big sports fans. He told us, “This is the Red Sox, and they will break your heart every year,” and “These are the Celtics and Larry Bird is king.” For some reason he wasn’t much of a Patriots fan so I grew up a Packers fan, so we’re Brett Favre fans and enjoying the ride this year. But that’s the cool thing about the business is that I think everybody that works at ESPN are big sports fans and you kind of learn who everybody’s team is and obviously when you’ve got the microphone in your hand and it’s time to do a job you have to separate that because my job’s a little more important than my team, but yeah, I grew up a Red Sox and Celtics fan.

OMDQ: Do you have a prediction on the World Series?

EA: Um…how I was raised, my father told me that these are the Red Sox and they will break your heart. My heart obviously thinks that the Red Sox will win, my head says, “Not so fast my friend, these Colorado Rockies made it here for a reason.” They had an incredible run to get there. I actually got to work with a few of them a couple of weeks ago and I don’t think it’s gonna be as easy as it looked last night (Game 1). So, I don’t really have a prediction. I think Boston will come away with it, but I think the Rockies starting tonight against Curt Schilling (Game 2) will put up a little more of a fight.

OMDQ: Yeah, they’re a very scary team.

EA: They are, and I think people forget that. They didn’t get here just by luck. They won those games.

OMDQ: So your moment in your youth was when your dad kind of sat you down and looking up to him and wanting to follow the teams that he followed?

EA: You know what, I have an incredible relationship with my father, he’s one of my best friends in my life and I’m a daddy’s girl, and I just always grew up rooting for the teams that my dad cheered for. I never really went off on my own and said, “Well Dad, you’re a Packers fan so I’m gonna be a Buccaneers fan.” No, I enjoyed rooting for the guys that my dad pulled for and it’s neat now when I get to meet those guys that my dad cheered for. I got to bring him to a Red Sox game last year for the first time and I brought him on the field and introduced him to all the players. They were so fantastic with my dad. David Ortiz instead of shaking his hand came and gave my dad a big hug, and it was just really neat. I think he’s enjoying this more than I am, just hearing the stories about the teams and the coaches and whether it’s football, baseball or basketball, he enjoys the inside stuff. Because as much as people say about me and their perception of how I look on the sidelines, I am very much a tomboy and I’ve had guys I’ve dated in the past say, “Can you just turn it off SportsCenter? Do we have to watch it all the time?” So, I’m very much a sports fan and a tomboy.

OMDQ: Alright, I have one more question before I let you go. I always say my wife likes to get the last word. So when I started trying to interview some people, I said I would give her the last question, I would give her the last word. And she’s not much of a sports fan at all, she likes the local teams, but her question was, “Who is Erin Andrews?” She claims that she’s never heard of you but I like to think she’s getting a little existential on us and wants to know, “Who IS Erin Andrews?”

EA: Well, I don’t blame her if she’s never heard of me. To be honest with you, I don’t find myself to be a household name or a really big deal. I don’t. That’s why I think it’s funny when people call or ask to do interviews, because the way I look at myself is kind of a big nerd. I just have never thought of myself as any big deal. I think it’s funny when people ask for my picture or they ask for my autograph. I just feel like I’m just your everyday girl next door that’s kind of really a tomboy. You asked about me wearing all the makeup and dressing up on the sidelines. When I’m not on television, you can ask anybody I work with, I’m in a ball cap or I’m in a pair of slacks with a T-shirt. I don’t know, I guess that’s maybe been one of the hardest parts of the whole job is understanding that people are watching all the time and I just sit back and I think to myself, “Why, who am I?”

I just kind of look at myself as your typical chick next door. That’s how I look at myself.

(Photos: Awful Announcing)


Saturday, July 14, 2007

Do You Believe In Miracles? YES!

My RSS feed reader is packed with blog posts featuring datelines as old as last Tuesday. My email gets checked approximately once every thirty hours. The only thing I’ve posted on a blog in the last several days is a hastily written entry on why I blog about sports for Just Call Me Juice. Thursday night, I actually forgot the Red Sox were playing until my wife’s cell phone chimed with the final score. And you know what?

I’m perfectly fine with all of that.

Why, you may wonder? What could, in a matter of days, completely alter the worldview of a sports and Internet-obsessed individual? The answer, my friend, is an arm’s length away, currently weighs a shade over eight pounds, and goes by the name of Joseph Reed.

He’s my son.

Joey, as his mother has taken to calling him, was born on Tuesday, July 10, at 8:54 in the A.M. He started things off as a pretty big little man, tipping the scales at 8 lbs., 10 oz. and measuring 21 inches long from toe to top. He sprang out of the gate as a four-tool baby (eating, pooping, crying and sleeping), but I think with a little bit of work and some formula, his puking ability could be unparalleled. The kid’s got potential.

Originally, I wanted this post to be about how every parent thinks his or her kid is special. But you know what? There are really no words that can accurately explain the way I feel when I look at my son and realize that already, at five days old, he is my magnum opus (note to any future children: don’t worry, I love you all equally). Or the feeling of awe that hits me whenever I say or write the words, “my son.” Or the frustration I feel when he cries and there’s nothing I can do to fix it. None of it can truly be defined – not by me, anyway.

Here’s something I can do, however: use this space to thank the people who have helped us out over the past few days:

--The nurses: If you have ever been forced to stay in a hospital for several days at a time, you probably have some sort of appreciation for nurses and the work they do. The knowledge that these women possess and the caring attitudes they display toward complete strangers truly amaze me. Amber, Nancy, Sharon, Teresa, Tiffany, Renee, Cheryl, Cynthia, Terry, Rosemary, and everyone else I know I’m leaving out – there’s a special place in heaven for people like you.

--My in-laws: From 7 o’clock Tuesday morning to 11 o’clock Friday night, one or both of my in-laws made time in their work schedules to be at the hospital with my wife and I. Their presence allowed both of us to take time for ourselves in different ways: my wife actually had the chance to get some rest every afternoon while her father watched the baby, and I was able to run home from time to time, secure in the knowledge that my mother-in-law was keeping an eye on things. I don’t know if that SOUNDS like a big deal, but it might have been the one thing that kept us sane.

--The doctors: Counting the doctor who performed her Cesarean, my wife saw something like four different people with an M.D. tacked onto their name. Each one displayed a genuine concern for her well-being and made sure she was receiving the best care available (and a couple were even nice to me). Likewise, the representatives from the pediatrician we chose convinced us that are son is in good hands. The initial exam was done by an older gentleman who responded to my uncertainty about a name (Joseph wasn’t among the three finalists we had brought to the hospital and I needed to speak to my wife before going public with it) by cheerfully suggesting that my son “looks like a Michael” and proceeding to call him Mike for the rest of the exam. Kinda quirky? Yes. But he had a definite likeable air about him. And don’t even get me started on the guy who did the circumcision – possibly the driest sense of humor I’ve ever stumbled across. Everything was delivered in a total deadpan (think Stephen Wright without the droning monotone). Completely put me at ease, which is surprisingly difficult when watching one’s offspring get his tallywacker snipped.

--Aunt Kathy and Christine: As luck would have it, my wife’s aunt and cousin both work at the hospital where she had the baby and were able to be in the operating room during the procedure. I wasn’t sure what to think about that at first, but it became obvious soon after I entered the room that their presence was a huge positive. For starters, Vicki was able to tell Kathy what she was feeling (she had a local anesthetic and was awake, which can be disconcerting when you start feeling tugging and pulling from down below) and know that Kathy could calm her fears by telling her that everything was normal. Add in Christine’s boundless energy (she’s a nurse – go figure) and obvious enthusiasm for this particular case (right after Joseph was born, she poked her head around the blue curtain separating us from the crime scene and crowed, “Vicki, he’s BEAUTIFUL!”) and the situation couldn’t have been any better.

--My wife: The true star of this show. She carried that little bowling ball around for nine months, took great care to manage her weight (even after a gestational diabetes diagnosis) and was smart enough to cut back to two packs of cigarettes a day (I keed, I keed. The only thing she smoked during her pregnancy was crack). It was an impressive performance even before the doctors cut her open and left a twelve-inch incision across her stomach. The strength she has shown over the last week, even when she can barely get out of bed or walk across the room, has been remarkable.