Woody Allen is right: 90 percent of life is just showing up.
I showed up, and I got to talk sports media with David Pollack, Erin Andrews, Kirk Herbstreit and Chris Fowler. One-on-one. Take a number and wait your turn, guys.
When Jeremy Henderson called me about an ESPN GameDay media meet, I thought, Why not. Campus was deserted; parking in the deck was easy. Trouble was, the Student Center was deserted too, except for a sportscaster from Huntsville, a crew from Eagle Eye TV, Coleman McDowell (a Plainsman staffer and new TWER contributor) and me.
The lone ESPN staffer there sent us to the AU hotel, where the production meeting merged with the Arkansas-LSU game on TV. Ah, the crowd was there, no doubt.
But no one was. When I knocked on the meeting room door, and mentioned the publicist’s name to the staffer who answered it, an impromptu order was established. First up, Pollack.
David Pollack. Pollack is the new guy to the crew, in his third year in TV sports and his first year with the GameDay crew. And he seems to draw condescending ridicule more than his veteran colleagues. But for whatever reason, he doesn’t seem too intimidated. “I’m different. I’m pretty confident when it comes to that,” he said. “In my head, I think I’m right all the time anyway, so I just kind of spew off and start talking anyway.”
Part of his approach comes from his youth and his background as a defensive player, but he adds, “I’m kind of an off-the-cuff guy. I don’t really think about things too much. I don’t over-prepare about how I’m going to say everything. I just pop off at the mouth. Ready fire aim.”
So how does Pollack approach the craziness that is college football today, much of which is directed at him when he makes a mistake? “Who cares? It’s part of what we do. We’re not going to be perfect up there. We’re going to misspeak, and we’re going to butcher names. I enjoy the ridicule as much as the praise.”
Erin Andrews. I will confess up front. I was wrong about Erin Andrews. She is not a no-brainer hired for her looks; she is a hard-working pro who was hired for her looks. She might not deserve the breaks she got (who would?), but has done everything she can to earn her place at the table.
When she popped out of the meeting for her interview, she looked nothing like the red carpet favorite highlighted on her own Web site. With her hair pulled back and casual dress, she was a disappointment to her stereotype.
“I did not anticipate that my life in sports broadcasting would end up like this. I always knew this is what I would do for a living,” she said. “This is what I went to college for. I just didn’t know it was going to blow up to this magnitude, so I’m very thankful.”
At this point, she has earned the respect of her colleagues first: “I’m really thankful for Chris and Kirk and Craig James and Mike Tirico. They’ve really brought me into their fraternity.” After all, she paid her dues, covering Major League Baseball, NHL hockey, college baseball, and even the National Spelling Bee, for heaven’s sake.
So now, she feels she has the respect of “some of the toughest coaches and athletes to deal with in the nation. They understand how much I work and how hard I work. So in the end, they’re a lot easier to work with.”
But what about the respect of sports fans, most of whom dismiss her as all looks, no depth? “It will always be a chip on my shoulder that people think I got my job for being a female and being 5’10” and having long hair. But I think I’m done proving to everyone how hard I work. I think I’ve proved myself enough.”
One endorsement: She was just given a vote for the Heisman Trophy. “When they unveiled that on College GameDay, people said, ‘She goes to the CMA awards and she’s too Hollywood.’ People think I’m here for a certain reason, but in the end, the Heisman would not have given me a vote if they didn’t think I knew something.”
It’s funny. After talking to Pollack and Andrews in order, Andrews comes off as the serious professional, by comparison. Pollack? Maybe some time at the National Spelling Bee is in order.
Photo by Coleman McDowell.
For part II, go here.
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