JEFF PEARLMAN

Coming October 2022: "The Last Folk Hero: The Life and Myth of Bo Jackson"

Erin Andrews, like Alex Rodriguez

Screen Shot 2014-01-20 at 12.42.13 PMSo last night, while sitting in bed, I thought more and more about Richard Sherman. I hated how he behaved. Absolutely hated it. But, as I pondered the whole scenario, I kept returning to something else. An entirely separate issue.

Namely, Erin Andrews.

The Fox sideline reporter, who stood there as Sherman blathered away, makes a reported $800,000 annually, and has a net worth—after advertising—of $3 million. In the immediate aftermath of the Sherman outburst, I offered Andrews a slight Twitter compliment, saying she handled things pretty well. Then, I watched again. And again. Um, I was wrong.

Erin Andrews was a deer in headlights. She did not know what to do or what to say or how to respond. Someone in the control booth clearly told her to send things away from Sherman—and she did. In short, she wasn’t to be trusted with the situation, and Fox’s heads knew it. As much as America responded negatively to Sherman, he was also—after a must-see game—must-see television. Why was he so angry? How far did this go back? Did it stem from something? Would he confront Crabtree afterward?

Nothing.

Good reporters—even good television sideline reporters—are trusted to interview. To probe. To dig. To report. They do so subtly, yes, and in limited doses. But they do, indeed, do so. Think Bonnie Bernstein back in the day. Think Pam Oliver at her best. Think Jim Gray.

Andrews, however, was not signed away from ESPN (by Fox) because she’s a high-caliber reporter, or because she possesses a unique view of the game, or incredible knowledge. She was hired away from ESPN (by Fox) because guys think she’s hot.

There is no debating this point.

We all know it to be true. Even (I’m guessing) Erin Andrews.

The thing is, Erin Andrews has done nothing wrong. She was born pretty, she was a college athlete, she speaks well and she likes sports. If someone wants to pay her huge amounts of money for that, well, so be it. She’s the Kardashian of televised sports—and being a Kardashian has worked out pretty well for the actual Kardashians. The problem comes when something like the Richard Sherman situation arises, and Fox’s sideline star looks overwhelmed and out of her league and lost. Bonnie Bernstein (the gold standard, in my opinion), fires right back—hard. So does Jim Gray—confrontational, edgy, oft-hated—but a guy who doesn’t digest an athlete’s nonsense with an crooked smile and a “Back to you, Troy …”

Sigh.

To me, it’s the crime committed by the networks against legitimate female reporters: If you’re not pretty and perky and young, you—with rare exception—have no shot. We’ve come so far in this field, as far as diversity, and, yet, not as far as one would think. Women walk the sidelines and tell us stories, but they’d better be pretty and busty enough to keep a guy’s interest, pre-Budweiser commercial. Otherwise, no thank you. Find a radio gig, m’am.

Here’s the problem, if you’re Fox: Erin Andrews makes a ton of money for someone who’s not especially good at her job. There are now—in her wake—dozens of similarly blonde, similarly pretty, similarly perky reporters working the TV sports circuit. They’re younger than Erin Andrews, fresher than Erin Andrews, probably even more talented than Erin Andrews. Before long (if it hasn’t already happened), Fox will realize it surrendered a ton of dough for a ballplayer who did her best work at ESPN, just as ARod did his best work in Seattle. Her prime was 2008.

See, surface beauty only travels so far before people demand something more to stay tuned. Sports fans, ultimately, want insight and professionalism and high-caliber questions. They want follow-up reporting.

Or, sadly, they want 28 and wrinkle-free.

Sigh.