There’s something about marrying Erin Andrews with Fox Sports that’s just not going to end well. We just can’t put our (insert digital body part) on it yet.
The beauty of it is everyone will want to watch it.
It’s been less than a week since the “it” girl of TV sports media dared to leave behind a less-than-fabulous body of work built at the ESPN machine after eight years to sign up with the famed Los Angeles-based network that’s always looking an attitude adjustment.
Within a day after her announced arrival — network sports chief Eric Shanks actually called the 34-year-old, sweet-as-pie sideline maven one “of the hardest-working, most-respected individuals in sports television” — Fox said her assets would be sent to be part of Tuesday’s MLB All-Star game coverage in Kansas City.
That’s a warmup act to when she’d start hosting the new college football studio show, a gig that starts Saturday, Sept. 1, when USC plays host to Hawaii at the Coliseum, and will include some exposure on the NFL.
Time to gussy up that that Twitter avatar again.
The assumption is someone at Fox watched Andrews carom through week after week as solo host of the early expanded version on ESPN’s “College GameDay,” given an hour to read off her notes and awkwardly ad-lib on ESPNU before the real crew came to start the party. And they still hired her, apparently distracted enough into thinking she did a real swell job.
A byproduct of the media world where it’s almost impossible anymore to be embarrassed by Twitter, YouTube, TMZ, Flickr or a racy text message – and with an appearance on an Oprah show always there to catch you when you need to explain what it’s like to be a victim in a celebrated Peeping Tom case — Andrew’s career arch has been bafflingly spectacular, titillating the masses who’ve apparently just stopped caring.
The Erin Andrews Effect, as sports media phenomena, is attracting more female communications majors into taking as many shortcuts as possible to grab a coveted sideline reporting job or studio host instead of risking the time and challenge necessary to try play-by-play, game analyst, or even what’s still referred to journalism at a magazine, newspaper or website.
You’d think that by now, someone would have realized that her actions speak louder than her nasally vapid words.
That no matter how much you’d think she was adding to a college football broadcast – and ESPN has been top-notch in that department for years — it’ll be the shots of her on the ESPY’s red-carpet, a ethically-challenged decision to promote a sports shoe without her company’s approval, or another photo spread in GQ or Vanity Fair that’s seared into our minds, which somewhat explain the interviews she’s done over the years with wide-eyed, adrenalin-challenged 12-year-olds at the Little League World Series.
With Andrews, less should always have been more. But the rules of engagement with her employers has been that with more and more exposure, whether she initiates it or not, the fantasy becomes bigger than the reality.
Now, it’s Fox supposedly thinking outside the box, a far cry from Bristol, Conn., that providing the perfect lair for her next venture, within a shark tank of paparazzi, video clippers and cell-phone shooters, targeting someone who still claims not to understand her own fame.
“I . . . uh . . . here’s the thing with me – I very much feel that I’m a massive dork,” she tried to sound self depricating when making an appearance earlier this week on the Dan Patrick syndicated radio show, a place where former ESPN employees now go for their exit interviews and debriefing by the former famous “SportsCenter” anchor.
“I just kind of laugh at all of it. There are times when you wake up in the morning and your friends are texting you that your pictures are on TMZ or you’re walking through the airport and, you’re like, ‘Why? I don’t get it.'”
That seems to get to the core of the issue.
It’s one thing to have a healthy naivety. But no one at IMG, which represents her and is supposed to be watching out for her best interests, could explain how the unreal media world of today works? At some point, it’s not all that cute any more to play dumb.
Read between the hemlines: ESPN may have attempted to up her deal and keep her around, but it had effectively run out of things to promote her for. So Andrews reached a fork her career path, without the option that another former ESPNer, Michelle Beadle, had in taking her talents to a network like NBC where it’s justifiable to add her to its upcoming Summer Olympics coverage.
Fox ends up as Andrews’ “careful what you wish for” destination, already dangling reality-show appearances in the package deal, knowing how her recent sideways stints on ABC’s “Dancing With The Stars” and “Good Morning America” again proved she has this gravitational pull to bring eyes to otherwise meaningless programing.
Credit Fox for extending Andrews’ shallow shelf life, and giving all of us the vision someday of seeing her as a ring-card girl at an MMA event. How soon before there’s a guest spot on “The Simpsons” as Bart’s babysitter, innocently hitting on Flanders?
Fox’s X-Factor is another great platform, for someone who brings a sex factor.
Circle back to the piece we did a couple of weeks ago about Title IX, creating a list of the 40 women in the sports media over the last 40 years who raised the bar in the business. We sought feedback from a few trusted people who work in the sports media to make sure we hadn’t left anyone out, or given someone too much credit.
Only one suggested we find a way to add Andrews. But in pointing out that “raise the bar” requirement, and already having a top-tier of female sideline reporters in Lesley Visser, Andrea Kremer, Jeannie Edwards, Jamie Little, Doris Burke, Bonnie Bernstein, Lisa Salters, Michele Tafoya and Suzy Kolber, it was clear that Andrews was not part of this ya-ya circle
In a sideline beauty pageant against the likes (and dislikes) of Melissa Stark, Lisa Guerrero, Jenn Brown or Jill Arrington, then Andrews wins, and not just on Miss Congeniality points.
It speaks to the premise behind HBO’s new outstanding series, “The Newsroom.” Which is more important: Driving ratings or doing the news the right way?
The irony is that Aaron Sorkin, the series’ creative force who years ago channeled the ESPN culture into an acclaimed but little-watched series called “Sports Night,” knows enough about Andrews’ calling card to include a reference to her in the pilot episode.
To show how much turmoil that main character Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels) had been in, it was pointed out that he was just coming out of a relationship with Andrews.
(To Andrews’ credit, she tweeted out that she was never romantically involved with the fictional character. But that really only speaks to a whole other level of pop culture surrealism).
Leading up to her decision to shower off the ESPN experience and hop into the Fox hot tub, Andrews has been awash in attention. TMZ had an online poll that included photos of her in a bikini one beach with speculation that she’s top-loaded her resume, and more than 80,000 people responded, most accusing her of faking it.
Let it be noted the TMZ show runs daily on the local L.A. Fox affiliate. She can just pop in now for guest appearances. How convenient.
There’s another telling mention on TerezOwens.com (“the world’s most popular sports gossip site”), with a shot snapped of her waiting in line at LAX with a deer-in-the-headlights pose.
Heck, we even linked to some of that last week on our blog. We aren’t stupid — it drives people to our own internet domains, making our own bosses happy that readers are clicking through to supposedly read our stuff, even if it’s lowest-common-denominator content that often does the trick easiest.
“I get the stuff with ‘Dancing With the Stars’ and everything that happened before (with the stalker in the hotel), but it really is kind of a joke to me,” Andrews told Patrick about how her fame has grown. “I always kind of thought how it was so funny that everyone was ‘Oh, she’s planning that . . . she’s behind all that.’ Because I don’t know … I don’t think of myself that way . . .”
She doesn’t have to. Enough others do.
“I agree, it took a new level when you go to red carpet events . . . I never got to a point where I thought, ‘Oh, I’m too big.’ That’s just not me. It’s not like I ever called the paparazzi out to say, ‘Come see where I am’ or anything. . . . I’m still the girl that wants to be out at the game.”
Instead, there’s the headline in the Sports Business Daily last week that called attention to her job change: “Fox-y Lady.”
That was too easy. But entirely apropos.