Seeing as we're between Big Ten basketball seasons, ESPN's Erin Andrews found herself free to pop by the Yankees-White Sox game in Chicago to say hello the other day. OK, she also was working -— covering the dugouts, getting seeds thrown at her by Johnny Damon, apparently rebuffing (but not really, she now says) Joba Chamberlain — you know, the usual.
Andrews, who was voted Playboy's Sexiest Sportscaster 2008 (denying Pat Summerall's bid for a three-peat) often finds herself a focus of the event she works, though she somehow doesn't believe Hef would "even be interested." She turns 30 in a couple of weeks, and she knows people will stop staring someday. In what amounts to be a "mini" Answer (Wo)man, Andrews frankly discusses what it's like to have so many eyes — and, sometimes, hands — on her.
Q: When you're doing baseball games, and you're down here as a field reporter, how do you get your information — do you talk to the manager or the players between innings, or is there a liaison who does it for you? What are you doing down here?
Erin Andrews: It's obviously very different from college football and college basketball, where, I'm allowed to be behind huddles. You don't get that in Major League Baseball. You basically get all of your information in BP, or in huddles and scrums. It is a lot different, and sometimes you kind of have to justify why you'd want to have a sideline reporter, but I do believe there is a reason. My gosh, when Barry Bonds hit the home run last year, he gave me a one-on-one interview on the field. It's different, though, than college hoops.
Q: What about the attention you receive for being a sports personality when you're not an athlete?
E.A.: It's flattering. At the same time, I don't play. I've never won a national championship. Never won a World Series. I've never managed a game. I don't throw seeds at people [glares at a meddlesome and well-armed Johnny Damon]. I know that there's a window of time where people think, "Oh, she's a big deal." You know that's going to run out. You kind of just look at it and laugh. I grew up in the media; my dad is in the industry as well. I know there's a time frame and this will all go away and I'll go, 'Wait a minute! What about me?' I know it's nothing to get freaked out over.
Q: Did you want to be a reporter when you grew up?
E.A.: Yeah, I did. My dad is on television at Tampa. Sports was my dad and I's connection. We always were sports fans. He has no boys, just two daughters, and even the dogs are girls. That was how we used to bond on the couch; we used to root for the Boston Celtics and the Red Sox. Green Bay Packers — because he grew up a Bart Starr fan. So I grew up a Brett Favre fan. That was my connection with my father. I knew I wanted to do it; I watched Hannah Storm do "NBA on NBC." I was like, "Her job is so cool."
Q: So, was she an idol?
E.A.: Yeah, I think so. Seeing what women like Lesley Visser, Shelley Smith, Linda Cohn... Even Melissa Stark. She was kind of the young one to start. Good-lookin' girl. She proved she could do her work and hold her own on Monday Night Football — she was on when I was in college, and I was like, "I want to do this."
Q: There's the pic on the Internet from a couple years ago of someone groping you in Iowa. Did you get the word out to family and friends that it was fake, lest they be worried about you being molested?
E.A.: I think, that all my friends and family knew, that if that had happened in real life, that the camera would have been lodged so far either up somewhere or down somewhere, or in the back of somewhere. There's no way that would have happened. I have such a big mouth that I would have told all my friends, "Oh my gosh, do you know what happened?" Some people ask if it's real.
Q: Does it look real to you?
E.A.: His arm is very awkward in it. I was bending over because I was taking a photo with a young girl and he Photoshopped himself in there. I never even took a photo with that kid.
Q: Have you ever talked with the photo perps who altered the image?
E.A.: I do Big Ten basketball and Steve Alford, the coach at the time, was like, "Oh my gosh! I'm so sorry!" I'm like, "Why? I'm never coming to your school again." I think that kid got in touch with CNNSI.com and said something about it. "Whatever," is my view. It's creative. It could have been a lot worse.
Q: How often do you get asked out?
E.A.: I get marriage proposals quite a bit, but my biggest thing is, there's never a ring. I'm going to get, you know, proposed to, can you have a platinum, 3-karat diamond waiting? C'mon. I did a football game at Arizona this past year, and I had done an interview on the Internet and I said, "The next time someone asks me out and if they bring a ring, they may get a 'yes.' " Well, we go there on the field and we're talking to coaches and five kids in the stands have these lolipop rings. I'm like, I should have said a real ring — not cherry flavored! It's flattering. You can't take it too seriously because you know the next best thing is going to walk through the door and I'm going to be too old for this.
Q: Any athlete or coach ever been a big jerk to you, and you're not afraid to say who?
E.A.: No. I think that's one of the coolest things about the gig so far. People see that I don't just do one sport, they see that I do everything on ESPN. I do college football, college basketball, I do Major League Baseball. And it's cool for me to see players and go, "Hey, what do you think about how Michigan's going to be this year? How's Florida?" I think that everyone is real skeptical when a female comes around. They want to know why she's in the business, but everyone has been great.
Q: Has Playboy, or anyone like it, approached you to do a layout?
E.A.: No. You know what? I think I would laugh at it. This [moves hand up and down self], how I dress for on-air, is not how I am in real life. I'm a jeans, T-shirt, baseball hat kind of girl. Sneakers. That "Playboy" poll came out and everyone was like, "Did they ask you to pose?" Absolutely not. I don't look like the girls on the "The Girls Next Door" show. I look nothing like them. I don't know why Hugh would even be interested in me. They haven't asked.
Q: Do you get credit for asking good questions?
E.A.: I feel like I am now. You know, my first couple of years, everyone on the Internet and people were very skeptical — as they should be. We're still in the man's territory. People like Lesley Visser, Shelley Smith, Linda Cohn, they've all done a good job opening the doors. They've made it a lot easier. I think people are realizing now, "She does her homework." And if they can't tell, they can look at my notepad with the 12 pages of notes. Within the past year, I think I've proven to myself that I could do it. That's really the only thing I care about. If people pay attention and actually listen, they'll hear that I do my job.
Q: What is your best interview?
E.A.: The interview I did that made the most impact was a kid named Derek O'Dell. I interviewed him at Virginia Tech's home opener. He was one of the victims who held the door shut as the gunman was coming in. I have goosebumps telling you this right now. This kid, I was taller than him. I probably weighed more than him, too. The fact that he was able to protect these kids in the class by holding the door, this was most unbelievable thing. We were there to do a football game. This kid saved lives. Afterward, I had to take a minute. We went to a commercial break and Mike Tirico got in my ear and said, "Good job, E.A. Good job." And I was like, guys, "I'm just going to need 5 minutes." And I lost it. I just started bawling. That day will stay with me forever.