One of the original anchors hired for the launch of ESPN2 in 1993, Suzy Kolber did an end-around to get to where she’s finally most comfortable — on the NFL sidelines.
Back at ESPN since the late ’90s after a run with Fox, the 48-year-old Kolber was the first female recipient of the Maxwell Club Sports Broadcaster of the Year Award in 2006 and was on the Sports Business Daily’s 2004 list of the 10 favorite sports TV personalities of the past 10 years.
Part of the ESPN “Monday Night Football” package, she talks about how with or without TItle IX, she always had her head in the huddle looking for a chance:
The biggest things I’ve always felt is there’s nothing more important for girls than to be involved in sports because it’s so empowering and gives you a level of confidence. It’s all about leadership and teamwork, people using their skills for the whole. It’s invaluable for girls to have the same opportunities as boys.
In my world growing up, I was athletic and playing on teams, my best friends were on teams, that was the world for us, and a natural thing. We didn’t have to consider a time when we didn’t have that opportunity.
As for broadcasting, that level of confidence wasn’t necessarily a Title IX thing, but from being a 10-year-old stepping on the football field with boys. That was what was in my heart. It’s just ironic how things turned out for a career. I spent my whole career on the field with guys now.
If I was to do all of this all over, and I’m not sure if this relates to Title IX, but I might try to do more play-by-play. I was behind the scenes for a long time as a producer, part of that creative side. I love the NFL and that’s what I wanted to do, so what I’m doing now is my true love. I respect the audience and how much time it takes to be dedicated to be on the level of a play-by-play job. But my No. 1 favorite thing is to be on the sidelines, in the action, on the line of scrimmage, having all the relationships with the players.
In this industry, women may not still be afford the same opportunities to make mistakes. You’ve always had to be perfect and be judged more harshly. I’m a perfectionist anyway, but it’s not the easiest path. One of the nice things about ESPN is working with some terrific producers. One of the women who was an associate producer I worked with at Wimbledon was interested in being on camera, and I was trying to help her, but it just wasn’t natural. I said, ‘You’re so good at being a producer, this is what you should follow.’ There are so many great jobs for women in this industry. Tons of opportunities now. It’s not all about being on camera.
For me, it was just finishing the creative process. I enjoyed producing and writing and editing, but this was the final step for me. I’m just glad of the way I came up in the business and got to do a lot of everything and gain a respect for everyone’s role. I know how important everyone’s job is on a telecast. It’s all of equal importance.