I was in my last semester at Michigan preparing for final papers, exams, presentations etc. when I received an email from one of the people in charge of booking the NFLonFOX crew for the Vikings/Lions game on Thanksgiving Day. Nothing out of the ordinary since I worked two games prior with them. However, when the email read “Would you like to be Erin Andrews’ sideline runner for the Lions on 11/23?”, I had to hold it together enough to text my family group chat and write an email back. And yes, yes I would like to be Erin Andrews’ sideline runner.
I was nervous heading into Detroit that morning. I had been on the NFL sidelines with Laura Okmin before, but lucky for me, I’ve known Laura for a couple of years now. The only thing I was nervous about was if one of my biggest idols would be the kind, smart, hardworking woman I sincerely believed her to be. No surprise, Erin was! That day she taught me a lot more than just the workings of one of the most respected sideline reporters in the game.
I was happy to see a lot of the crew down on the field was the same crew I worked with before. They always make sure they have an IFB (interruptible foldback device) for me so I have the producer and talent in my ear. My duties as a sideline runner mainly consisted of making sure Erin had everything she needed so she could focus on the game. Whether it was putting together her lunch, grabbing her a coffee at halftime (yes I felt pretty cool walking around with Erin Andrews’ credit card), getting her phone charger, or holding her mic, I enjoyed doing all of it if it meant helping her.
As the day went on and I saw more familiar faces on the sidelines, I couldn’t help but notice what happened in the stands. Erin is incredibly patient, but she doesn’t back down. If someone gave her a hard time for walking by the team bench, she kindly let them know that she was doing her job. When obnoxious fans yelled down at her while we were making our trips around the field, she kept her composure. She never cracked.
To be honest, I was thrown off by the comments being yelled down at Erin. It made me even more uncomfortable when some were then directed to the random person following her around all day (me!). But Erin never paid much attention. The secret I’ve learned (since my first time on the sidelines with Laura) is to pretend there’s something very important being told to you through your IFB. It’s an art and a skill I’ve picked up. And when you think about it, an incredibly unnecessary thing anyone has to do while they’re working to avoid unwanted comments.
Erin’s hits were flawless, she owned every story she did on-air, and her post game interviews with the winning Vikings team were spot on. I felt honored to be on the sidelines with her, learning from her and taking all of her advice in. I felt a lot better about not having a job after graduation when she said she was once in the same exact position (unknown to me at the time that I would land my first on-air gig less than a month after graduation. Stay lucky and hopeful folks!).
The only thing I wish I could change about my awesome Thanksgiving Day, was the way people approached sideline reporters. The fact that what most people were yelling (yes, they were men) wasn’t something they would yell at their mothers or sisters or aunts. There is so much pressure on a woman’s mind in this industry to own every single obstacle that comes her way, and this is just unnecessary added pressure, worrying about how she’s going to act when an offensive comment is yelled at her.
Rant over. But I am hopeful that women will continue to be even more respected in the sports media business alongside the strides that have already been made. It will always be important to me that everyone has an enjoyable environment when they show up to their dream jobs every day, man or woman. That day taught me to always be kind to those around you, but don’t be pushed around. Be prepared and attentive, but don’t pay attention to the unnecessary comments. And always be boss lady when you step onto the NFL sidelines.
You can find Dannie on Twitter @dannierogers___
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