Jeff Pearlman

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Erin Andrews, like Alex Rodriguez

Screen Shot 2014-01-20 at 12.42.13 PMSo last night, while sitting in bed, I thought more and more about Richard Sherman. I hated how he behaved. Absolutely hated it. But, as I pondered the whole scenario, I kept returning to something else. An entirely separate issue.

Namely, Erin Andrews.

The Fox sideline reporter, who stood there as Sherman blathered away, makes a reported $800,000 annually, and has a net worth—after advertising—of $3 million. In the immediate aftermath of the Sherman outburst, I offered Andrews a slight Twitter compliment, saying she handled things pretty well. Then, I watched again. And again. Um, I was wrong.

Erin Andrews was a deer in headlights. She did not know what to do or what to say or how to respond. Someone in the control booth clearly told her to send things away from Sherman—and she did. In short, she wasn’t to be trusted with the situation, and Fox’s heads knew it. As much as America responded negatively to Sherman, he was also—after a must-see game—must-see television. Why was he so angry? How far did this go back? Did it stem from something? Would he confront Crabtree afterward?

Nothing.

Good reporters—even good television sideline reporters—are trusted to interview. To probe. To dig. To report. They do so subtly, yes, and in limited doses. But they do, indeed, do so. Think Bonnie Bernstein back in the day. Think Pam Oliver at her best. Think Jim Gray.

Andrews, however, was not signed away from ESPN (by Fox) because she’s a high-caliber reporter, or because she possesses a unique view of the game, or incredible knowledge. She was hired away from ESPN (by Fox) because guys think she’s hot.

There is no debating this point.

We all know it to be true. Even (I’m guessing) Erin Andrews.

The thing is, Erin Andrews has done nothing wrong. She was born pretty, she was a college athlete, she speaks well and she likes sports. If someone wants to pay her huge amounts of money for that, well, so be it. She’s the Kardashian of televised sports—and being a Kardashian has worked out pretty well for the actual Kardashians. The problem comes when something like the Richard Sherman situation arises, and Fox’s sideline star looks overwhelmed and out of her league and lost. Bonnie Bernstein (the gold standard, in my opinion), fires right back—hard. So does Jim Gray—confrontational, edgy, oft-hated—but a guy who doesn’t digest an athlete’s nonsense with an crooked smile and a “Back to you, Troy …”

Sigh.

To me, it’s the crime committed by the networks against legitimate female reporters: If you’re not pretty and perky and young, you—with rare exception—have no shot. We’ve come so far in this field, as far as diversity, and, yet, not as far as one would think. Women walk the sidelines and tell us stories, but they’d better be pretty and busty enough to keep a guy’s interest, pre-Budweiser commercial. Otherwise, no thank you. Find a radio gig, m’am.

Here’s the problem, if you’re Fox: Erin Andrews makes a ton of money for someone who’s not especially good at her job. There are now—in her wake—dozens of similarly blonde, similarly pretty, similarly perky reporters working the TV sports circuit. They’re younger than Erin Andrews, fresher than Erin Andrews, probably even more talented than Erin Andrews. Before long (if it hasn’t already happened), Fox will realize it surrendered a ton of dough for a ballplayer who did her best work at ESPN, just as ARod did his best work in Seattle. Her prime was 2008.

See, surface beauty only travels so far before people demand something more to stay tuned. Sports fans, ultimately, want insight and professionalism and high-caliber questions. They want follow-up reporting.

Or, sadly, they want 28 and wrinkle-free.

Sigh.

  • seanlahman

    How do you think she should have handled it? Seems like the best examples of postgame outbursts involve reporters standing back and letting the volcano erupt. I’m thinking of Jim Gray when Tyson went into his “I want to eat his children” rant. Can you point to other examples where reporters handled it differently/better?

    • http://ShamanReport Field

      Agree. Erin handled it perfectly. She asked the initial question and let Sherman answer. Most importantly, she asked a logical follow up question: “What are people saying?” open-ended. Not yes-no. Not a statement expecting a response. Erin Andrews never became the story. Also, Erin didn’t decide to toss ot back to Joe Buck as asserted in the blog, the director told her to end the interview which is an important point lost in Pearlman’s criticism.

      • Ron

        A good reporter would have known the Crabtree-Sherman back story. Andrews’ follow-up question showed her ignorance. She handled that terribly and is a shell of what she used to be, which was actually a good reporter. Jeff is spot on with this.

        • Ray

          A good reporter would have known the back story? That’s odd, considering that NO ONE at the time of the interview knew what the back story was. Erin Andrews isn’t Nellie Bly, but she did a pretty good job with the whole thing.

  • Paul Ivice

    As disgusting as it may be, FOX is merely catering to its football audience, which is heavily male, rather unsophisticated and probably more sexist than the general population. It’s not Andrews’ fault she as not up to the challenge of this interview and it’s not really FOX’s fault, either, for giving its audience the low-brow pablum it demands. Th audience didn’t care that Andrews was incapable of asking a decent question, which essentially left Sherman dangling in the breeze; they blame Sherman for acting unsportsmanlike and ungentlemanly.

  • http://modblogmidmajor2mainstream.blogspot.com Matthew O’Daniels

    I’m surprised in that finally! garbage in, garbage out! erin isn’t splitting the atom in any of her interviews and am happy that sherman gave what we all finally deserved. I’m more offended that people are offended.

  • Pingback: Jeff Pearlman Mercilessly Ripped Erin Andrews, Called Her the Kardashian of Televised Sports | The Big Lead

  • http://www.joboosoccer.com/ Joboo

    So, what was she supposed to do exactly when she started to ask a follow-up question and they cut the interview or Sherman walked off, or whatever happened there to end it? Oh, right, somewhere in this disjointed mess you mentioned that they didn’t trust her with the interview. Not the, y’know, screaming guy that was also involved.

    Maybe a producer realized they needed to let Sherman calm down before continuing to interview him? Who knows.

  • Beau

    I like you, Jeff, but this is a stupid article. I don’t know what you expected Andrews to do with Sherman screaming at the camera. It’s not that Fox didn’t trust her; they didn’t trust him.

    But here’s the main problem with your whining: You praise Pam Oliver, but did you see her interview of Jim Harbaugh? I have never seen a reporter that terrified. She was so scared of how Harbaugh would respond to her that she tried to appear ten times more distraught than he was. I literally thought she was going to cry.

    Here’s a secret for you, Jeff: We sports fans don’t want anything from sideline reporters, regardless of how young and pretty they are. Sure, some are better than others, but Erin Andrews would probably fall somewhere in the middle. So this post reeks of a) high-school cattiness or b) please, some blog link to me. Either way, it reflects very poorly on you.

  • Sean

    Erin Andrews sure cashed in on that peephole video. Without it she would still be on the college sidelines.

  • Julie

    I agree with the article. She looked clueless and by asking who was he talking about, made her look like she hadn’t been watching the game. She should have known it was Crabtree and asked a good question. Get out of the headlights Erin

  • Rich

    Jeff, I agree with Beau. Usually you are right on. But my immediate reaction was the network, on live TV, caved and were afraid of what Sherman was going to say. It seemed like she was starting to follow up and the voices in her ear pulled it. Shame on them, in this instance not her.

    I also agree that we do not need sideline reporters. If we get one more “he’s going to the locker room for treatment” after we’ve already seen him go to the locker room for treatment…well you get the picture. But in this instance you come across as high brow and wrong. Sorry.

  • peck jeff

    thanks, finally someone from the mainstream media who is well respected outed this fraud.

  • Jeff

    He stormed off when she was in mid-question. Not sure where you get the idea that the control booth didn’t trust her. And you undermined your Kardashian comparison by stating that Andrews was a college athlete and speaks well and likes sports – those are the credentials by about two thirds of the talking heads on television. Kardashian is famous for being famous – the comparison doesn’t ring true in any way and just looks petty.

    I’m not a fan of Andrews nor do I have any great distaste for her – she’s a sideline reporter, so she’s just…there – but this piece seems really unfair and unnecessarily nasty.

  • Luke

    Grade A dumbass article. Hope this sets you back for years.

  • Whatever

    What a stupid article. One would think you might be jealous of Andrews.

  • seanlahman

    Just to confirm what others have said… Andrews has said that the producers cut off the interview “because they were concerned the language might get out of hand.”

    More of Andrews’ thoughts on the interview, which seem to undercut Jeff’s assertion that she was unprepared or didn’t know how to respond: http://ftw.usatoday.com/2014/01/erin-andrews-happy-richard-sherman-interview/

  • http://thewood14.wordpress.com/ kelly wood

    Great piece of work! As a fan who luvs the hype as well as the game i felt cheated! Most sundays i tune in by 10:00 i try to catch everything i can every day on the NFL .I will be the first to say Erin Andrews is so fine she just dont know, and she has to have that to do her job lets face it, i mean were are the big boned snaggle tooth chicks at? So she is born with half the qualifications . Sports carry some families and friends on a day to day basis , gives them something to talk about look forward to.It seemed like only a few minutes after Big sherm provided the deal breaker for Kappernick and his crew , that Erin Andrews her time to come up big , and SHE DID NOT! It was a big time game she had a little time to game plan the fans across the world deserve better ,dont forget we finance all this without the fans it all would end quick!!!I felt like 4 minutes later Ed Werder got a shot with sherman , granted he isnt much to look at but did a far better job didnt freeze , Sherman appeared to inch away from him as he answered his questions but werder was quick with another .To sum her up in football terms she is about equal to Tony Romo last season vs the skins ,jerry jones is not her owner-coach and another playoff performance like that will not be tolerated sweety, there plenty of up and coming girls out there that would love to be in your shoes!!!!

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  • JD

    Great article! If people want to see what she could’ve easily done…watch the same hyped up, out of control, very excited Richard Sherman with Ed Werder of ESPN. Sherman actually left that interview complimenting the fans of Seattle, giving props to his teammates and…(get this) he smiled. In the meantime, you mentioned Pam Oliver. She didn’t have a good night either. When you ask a coach, “How do you feel”, it’s the same thing as asking a yes or no question.

  • Pingback: Erin Andrews on Richard Sherman interview: "I loved it" - Orlando Sentinel (blog) | Vote-Often.com

  • http://Twitter.com/RichWardJr Rich Ward

    I lost a lot of respect for your after reading this article, Jeff.

    It’s possible to rip reporting and live-interviews without resorting to insulting comparisons and stereotypes. Damn, expected better from you.

  • Bill C.

    Deer in the headlights? Look at the video. EA was clearly listening.
    Did not know what to do? She followed the rant with a legitimate question.
    Bonnie Bernstein? We ain’t back in the day, bud. And where is that gold standard now?
    Pam Oliver? Did you see the Harbaugh interview? Is that a quote? Really?
    Wasn’t to be trusted?
    She’s only been at the center of coverage for all of FOX Sports’ biggest events, handling them cleanly and professionally. What are you smoking? Or maybe the question is why are you so bitter?
    The only crime committed here is that you are posting material that is made up, out of left field and that you try to pass off as credible. Well it isn’t. And judging from the meager response your sad website generates, I guess I’m not the only one who sees you for what you are, a charlatan.

    • Ron

      She followed the rant with an ignorant question. “Who was talking about you?” She should’ve known the back story between Sherman and Crabtree. A good reporter would have.

      • suckerpunch

        Actually that followup question was EXACTLY what a good reporter should have done.
        Yes, SHE already knew who Sherman was talking about, but she was making sure the TV viewers ALSO were not mistaken as to who Sherman was talking about.

        Her followup question was actually perfect, large picture-wise.

  • Riley

    Hey, by the way….Jeff has a new book to sell!!!

    But I’m sure that never factored into the idiocy of his argument.

  • BC

    Interesting attempt at analysis, but I think it’s tainted by only considering the clip shown on the Fox broadcast, and perhaps your own preconceived notions about Erin Andrews. Or more simply, you saw what you wanted to see.

    Watch the entire sequence from when the other Fox Sports Network correspondent interviewed him seconds before she did until he runs off. I think if you view that piece (NFL Networks just aired the entire sequence) with an open mind, I don’t think you’ll come to the conclusions you’ve jumped to here.

    I don’t disagree that many of the forces that you believe are in play aren’t out there. Your analysis here is just a stretch and, I think, an excuse to be able to discuss your larger thesis. Regardless of its relevance to Erin Andrews.

  • Josh

    Pearlman, you suck. It was a brief interview and she asked a decent question. She may have gotten the soundbite she wanted, but that’s what reporting has been for the last century. In any case, it’s much better than you stirring up the pot just to get readers and attention. You’re just angry she makes more money than you.

  • Christopher Cole

    Lost a lot of respect for you after reading this, Jeff. She asked a follow-up in a completely unreal scene and stood her ground. Her producers bailed, but she did not. Jealousy and envy from you about the way she’s gotten things in her career sucks.

  • Eric

    Pearlman….I have never heard of you as a journalist. Based on this article, the first I’ve ever read of yours, I now know why. My tween daughter is less caddy.

  • Joe B

    Really? Jim Gray? Did you write up an entire article about him after The Decision? “Are you still a nail biter?” How much does Jim Gray make per year? Does it matter? How much do you make a year, Jeff? I’ve got the answer to that one: too much.

  • Will

    Jim Gray? He is perhaps the biggest jerk and moron in the history of sideline reporting. Is there a sports fan in America who wouldn’t punch him in the face if he was in the same zip code?

  • Drunko

    No one cares about integrity of sideline reporters. Also, no one wants sideline reporters to exist.

  • Patty

    So you hit that, or tried to, got turned down and this is how you get back at her? Jerk

  • Steve

    She looked like a white suburbanite school child, who had just been told by her mom to lock the doors and roll up the windows while driving through North Philly. It was obvious that she was flustered and even intimidated by Sherman’s “black” rage. I was shocked by her reaction…more than by his behavior (justified) that elicited it.

  • lanciastratos

    Jeff, not only is this sub-mediocre writing, it is unprovable nonsense. ‘Guys think she’s hot…’ ask anyone, right Jeff?

    Fucking idiot. You do know it’s 2014, right?

    • Jeff Pearlman

      You missed the message, J. Which is on me. But point is networks treat women like objects, not professionals.

  • alex

    She soon will be off TV. The network executives are slowly edging her out – check back here in 6 months time.

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Once again, Jeff Pearlman has produced an exhaustively researched, elegantly written book that re-creates one of the most colorful and memorable teams of the modern era. No basketball fan's bookshelf will be complete without it.

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