Jeff Pearlman

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Jaymee Sire

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Is she ESPN's best SportsCenter anchor? The argument can be made. Is she ESPN's best SportsCenter anchor who hails from Montana, runs an insanely cool food blog and can only name four Billy Joel songs? No doubt. POSTED December 22, 2015

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There is a guy who identifies himself on YouTube as t00lband5252. He is one of the Internet’s countless losers, and I would never think to evoke him here, save for a comment he posted last week beneath of video of Jaymee Sire, the excellent ESPN SportsCenter host and our newest member of the Quaz universe.

I won’t use his exact words, because they were repugnant. But he tagged Sire an “uppity —- on Twitter” for “blasting people when they say anything about how she looks.”

Which is one of the reasons why, when it comes to Sire, I’m a fan.

Hell, look around televised media today. Look what it is to be a woman, and the pressure to dress in super low-cut skirts, in revealing tops, in sexy … whatever. You see it a-l-l the time, and if you’re a doubter, turn to Fox News at any given hour. If you’re a woman under the age of, oh, 40, you’re dressing for a post-prom party. It’s deliberate, it’s sad, it’s an indictment on the profession. Worst of all, it’s unprofessional.

Sire, though, is a pro’s pro. Hard worker. Knows her stuff. Paid her dues. Stays true to who she is. Besides working for ESPN, she has, truly one of America’s coolest (and most informative) food blogs as well as a passion for oregano and lefty relievers. One can follow Jaymee on Twitter here and Instagram here.

Jaymee Sire, head of the Montana Chamber of Commerce, welcome to the Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: Jaymee, I want to start with something that concerns me. I was looking over your Instagram and Twitter accounts, and there are no pictures of you in ridiculously short mini skirts, form-fitting tops, leather pants, bare midriff, etc. Have you not received the memo that—according to many—women in sports media are supposed to peacock and sell themselves as objects as well as reporters? (Seriously, does the whole women on TV need to look/act certain ways stereotyping thing bother you?)

JAYMEE SIRE: Whoa. Comin’ in hot! Haha. I definitely did not get that memo. I don’t want to speak for other women in the business, but for me, I’ve always made it my priority to just “be me” on television. That goes for the way I talk, the way I write, and also the way I dress. (My very first news director recently paid me the best compliment ever when he said, “The best part is that the person I see every morning is the same person I knew back when she started out in little old Great Falls.” I take great pride in that). But back to clothes. I do like to look nice and feminine, but also professional, as it is a workplace after all. To be honest, I wouldn’t be comfortable in super short skirts or revealing clothing. And if you’re not comfortable, people will see right through that on TV. And though I don’t wear dresses and 5-inch heels regularly in my real life (that’s just not realistic), it is still somewhat a reflection of how I dress when I’m not at work. Classic, simple, fashion forward, comfortable and put together (well, sometimes).

J.P.: Before we get to ESPN, I love your food blog. Truly love it. Refreshing, smart, informative. So, why? How? What’s the motivation? Why the love of food?

J.S.: Thank you so much for saying that, those types of comments truly make me happy. I firmly believe it’s important to have passions and interests outside of work and sports, and for me, two of those things are food and travel. I also love to write and take photos, so this is a nice outlet for me to combine all of those things in one place. It also provides a way for me to connect with people outside of what they see on their TV screen. (Also, someone once told me that all successful people have a blog … soooooo … I dunno. Make of that what you will).

I became interested in cooking at a young age because as part of our weekly chores, my sister and I were responsible for each cooking one meal a week. (I’m talking, like, sixth grade). I remember finding a recipe for lemon chicken in a Chinese cookbook of my mom’s. It was by far one of the most difficult in the book, but I thought it was so neat that as long as I just followed the steps, I could make it! So it started there and just sort of intensified as I got older. I studied abroad in Barcelona my senior year and traveled through Europe for six weeks afterwards, and one of my favorite things was sampling whatever the local specialty was. After that, I lived in California for 10 years, and if you can’t fall in love with food there, I don’t know if we can be friends. All of the fresh produce and amazing restaurants right at my fingertips … it just became an obsession.

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J.P.: Totally random—what can you tell me/us about Leon’s Lockers?

J.S.: Haha. I see you read one of my most recent posts! Leon was my Grandad on my mom’s side, and owned a butcher shop back in the day in Denton, Montana. (Fun fact: he lived to be 100!) Leon’s Lockers was way before my time, but perhaps it’s where I get my affinity for supporting local businesses. (My 9 am Sports Center crew makes fun of me because I recently discovered a local meat shop that I absolutely adore, and they like to tease that my life is sponsored by Avon Prime Meats.) My parents also owned a cattle ranch until I was 5, and my dad still farms wheat in Montana … so I definitely appreciate good quality ingredients and the hard work that goes into producing them.

J.P.: I’m gonna throw an odd one at you: You’ve worked as a sideline reporter for the Little League World Series—an event I have very mixed feelings about, from a broadcast standpoint. I mean, yeah, it’s cool for these kids. But aren’t we taking this whole youth sports thing too far? Shouldn’t we just let them play without the pressure of national TV, errors in front of millions, etc? And, along those lines, what’s it like working the event? Fun? Lame? Both? Neither?

J.S.: I understand your concern, but trust me when I say … they don’t really feel the pressure. They’re just so pumped to get to play baseball every single day and meet kids from around the world and eat pizza and swim in the pool. It’s sort of like summer camp for them with a few baseball games mixed in. Sure, your heart might break when you see the tears flow … but what you don’t see is that about 10 minutes after that game, they are up playing ping pong and eating ice cream with their friends. I think it teaches them good sportsmanship, life lessons and social skills that are going to help them later on in life.

As far as the event itself, I absolutely love working it. It’s one of the more enjoyable assignments I’ve ever experienced in my career. The crew that works it is awesome, and it’s really refreshing to interview players who truly love the game and are excited to be on TV, versus some of the professional athletes I’ve had to deal with in my career who want nothing to do with me or the cameras. I’m going to sound totally cheesy, but it really is a magical place.

J.P.: You’re making history as the first Quazer from Montana. You’re also making history as the first Quazer to have been raised on a cattle farm. So, pre-Washington State, what was your life? And how’d the whole media interest thing evolve? Where’s that from?

J.S.: Well first of all, I’m honored to represent the great state of Montana! I only lived on the cattle ranch until the age of 5, so after that, my life was fairly normal growing up (though I did learn to ride a horse before I learned to ride a bike). I’m from Great Falls, which is a town of about 65,000 people, and my high school was pretty big by Montana standards (I think around 2,000 students). I played sports until I realized I was too short to make varsity (5-foot-4 on a good day, sans heels), and then switched my focus to things like drama, newspaper and yearbook. To me, television seemed like a natural fit for all of those things I liked to do. I decided around my junior year of high school that I wanted to be a TV reporter and picked Washington State University specifically for the fact they had a really good broadcasting program. However, I wasn’t always certain I was going to do sports. That came a bit later, after I’d done two news internships during college summers back in my hometown. Because it was such a small market, I actually would go out and turn stories on a daily basis that aired locally. I quickly figured out that I loved the storytelling aspect, just not the hard news aspect. Sports seemed like the best of both worlds.

J.P.: How’d you land the ESPN gig? I don’t just mean background—I mean, literally, did you apply? Did they reach out to you? Do you go in for tests? Auditions? How’d it happen?

J.S.: After college, I worked back in my hometown for about a year and slowly started working my way up the TV ranks. After 10 months of lugging my own camera equipment around to rodeos and six-man football games in North Central Montana, I was fortunate to jump from Great Falls to the local CBS affiliate in San Diego. I stayed there for a little over four years and then moved to San Francisco to help launch a regional network (Comcast SportsNet Bay Area). For a while, I truly believed that would be my last stop. I loved the city, my friends, my job (I covered two of the Giants’ three World Series runs). Life was great. But my contract was coming up, and it’s always a good idea to have some leverage. My agent called to tell me ESPN wanted to bring me in for an interview. I’m not entirely sure if they reached out to us or vice versa, but in early January of 2013, I flew to Connecticut to interview with the Worldwide Leader. My sole intention was to kill my interview so that I would get an offer, giving me the leverage I needed to negotiate more money in San Francisco.

Interviews at ESPN are an all-day affair. Most of my morning was spent prepping for my audition. At the time, that consisted of me doing about a 10-minute sample SportsCenter block by myself in a studio (now, we usually have them audition with one of our current anchors and/or an analyst). After that, I had a series of meetings with different people all involved in our Sports enter product. I arrived just before 9 and didn’t leave until 5:30 or so. About a week or so later, they extended an offer.

I was very torn. Like I said, I adored San Francisco. Ultimately, it came down to lifestyle versus career, and career eventually won out. I pretty much asked anyone I knew in the business what they thought. I expected the response to be about 50/50 … half of them asking how could I ever imagine leaving San Francisco and half asking how I could possibly turn down ESPN. It was a near unanimous vote for ESPN. I was nervous about moving to the middle of Connecticut and having to deal with winter again (despite my Montana upbringing) … but truly I haven’t regretted it once. I will always be grateful for my time at CSN, but I have advanced so much as a broadcaster at ESPN that I can’t imagine being anywhere else at this point in my career. Connecticut leaves a bit to be desired in the social life department … but I believe everything is what you make of it. (Also, I go to New York City a lot to keep my sanity).

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J.P.: Another random one: My wife was a sorority member. You were president of your Kappa Delta chapter back at Washington State. This sort of makes me a jerk, but I tend to look derisively at sororities and fraternities—a bunch of meatheads and status-obsessed people voting out ugly kids who wanna partake. Tell me why I’m wrong.

J.S.: Haha, I think you’ve seen Revenge of the Nerds too many times. :) I understand why this is the stereotype, but that wasn’t my experience at all. For starters, some of my very best friends were formed at Kappa Delta. Friends who I’m still very close with today. (In fact, I just saw them a few weekends ago at our annual Christmas ornament exchange they hold every year in Seattle.) I also think you’ll find that a lot people in sororities and fraternities are very motivated go-getters and charity-minded individuals. Sure, we’re also very social (aka” we like to throw parties), but that’s an important life skill too! I read somewhere that 85 percent of executives at Fortune 500 companies were in fraternities or sororities in college. As you mentioned, I was president during my junior and senior year and I was responsible for close to 130 girls. (130 girls!) Tell me another place where you will get experience managing that many people before graduating from college. (Especially when those people are college-age females sharing a bathroom). It definitely provided me with a lot of important leadership qualities that I’m thankful for well beyond my days at WSU.

J.P.: Greatest moment of your career? Lowest?

J.S.: Is it cheesy to say I don’t think the greatest moment has happened yet? I’m so lucky to have had so many awesome experiences so far in my career. Covering a World Series champion (twice!), winning an Emmy (twice!), getting to ESPN and advancing there … but I do believe the best is yet to come. (OK, yeah. That was a little cheesy). I’m fortunate that the lowest point of my career was probably my first live shot during my first internship back in Great Falls. It was a hectic situation, we had to move it last minute and I didn’t have IFB (the way we receive communication from the studio through an earpiece). The whole thing was a disaster and when I got back to the station, our sports director looked at me with a sadness in his eyes and said, “Don’t watch it.” I made myself watch it. It was pretty embarrassing what went out over the air. But I can confidently say it’s only gone up from there.

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J.P.: Do you ever feel like we’re taking this whole sports thing far too seriously?

J.S.: I certainly don’t take it too seriously! One of the things we stress on our show (the 9 am SportsCenter) is fun. We like to have a good time, but also be informative, and I think that’s so important. Because, at the end of the day … we’re talking about grown men (and women) playing games. It should be entertaining, and we try to bring that everyday to our show.

J.P.: Why cooking and food? Like, in detail, what does it for you about the medium and genre? To some, it’s just stuff you shovel in your mouth between work and bed. For others, it’s life. Why, to you, does food seem to be life?

J.S.: I feel sorry for those people who simply see it as a means to an end. For me, it’s so much more than that. Cooking is relaxing to me. It’s my way of relieving stress. When I’m cooking, I’m not thinking about all the other problems in my life. Cooking is fun. It’s a great way to use my creativity. It’s a way to connect with people, and with other cultures too.

It’s nourishing. You’d be amazed how much what goes into your body affects not just your health, but your mood, your skin, your hair, your energy levels … everything!  It’s exciting! I love trying new things, learning new things, and food provides that for me. And last but not least, it’s comforting. Nothing beats sharing a home-cooked meal with friends over a bottle (or two) of wine.

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QUAZ EXPRESS WITH JAYMEE SIRE:

• Biggest on-air mess-up: There was this one time I was hosting the now-cancelled Highlight Express. It’s basically a half hour show that aired at the same time as SportsCenter and repeated every half hour live until all the games were over. We were waiting for a video clip to be ready, so our producer told us to “stretch.” (TV lingo for tap-dance). I ran out of things to say and eventually said something intelligible and then froze and just stopped talking. Some guy on Twitter informed me that I “wouldn’t be around at ESPN very long.” Fortunately, very few people watched that show (hence the cancellation), so it was a nice, harmless reminder that you can’t do that on national television. More than two years later, I’m still here, so I guess it wasn’t that bad.

• Rank in order (favorite to least): Billings, Kevin Faulk, Elle King, Judge Joseph Wapner, Apollo Creed, Sammy Watkins, Martha Stewart, lefthanded relievers, University of Washington, oregano, “The Wire,” the smell of cut grass: You forgot bell peppers. That is my most hated thing in the world. Right below the Washington Huskies. I’m indifferent on a lot of these but here you go: Oregano (in moderation), Lefthanded relievers (sorry! but see nicest athlete question below),The Wire, Apollo Creed, the smell of freshly cut grass, Martha Stewart, Billings, Sammy Watkins (on my FF team, so we have a love/hate thing), Kevin Faulk, Judge Wapner, Elle King, the University of Washington.

• Five reasons one should make the state of Montana his/her next vacation destination: 1.) Glacier National Park; 2.) Huckleberries; 3.) Stars (No, not celebrities. Actual stars in the sky. There’s a reason they call it “Big Sky Country.”); 4.) Skiing … all year round. Powder in the winter, glassy lakes in the summer; 5.) Cleanest air you’ve ever breathed (unless it’s fire season)

• One question you would ask Jeff Foxworthy were he here right now?: What’s the secret to a great mullet?

• Ever thought you were about to die in a plane crash? If so, what do you recall?: No. Turbulence doesn’t really bother me and I read that you’re more likely to die from food poisoning than a plane crash so I generally just try to ignore it and go back to sleep.

• You’re having lunch with a work colleague, and he has some lettuce stuck to a tooth. Do you say anything? If so, what?: 100 percent. “Hey … you have some lettuce stuck in your teeth.” I would expect the same courtesy.

• Dancing with the Stars calls and wants you on next season. You say?: Wait. That show is still on?

• Without looking it up, how many Billy Joel songs can you list?: My mom used to listen to Billy Joel all the time! That said, I could only come up with four—Piano Man (duh), Just the Way You Are (I used to be able to play this on the piano), Only the Good Die Young, You May be Right.

• Five nicest athletes you’ve ever dealt with: Andres Torres, Dave Roberts, Javier Lopez, Jeremy Affeldt, Steph Curry (honorable mentions: LaDainian Tomlinson, Drew Brees, David Lee).

• Fill in the blank: Bristol, Conn. is the most awesome place in the world because _______: Uhhhh … is this a trick question?

  • Cd1515

    confused, Jeff.
    there are so many interesting people out there (and you have found some of them) for the Quaz.
    why the fixation on barely-known women in TV sports?

    • Kristin Davis

      Give her a chance. Jaymee is known and getting even more renown because she is a talented, authentic, and genuine TV broadcaster who has been places and will continue to go places. Jeff seems keen to that. Great interview.

    • Jeff

      Good call. This site is often used as a platform to criticize the marginalization of women in broadcasting, yet features a steady diet of interviews with conventionally attractive female broadcasters: makes one wonder about the authenticity of the outrage.

      • sanford943

        He can’t help it if the women he interviews are conventionally attractive. You aren’t really going to find unattractive on camera tv reporters. i would have to look back but I don’t think he has interviewed and women in print media. One does not have to be pretty to do that job. You actually have to have some skills to be a news paper reporter.

  • http://jeffpearlman.com Jeff Pearlman

    I found the last two comments interesting. And not in a snide way—In a, “Maybe they’re right.” So I went back through the past 138 Quazes. In the category of media, of the last 138, 15 have been women in the press—either TV or print. Twenty four have been men. I will say I am fascinated by the role of women in sports media, especially TV. But I can assure you—like, triple assure you—it’s not because of looks. I think/hope that’s pretty clear from the entire Quaz roster.

    • Cd1515

      yeah, didn’t mean to question your motives, Jeff.
      it’s your project, clearly you can do whatever you want with it.
      just seemed like there’s a lot of female TV sports hosts interviewed here, and sorry, I don’t find most of them very interesting.
      maybe others do.

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