By Ira Childress | ChildressSports.com | July 6th, 2012
At the 2005 Big Ten Basketball Tournament in Chicago, my seat on press row was next to one of ESPN’s young, rising on-air talents, Erin Andrews. She was just one year into her career at ESPN, but already an Internet sensation. She was a celebrity and, to be honest, I was expecting to meet a diva. However, the Erin Andrews I actually met was one of the nicest, most genuine, hardest working people in the sports broadcasting industry. While always a pretty face, her true success has been based on her passion for her craft and ability to persevere through the hype that surrounds her image.
True to Her Word
Back on press row at that Big Ten Tournament, I mentioned to Andrews that I was the host of a new sports talk radio show in Michigan. I asked if she’d be interested in coming on to talk college hoops and college football. I assumed she would tell me to contact the ESPN media relations staff for booking requests. But, Andrews quickly said, “Sure, I’d love to come on,” and we agreed to be in touch. Over the course of the next few years, Andrews became a periodic guest on my radio show. Even with a busy schedule, she made time for the show. One appearance was especially memorable, as she was walking into a pep rally for her beloved Florida Gators (of which she’s an alum) during one of their basketball national championship runs. I always appreciated her patience and enthusiasm. Never once did she ask, “What’s in it for me.” She was always fun, always friendly, and always insightful.
During the Big Ten Tournament, what caught my attention wasn’t what she was wearing or how she looked, but how she relentlessly followed every play. She jotted down notes of all the intricacies of the game. She immersed herself into the game’s environment and conveyed its excitement in her sideline reports. I remember thinking, as we bantered back and forth about the games, that she wasn’t interested in fluff. She wanted to give the viewers a telescopic view of the game inside the game. It became immediately clear that this was someone who was much more about her substance than her style, and had the ability to become one of the best in the business. So, when news broke of her ESPN departure for a much more expanded role on Fox Sports, I had to borrow a phrase from newly crowned NBA Champion, LeBron James, “It’s about damn time.”
Taking Her Game to the Next Level
Don’t get me wrong. Andrews’ gig at ESPN was a great one, but her role was largely limited to the sidelines in the college arena. At Fox Sports, she’ll get a chance to grow and show her talent in multiple platforms, while adding cache’ to their prime time college football coverage by hosting their 30-minute pregame show. Make no mistake about it; Erin Andrews is a celebrity and a big catch for Fox Sports on and off the field. She has 1 million Twitter followers. She is hounded by the Paparazzi. She has television commercials and movie roles. But through it all, she has stayed grounded and never taken herself too seriously. She’s a role model for aspiring sports journalists, especially young women who are often pressured to sacrifice substance for style. This latest move will certainly boast a bevy of new opportunities — and certainly those beyond the sports world. But, just as she was back when I met her in 2005, she’s focused on the task at hand: being the best sports broadcaster she can be.
- Richard Deitsch: Erin Andrews hired by Fox Sports after ESPN contract expires (sportsillustrated.cnn.com)