Yes, a book whore. That term was first brought my way by David Hirshey, a longtime HarperCollins editor, who told me many moons back that an author can’t merely write—he needs to promote, promote, promote. And, as the years have past, his advice has become increasingly vital. The completion of a manuscript is only Step A in a successful literary career. In 2016, you’re your own publicist. So you’ve gotta Tweet, blog, beg, plead, beg again, Tweet again, and again, and again, and again, and …
Some readers here might know that, a few days ago, I wrapped up my 2 1/2-year master’s degree odyssey at the University of South Florida. My final project was a documentary about the book whoring process, and I absolutely busted my ass on this one. Is it perfect? No. But I’m hoping it at least explains what authors go through, and what authors need to go through.
There are tons of people to thank—all acknowledged in the credits. But I’d like to toss a special nod to Bev Oden, my dear friend and an excellent Yoda on all things editing, and Monica Ancu, my USF adviser.
Earlier this year Sports Illustrated sent me to lovely Columbus, Ohio to cover something called The Arnold Classic—a massive, otherworldly sports festival focused largely upon bodybuilders and people with muscles atop muscles atop muscles.
It was crazy, amazing, freaky, wonderful, scary—all in one. I met Hulk-esque women and neck-deprived guys with yellow eyes. I was offered 1,001 ways to improve my physique, and handed one free bottle after another—the labels all promising BIG! and FAST! and STRONG! and POWERFUL! Truly, it was the most, ahem, startling thing I’ve ever seen.
And then, midway through the madness, there was Erin Stern.
Erin talks normal, sounds normal, looks normal. Sure, she’s cut, and powerful, and could kick my ass 800 times over (Beating up a journalist—not something to brag about). But she was a breath of fresh air; one who took the time to explain her world and who (oh, by the way) happens to be the reigning Ms. Figure Olympia and one of the elites of her sport.
JEFF PEARLMAN:OK, Erin, so we first met at the Arnold Classic a bunch of months ago, and I found you to be jarringly … normal. I mean, we were surrounded by (and I don’t mean to sound like a jerk here) some of the strangest women I’ve ever seen. Women with muscles atop muscles atop muscles. Women who work X-rated sites devoted to men who love women who are built like men. Women on so many crazy drugs it’d make a pharmacist dizzy. On and on. Erin, you’re a former track and field competitor. Why would you throw yourself into such an, ahem, different kind of environment?
ERIN STERN: I suppose that the old phrase is true—”Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” I’ve always had a fascination with bodybuilding—the process, the work and the ability to turn your physique into anything you’d like it to be. The environment is different, and appears strange from an outside vantage point, but I see beauty. I would not want to attempt to gain any more muscle, but I appreciate the work that goes into it. The competition category that I’m in is a nice balance of muscle and femininity. It provides a competitive outlet for me, gives me purpose to train, allows me to travel and I’m building a good business with it. These are just a few of the reasons why I love it.
J.P.:I know you’re 33, I know you went to Florida, was an All-American in the high jump and earned a degree in environmental policy. But, Erin, what was your path from there to here? Like, how did you go from being just a kid who liked horses and track to the two-time Figure Olympia champion? What was your journey?
E.S.: How much time do you have? Kidding. In 2008, I missed the qualifying standard for the Olympic Trials in the high jump. I had a successful real estate company at the time, but felt a void in my life that athletes often get when they no longer have something to train for. A friend suggested that I try figure competitions. At first, I wasn’t sure of the idea of getting on stage in a bikini that fits into a Ziploc bag … but after winning my first amateur show, I was hooked! I had been lifting weights since college, and I already had a good amount of muscle. I turned pro at my third show and won the Figure Olympia the following year.
J.P.:Erin, I love friggin’ ice cream, and I’m unwilling to give it up. I love bread and pizza and really fatty coffee drinks, too. I can’t imagine surrendering 90% of my love of food in the name of anything. You, however, surely watch everything you eat, measure calories to the dime. To compete as you do—did you have to accept a certain dietary demise? And what, exactly, do you eat?
E.S.: Who doesn’t love ice cream? I think it’s possible to fit indulgent meals into a healthy lifestyle. In the off-season, I don’t consider any foods “off limits.” To be successful in bodybuilding, one must have a grasp on how the mind functions. By severely limiting calories and banning specific foods, we create a sense of scarcity. By knowing that I won’t be able to eat ice cream for a few weeks out of the year, but I can have it anytime after a show, helps keep me on my diet. Just like anything else in life, it all depends on how we look at a certain situation. I eat like a cavewoman. Well, I cook my food … but it’s mostly lean meats like chicken and fish, vegetables, grains such as quinoa and oats, and fruits. The idea is to keep the diet simple with single-ingredient foods. The ratio I usually follow is 40 percent protein, 40 percent carbs and 20 percent fats.
J.P.:I covered baseball in the 1990s and 2000s, which makes me immediately skeptical of all people with muscles. Erin, you’re not enormous like the people who look like houses—but you’re really cut, really muscular. Tell me why I shouldn’t be suspicious of PED usage in your career? And, with Figure as a whole, should we be suspicious? Like, of the sport?
E.S.: I think people will always be skeptical of any sport where the athlete has muscles. In college, I was obviously tested for PED usage, and I was shredded back then! Bodybuilding in general is largely based on genetics. It’s also knowing how to train to gain muscle, eating enough quality protein and having patience to put a number of years into building. What most people aren’t aware of is the wonderful combination of depletion/spray tan/posing. This is temporary, of course, but it helps us look jacked on stage. By manipulating carbs, sodium and water, I can appear to be more muscular. I practice posing at different angles to create more of an illusion of size in the mandatory poses. I’m 5-foot-8 and 135 pounds—yet people are always surprised how small I am when they meet me, compared to the stage photos. I’m a lifetime natural athlete, and I wouldn’t want to continue in the division if people didn’t share my views on PED usage.
J.P.:Erin, m-a-n-y men are intimidated by women who are successful. Many other men are intimidated by women who could kick their ass. You have both. How does your career choice, and your success, impact your social life? And, with the intensity of your gig, can you have a social life?
E.S.: Luckily, where I live, there are many other people who are fitness-minded. I’ve never been a partier, and I don’t drink. So I wouldn’t be out every night at the bar, anyway. But it can be difficult to maintain a social life in the weeks before a contest. I travel quite often, have to eat every few hours and I go to sleep right after Wheel of Fortune (kidding), but it is fairly early. It is possible to have a social, but it takes effort, just like anything else.
J.P.:You also do a lot of work as a physical trainer. What are the biggest mistakes you see people make when it comes to fitness? And why are we all so damn fat in this country?
E.S.: I think the two biggest mistakes are 1) Making excuses; and 2) Being sedentary. There is no one way to get fit, aside from just getting up and doing something! If you’re intimidated by the gym, work out outside, swim, bike, put some dumbbells in your garage. Make time for yourself … I talk to many people who are “too busy,” yet I have friends who have several small children, a full-time job … and still manage to have abs.
J.P.:There’s a photo of you on the cover of Muscle & Fitness Magazine where you’re wearing a G-string and your hands are covering your breasts. I’m wondering if shyness—in your profession, in promoting your profession—was something you at all had to overcome? In other words, is it at all difficult/embarrassing/whatever to stand before people, 70 percent naked, being judged?
E.S.: It is the most difficult part of the job. I have always been an athlete, and I’m an introvert, a big nerd. It wasn’t my style to want to flaunt my physique on stage. After my first contest, and after I saw the great results of my effort, I began to see it differently. I’m proud of my work and want to help others achieve their goals—whether they want to hit the stage or not.
J.P.: Greatest moment of your career? Lowest?
E.S.: The greatest moment was winning the Olympia last year, of course! I would have to say the lowest moment of my career was at the Arnold Classic, earlier in the year. I wasn’t at my best—and it was because I hadn’t done the necessary preparations, mentally and physically. It was a great lesson, though … and it ultimately made me stronger.
J.P.:Erin, I’ve always struggled with crossing the edge. What I mean is, I ran in college, and did sorta OK. But I could never truly push myself across what I believed was the final threshold. If I needed to do, say, three more 400s, I’d do two hard, then the last one sorta kinda hard. I gave in—to mental fatigue, to physical fatigue. How do you NOT give in? When you’re exhausted? When you’re beaten down? When all you want is a nap?
E.S.: I have learned how hard I can push myself, and also when to take a rest. My goal is to look my best on stage—and to continue to look good over the years. I will admit that the last couple of weeks before a show are very difficult. I restrict calories and will sometimes train twice a day. To be competitive, you do have to possess drive. I want to be the best. There are times when all I want to do is take a nap … so I do. And I hit the gym later.
J.P.:You’ve said you want to be “the Oprah of the fitness world.” I have no idea what this means, but I’m not much of an Oprah fan. Please explain …
E.S.: Oprah has helped improve the lives of so many women—I want to do the same in the fitness world. My goal is to educate and enrich the lives of people through health and fitness. Physical strength increases self-esteem. Success in the gym equates to success outside of the gym. I want to show people that they can lead an active lifestyle, be happier, and healthier—even if they never plan on competing.
QUAZ EXPRESS WITH ERIN STERN:
• Rank in order (favorite to least): Rob Zombie, Fernando Valenzuela, Florida State, Taco Bell, L.L. Bean, rice cakes, Twister Sister, General Zod, Reidel Anthony, John Kerry, tanning salons, the smell of a lit cigar, bluegrass music, flat soda, the number 17: Rob Zombie, bluegrass music, rice cakes, the number 17, Taco Bell, Reidel Anthony, Fernando Valenzeula, Twisted Sister, and a tie—L.L. Bean, General Zod, John Kerry, lit cigar, flat soda. I can’t decide which is worse: tanning salons or Florida State.
• You vs. Arnold in an arm wrestling contest—right now. Who wins, how long does it take?: Arnold wins. I think I might be stronger right now, but I respect him and wouldn’t want to beat him. It would probably take a few minutes, as I would be asking him all kinds of questions about his secrets to success.
• There’s a person in my life right now who I violently dislike. Do I have your permission to follow your training plan, get really buff and punch him in the nose? Please: My training plans help develop strength and speed … but I couldn’t help you with fighting skills. If the person is truly despicable, the Universe will punch him in the nose for you.
• Would you rather take loads and loads of steroids for one year, or permanently change your name to Dogcrap Dipshit II?: Please, call me Dipshit.
• You’re working on a book. Why would anyone submit herself to such torture?: I want to share my experience and knowledge…I think we’re all put on this earth to help others.. as cheesy as it sounds, I think it’s my mission!
• What’s Tim Tebow doing in five years?: Oh, that’s a toughie. I see him doing motivational speeches or running some type of athletic camps.
• Five favorite famous Jewish people of all time?: Mel Brooks, Dwight Stones, Adam Levine, Kate Hudson, Dara Torres.
• The absolute best restaurant in/near Miami is?: Big Pink in South Beach
• How many times a year do people in your profession utter the term, “killer body”?: Less often than they utter the term, “package.” For example, “I’m training to bring my best package ever to stage.”
• My brother is 43, and he wants to pack up and travel the world via backpack and hostels. My parents aren’t happy. What should he do?: He should do what makes him happy, and go.
A few months ago Glenn Stout, the well-regarded editor of the Best American Sports Writing series of books, contacted me about doing some lengthy pieces for SB Nation. The pay was solid, the chance to work with Glenn was enticing … but the best part was his openness. Glenn wanted stories writers wanted to write; stories that moved them to pick up a pen (well, sit behind a keyboard) and peck away. This, to me, was incredibly refreshing. Oftentimes we’re looking for story ideas that editors might want. Here, an editor was looking for a story idea I’d like to do.
Hence, I pitched Glenn on the idea of the magical moment when an athlete emerges from a small town. Specifically, I told him about Dave Fleming, a kid from up the street in Mahopac, N.Y. who, in the dazzling year of 1992, won 17 games as a rookie for the Seattle Mariners.
Glenn was all in, and what ensued was a joyful, blissful experience of re-living my childhood thoughts and feelings and experiences. I was 14 again, watching Dave dribble in his driveway; watching Dave throw strikes against Carmel High. I spent a wonderful afternoon with Dave at a Starbucks near his home; returned to Mahopac to drive through the old neighborhood; called old friends and long-lost neighbors. It was great. And emotional.
Today, the piece ran. I’m not saying it’s the best thing I’ve ever done—but it feels the best.
Back when I was a student at the University of Delaware, I worked as sports editor—then, as a senior, editor in chief—of the student newspaper, The Review.
At the time, Delaware was the little journalism program that could. Journalism was neither a major nor minor at the college. We had, I believe, four full-time professors, as well as an adjunct, Bill Fleischman, who was a longtime star at the Philadelphia Daily News. Yet, despite facilities and depth that would be laughingstocks at schools like Missouri and North Carolina and Syracuse, we routinely popped out one of the most decorated college publications in the country.
For many on staff, the motivation was landing a job.
For others, it was the power of the pen in offering a voice.
For me, it was Mike Freeman.
Six years before I came along, Mike has been sports editor, then editor, of The Review. By the time I arrived, he was covering the Nets and (later) Giants for the New York Times. He was exactly who and what I wanted to be. So how’d I respond? By reading everything Mike Freeman. Everything he once wrote at The Review (we had yellowed bound versions on a shelf in the office). Everything he wrote at the Times. I’d study his transitions, his word choices, his style. When he came to Fleischman’s class as a guest speaker, I hung on every word, and later sent him my clips to review (which he kindly did).
Truly, I can’t understate the importance of Mike Freeman upon my career. He displayed for me what was possible, even for someone coming from a small, unknown program like ours.
I bring this all up because, a few weeks ago, I was asked to return as a panelist for another Cali taping of Jim Rome’s excellent show. It’s something I always enjoy doing, and I jump at the opportunity. When I inquired into who I’d be paired with, the producer wrote back, “Mike Freeman.”
I’ve now known Mike for many years. He’s someone who’s been helpful throughout my career; someone who kindly blurbed one of my books; who’s always been kind and helpful and available. We’re peers. Colleagues.
Still, in a way, I remain that college kid, excited to be sitting alongside the guy who blazed the path for Blue Hen sports writers.
As I write this, I am sitting in a Starbucks, waiting for Dave Fleming.
Back in the summer of 1992, Fleming—who grew up about 1/4 mile away from my house in Mahopac, N.Y.—won 17 games as a rookie for the Seattle Mariners. It was THE news in town; a guy from our little nowhere haven making it to the big time.
So why, two decades later, am I here? Because I’m eternally fascinated with the Whatever Happened To; with finding out where people go after they’ve exploded onto the scene. Nearly everyone, ultimately, settles into the real world. When that happens, it’s a riveting adjustment.
What ensued was, well, odd craziness. Sterger—beautiful face, glowing smile, large breasts—emerged as a national sex symbol. She did photo shoots for Maxim and Playboy; served as a spokesperson for Dr. Pepper and Sprint; was featured on the E! Network’s Byte Me: 20 Hottest Women of the Web; worked for Sports Illustrated and the New York Jets’ “gameday host.” She went along for the ride, enjoyed the fame and perks …
Until October 2010.
That’s when the world learned that a certain geriatric quarterback had allegedly Texted her photos of his, eh, junk. The story exploded on Deadspin, then exploded everywhere else. Brett Favre became a national laughingstock. Jenn Sterger, regrettably, was dragged along for the ride.
And here we are. The year is 2013. Sterger now lives in Los Angeles, where she is—like so many—a struggling actress working her tail off. The breast implants are gone. So is the cowboy hat. She is a person; one whose past lingers, but doesn’t seem to overwhelm what, at age 29, she has become.
JEFF PEARLMAN:Jenn, I found the recent New York Times piece on you fascinating, in that I sort of thought of your breast implants in the way Lance Armstrong described PED. On other words, he basically said, “I wouldn’t have won seven Tours without drugs” and you—I think—kinda admitted, “Had I not had implants at 19, you’re not talking to me right now.” A. Is that sorta correct? B. Does that make your career at all, well, less than it seems? Fraudulent? Or—to hell with it—if people want to open doors for someone because she has large breasts (real or implanted), why not walk through it? (I ask this with all due respect, Jenn)
JENN STERGER: Funny, because whenever I say “with all due respect” it means I’m about to respond with something really f*cked up, so I’m pre-apologizing for it. But no, I’m not delusional to think that any of this would have happened had it not been for my implants, or dressing like an idiot in public. When I had the large implants I used to always liken them to wearing a superhero costume. I felt invincible. I think we all feel that when something gives us a boost of confidence. You get caught up in the extra attention (and, in my case, the spotlight) and I don’t think I was ready for the responsibility that came from that. I think it was 2008 when I realized that as much as they had served their purpose in my discovery, my implants really were more of a hindrance than a help. They were a distraction of the worst kind and brought the wrong kind of attention. Believe me when I say, there is such a thing. However, I think the Lance Armstrong comparison is a bit flawed. His success depended on PEDs. Without them, he would’ve been just another guy stuck in the middle of the middle of the race. I didn’t go through my whole career using my boobs as a crutch over being talented. In fact, the reason I got rid of them was to forward my career in the direction I wanted. It was a gamble, and it worked. Two months after I removed them I booked my show on Versus.
I liken them more to Mark McGwire … there was more to his career than steroids. Not that many people remember it. It’s proof that society will take a person’s entire career, all of your success and chalk it up to … some saltwater-filled bags? Psh. I don’t think so. They were the VIP pass that got me in the door to this crazy industry, but they’re not why I’m here. I took them out, thanked them for their loyal service and said, “We can handle it from here, girls.” And much like McGwire … “I’m not here to talk about the past.” (In fact, last year at spring training, I randomly sat down next to McGwire on a picnic bench in between my shoots (not that he would have the slightest clue who I was). I debated whether or not I should Instagram it but thought better of it. I was afraid the interwebs sports commentary sections would explode. I don’t like feeding the trolls, unless it’s milk.)
J.P.:2005—Florida-State vs Miami. Your odyssey begins when Brent Musburger says, “1,500 red-blooded Americans just decided to apply to Florida State.” I’m wondering—when you first hear about this … about his words … are you psyched? Embarrassed? Creeped out? And when did you first realize the impact those words would have?
J.S.: I was flattered. Honestly. I knew I had been on TV, but I didn’t know the extent of it or what had been said. I just knew that they had gone to our live shot because almost immediately I started getting texts from people back home … telling me to “put my clothes back on” because it was so unlike me to be dressed that way. If you have never been to Florida in August, you try sitting on some aluminum bleachers with no breeze and 90 percent humidity. Then we’ll talk.
I never really thought about what impact those words had. I’m not even sure what you mean by “impact.” Do I think it actually impacted enrollment? Pshhhhfft. FSU is an amazing institution with a stellar law program, among other things. If anything is bringing the boys to the yard it’s that … or our kick-ass athletics program. I just think Musburger is brilliant at his job and he happens to be quick and clever when it comes to his commentary. So thanks for the tagline, Brent.
J.P.:Jenn, I know you’re 29, I know you were born and Miami and attended Florida State. But how, exactly, did you get here? Like, what was your path to Florida State? Why did you go there? And were you always known as one of “the pretty girls” in junior high? High school? Etc …
J.S.: Whew. Thank you for not posting my parents’ address. That would have gotten awkward. You’ve definitely done your research. Growing up I was never considered one of the prettier girls. Hell, it took me 29 years to grow into my ears (Well played, God. Well played.). I was the kid getting shoved into lockers and eating lunch in the classroom to avoid being bullied. The only place I ever found any sanctuary was with music. I was drum major of my marching band for two years. I play flute, piccolo, guitar, piano. You name it. I gave up marching band in college because the practice hours are so time-consuming and I think I was just scared about having to start at the bottom of the pecking order again. That, and, if I had been in the Marching Chiefs then maybe none of this craziness would’ve even happened, unless Brent had a thing for freshman flute players in polyester uniforms. I was a total Gleek before Gleek was even in pop culture vocabulary, and certainly way before it was publicly acceptable to admit it. Hell, I was doing the LeBron James chalk toss before most people had even heard of LeBron James … only I was in band. And the chalk was glitter. Whatever. I see you, LeBron!
I actually went to USF for my first two years of college. My parents didn’t want me to get swallowed up by the whole college party scene, so I agreed to stay close to home and have free room and board at their house. I worked part time at a boutique optical shop as an optician’s assistant and nannied part time for a boy who had some early learning disabilities. My life was very normal. I didn’t go out or even party much, until I started seeing this one guy, who would become my college sweetheart. About a year or so into my relationship with him I made the decision to transfer to Florida State. And anyone that has ever relocated for young love will tell you how that one worked out. A year after transferring I was single, alone and very lost because my identity at FSU had been so wrapped up in him, and my social circle was nearly all of his friends.
So after about a month or so of drowning my sorrows (and my recently removed tonsils) in Ben and Jerry’s and the entire Star Wars collection, including the crappy Jar Jar Binks ones … I was ready to go back to school. I was incredibly susceptible to peer pressure, and really wanted to fit in—and in doing so I definitely got mixed up with the wrong crowd of people. While college is a confusing time for anyone, I think it is even more so when you feel like you’re perpetually in an identity crisis. I was a real life Goonie. I’d morph to fit in with whatever surroundings/groups I needed to, even when that meant making bad decisions. Which is really unfortunate, but not necessarily regrettable. Because as I am finding out in Hollywood, your past experiences really mold you into who you are and who you are meant to become, so you can’t look back and judge them too harshly.
J.P.: It seems, in 2013, everyone wants to be famous. Is fame overrated? Why? Why not?
J.S.: We all have dreams about what we want to be when we “grow up.” I’ve always wanted to be a performer. I didn’t care what it was—music, acting, singing. You name it. I think I’m a “glitch” honestly. I really don’t know how any of this happened.
As far as I see it, fame is incredibly overrated. It’s human nature to want to be recognized for something. Hell, once people told me I would “never make it in the entertainment industry,” I was crushed. Because I thought that was the only way I could make a difference. It’s always been my belief that when you’re presented with a platform, it’s your civic duty to use it for the good of others. Whether using it to raise awareness or help those in need or just by setting a positive example, you just do your part. I’m not sure that at 21 I was ready for that kind of responsibility or even knew where to begin. I was just caught up in the moment of it all. But I think with age and experience I’ve learned there is a lot more I can do to help people than just attending fancy charity dinners and red carpets. I feel much more productive working among the people I’m trying to help. I hardly Tweet about it or publicize it, just because I don’t feel the need to pat myself on the back over things that were my social responsibility in the first place.
When I was younger, people would ask me “What do you want to do with your life?” I would just respond, “I want to matter.” When you spend the first 20 years of your life feeling relatively invisible, you just want to know you’re here for a purpose. I think that’s probably why I haven’t succumbed to reality TV even though I had several offers. I don’t want to see my name in lights unless I have done something to achieve it. And I’m certainly not going to toot my own horn about it. Simply selling out my personal life and subjecting the people in my life to that kind of scrutiny is not something I am interested in. And I think certain events over the last few years have really taught me the importance of privacy.
J.P.:You’re living in Los Angeles, working to become an actress. How is that going? How hard is it? Do you have a side job as a waitress or bartender or runner? Do you use your background—Playboy, Maxim, etc—as a part of your resume? And, being serious, do you have to explain your physical changes when you audition? Are you asked?
J.S.: I moved to Los Angeles to get away from the nonstop media circus. While California may have more tabloid nonsense going on, they have real celebrities to worry about. New York, for as big of a city as it is, is incredibly too small, especially in the industry I worked in. I think it was definitely easier to get work there. Why? I’m not quite sure. My guess is the pool was marginally smaller, and I had a fairly recognizable name if you read any of the New York papers. But I couldn’t help feeling like every time I walked into an audition room, I walked in with my invisible pet elephant on a leash. And I hated picking up his big imaginary shit. So I needed a breather.
L.A. has been an … adjustment. But I hear most people say that. I’m a Southern girl with a big heart, and a New York-infused attitude. And that is often misunderstood out here. I don’t have a second job because I’ve been fairly responsible over the years with my finances. That’s all part of the game with this industry. It can be nerve-racking at times, because we get paid like Rocky—big sums, but they only last so long if you’re going out and buying Adrienne two fur coats and a Rolex and her own zoo. So I live a fairly minimalist lifestyle with the exception of my car. It was the first car I ever bought for myself so she has a lot of sentimental value. But even she is on her way out simply because I can’t take her to the grocery store without hitting every pothole and steep-ass driveway imaginable. It’s just not practical. So if anyone wants her, she’s looking for a good home.
When I go into auditions now, I feel like I’m back in high school auditioning for the school play. Only now, the stakes always feel high because I’m an unknown just like everyone else. Sometimes people may think I look familiar, but the majority of them can never place me. I’ve never had to explain my physical changes, just because I have so much more anonymity out here. That, and I’m much more self-aware than I used to be, be that a good or bad thing. I know how to play down my boobs, play up my face, tweak my make up … really become whatever the role I am auditioning for. Because, as I have learned out here, I’m not in the business of “acting.” My job is strictly auditioning. Getting the role is the sweet payoff.
J.P.:I always, always, always tell teenagers—DO NOT get tattoos at your age. You had implants at 19. Why? How did your family feel about it? Were you nervous? And did you ever regret it? And why did you decide, in 2009, to have them removed?
J.S.: I honestly can’t commit to tattoos. I’ve had laser hair removal, which is similar to a tattoo removal process. And anyone who that tells you it is relatively painless is full of crap. Having experienced that, there’s not one thing I could think would have the lasting power that I would want it on my body the rest of my life. What? Pick something out of a coloring book that everyone else has at some place along Venice Beach where I risk getting some crazy kind of infection. No. I am a pansy when it comes to needles. And if I can’t justify the pain long term, I just won’t do it.
Breast implants were something I always thought I wanted. I saw other girls around me getting them, and told myself that they would make me more desirable. At the time I was young and while far from dumb, I think in college I wanted so desperately to reinvent myself that I just went with what society dictated was “sexy.”
Fast forward five years, and a capsular contracture/replacement later, I was in a totally different place in life. The one piece of advice that really resonated with me was that no matter how talented I may be, the cleavage was just too distracting and no one would ever take me seriously unless I was auditioning for Girls Next Door. So I decided to have them removed that summer after I finished filming an Indie film I was working on. The results were less than desirable, but that’s the gamble you get with breast reductions. It really messed with my head for a long time afterward. It’s tough going from a Playmate to the Phantom of the Opera boobs. I was like the guy that got in the swimming pool with his shirt on—or just avoided those situations all together. Nowadays, I can still MacGyver them up with some scotch tape, fishing line and a coat hanger and make them look just as obnoxious as before. But it’s really not the look I’m going for. I’m much more of a jock than I used to be, so I find the placement of women’s breasts in general to be a nuisance. Have you ever tried wearing a seatbelt across 32DDs? Try that … and get back to me.
J.P.: Greatest moment of your career? Lowest?
J.S.: I don’t think the greatest moment has happened yet … but when it does I’ll let you know. I think the worst is fairly Googleable. I don’t like reiterating its crappiness, because when you talk about something over and over again … it certainly doesn’t help people see you differently. Moving along here …
J.P.:Being serious, I thought you were quite excellent on TV, yet also (public perception-wise) never fully able to escape the “She’s the Florida State hottie” shadow. Did you enjoy working in television? Why or why not? And am I wrong about the perception shadow?
J.S.: A lot of people in the limelight end up with a “shadow.” The real you gets eclipsed by the media-created caricature. I saw the “Cowgirl” persona as the SheRa to my Princess Aurora. She was an alter ego, and definitely nothing to be taken seriously. And now, that role just doesn’t seem to fit in with my life’s goals. In the last year or so, I don’t think I was really aware of mine until I was literally asked by an executive to “shut the f*ck up” while I was on camera. That, “I knew why I was hired, I had accomplished what they wanted, and now to just be a good Barbie and take orders and smile.” I think that’s the exact moment it hit me.
Look, there were a lot of things I was asked to do on certain shows that I was not on board with. One was to take a personal jab at another female television personality. And having previously been read the riot act about what my “role” was, and having been told that non-compliance would mean I wasn’t a “team player”… well, I did it. I’m incredibly ashamed I wasn’t strong enough or savvy enough to know better, or to understand the repercussions. Unfortunately I may never get to apologize to her, but I would sincerely like to.
All bullshit aside, I love TV. I love film. I love being able to creatively express myself. And I’m sure one day I will find the perfect outlet for me to do so.
J.P.:I’m sure you don’t want to delve into the whole Favre affair, and neither, to be honest, do I. I am wondering, however, how embarrassing it was to be in the spotlight for such a thing, especially when you did nothing wrong. Did you have to, like, explain it to your folks? Did you go into hiding? I genuinely felt awful for you, as a person.
J.S.: I was given about 24 hours notice my life was going to turn to crap. I guess that is what some people would call courtesy. I’ve said all I want to say on this subject, and people can find various clips of it on ABC’s website if they’d like to rehash it. But I don’t want to keep talking about it. I understand it’s an obligatory question I’ll be asked until I do something that overshadows it, and I really look forward to the day that happens. I’m tired of being asked to talk about it. And, quite frankly, I think most people are sick of hearing about it.
As far as dealing with the personal aspect of it, that isn’t something I have told many people about. When everything went down, and once my show was cancelled, I actually left New York for a month or so and just went back to Florida. I spent as much time as I could there, in between flying back up to cooperate with the NFL as they requested. It really didn’t hit me hard, I don’t think, until the holidays. My pet elephant apparently fit in the overhead compartment or under the seat in front of me, because he went everywhere I did. And he brought tons of undue stress on a lot of relationships in my life, namely my family. Luckily the guy I was seeing was an amazing support system and seemed relatively unfazed by it all. So when I vacated my bunker in Florida, he and his family welcomed me with open arms in B.F.E. Pennsylvania. I only remember falling asleep while leaving LaGuardia and waking up next to a horse and buggy among the Mennonites of Lancaster. (I cannot make these types of things up.) Look, when you are going through a PR nightmare … the best piece to find peace is where people don’t use the Internet. Life suddenly becomes much simpler. The rest of the time I actually spent in Happy Valley, which is ironic considering the clusterf*ck they were secretly enveloped in. But at Penn State I could go jogging on campus, go out to dinner, pretty much resume a form of normalcy. And most kids just thought I was a college student.
While the obvious takeaway would be to be careful of those we trust, I think the bigger lesson I learned was that I have some amazing people in my life who have stood by me through everything.
It’s easy to get discouraged when you feel like so many people are actively rooting for you to fail. People can’t help that sense of Schadenfreude. But I’d like to think my life is a eucatastrophe in the works. I realize my dork is showing but it’s the idea that what seems like the worst possible situation is actually necessary for good things to happen … victory. All but hope is required to be lost … for good stuff to happen. People can call it a miracle, they can think it’s a law of the universe, whatever fits their belief system. For me, it all comes down to faith … not religion. Because believe me, those are two very different things. I have the utmost of faith that my dreams were given to me for a reason. God is not done working in my life yet. And I trust that no matter how bad things can seem at times, something truly amazing will come from it.
QUAZ EXPRESS WITH JENN STERGER:
• Ever thought you were about to die in a plane crash? If so, details: Uh. Not going there. (Holds cross necklace tightly.)
• Rank in order (favorite to least): Charlie Ward, Bill Simmons, Malcolm X, Kentucky, Starbucks, “Wayne’s World II,” wrinkles, Brent Musburger, Ellen, Joe Biden, Wayne Chrebet, Toyota Prius, fresh bagels: God, Bill Simmons, Malcolm X, Wayne’s World II, Ellen, Prius, Charlie Ward, Brent Mus berger, Wayne Chrebet, Joe Biden, Kentucky, Fresh bagels, wrinkles, Starbucks.
I’m pretty sure that was a personality test … and I just outed myself as a liberal Christian lesbian who hates coffee and loves Botox. I fixed the option you left out. 🙂
• Celine Dion calls—she’ll pay you $3 million annually to star as “Jenn Sterger, football fan” in her new Las Vegas production of “Celine Loves Football.” However, you have to work 362 nights per year, hop on one foot and repeatedly bark the line, “Does anyone here know the way to Santa Fe in the spring?”: My response: “With all due respect … f@#$ you, Canada.”
• Three pieces of advice you give to Katherine Webb: 1) Love every minute of it; 2) The block button: learn it. Love it. Own it; 3) Butter is not a carb.
• Five all-time favorite athletes you’ve dealt with: Ryan Grant, C.J. Wilson, Jason Babin, Frank Mir, Kris Jenkins. Honorable Mention: John Cena. (That counts right?)
• Five things always in your purse: a plastic pig, lip plumping lipgloss, every loyalty card I’ve ever been given, a toothbrush, Xanax (see your first rapid fire question)
• Worst pickup line you’ve ever heard: “So is mine bigger than… You know…”
When I’m mad about something, I write about it. Cliche as that sounds, it almost always works. For some reason, putting anger to pen is my release. Does it backfire? Sometimes. Mostly, though, it relieves me; sets my angst free.
I am angry.
I have been angry for, oh, seven months now. The anger has hung with me; followed me; tied itself around my neck. I’ve tried ridding myself of it—through conversation, through exercise, through positive mental imagery. Nothing has worked. So I’m here, at my laptop, on this blog, writing.
I am an adjunct journalism professor at Manhattanville College in Purchase, N.Y. I’m in my third year, and make—I believe—$2,500 per semester. I don’t do this for (obviously) money or (obviously) glory. I do it because I’m genuinely passionate about journalism, and when I think back to the teachers I had at the University of Delaware (specifically, Bill Fleischman, Chuck Stone and Ted Spiker), I recall inspiring men who made me want to leap from my seat and report and write and express and expose and emote. Like those three fantastic professors, I see journalism as, potentially, something beautiful and great. Despite the doom and gloom of 2013, I encourage my students to enter the field. It has, after all, given me a blissful life.
Beginning in the fall of 2011, I took over as advisor to The Touchstone, the school’s student newspaper. As far as I could tell, Manhattanville had never had a regularly published paper. In my first year at the school, it came out, oh, three times. Maybe four. Having attended Delaware, where our paper came out twice per week, I knew (and loved) what a quality student newspaper brings to a campus. First, of course, information. Second, a priceless and invaluable outlet for aspiring journalists. Literally, college writers need college clips to land jobs. Third—and perhaps most important—a sense of community. Back at Delaware, the Review was like its own little ink-stained fraternity. We’d stay up in the office until 3 … 4 in the morning, eating cold pizza, blasting Ween and Nirvana, debating over headlines and jump spaces and ad placement. It became my home away from home; the ugly, soda-stained orange couch became my second bed.
I had been blessed with some wonderful students at Manhattanville, and it pained me—truly pained me—that they were not offered this. So I asked to take over as advisor (unpaid position). And the college agreed. They said they would provide office space and allow complete editorial independence. I told them the paper would, initially, rely on financial assistance from the school (for printing costs), with the long-term goal of generating enough advertising revenue to be self-sufficient. I also told them I would, for the first year or so, work close up with the students, in order to teach them not merely how to be student journalists—but how to be journalists. Everyone was on board.
The first new Touchstone came out in September 2011. It was (I believe) 12 pages. The editor in chief was a student named Marina, a wonderful Brazilian woman who came from a journalism family. The executive editor, Julie, was an aspiring teacher with a magnificent eye for newspaper design and layout. There was a staff of, oh, 15 or so students—strong for a new endeavor. That initial edition was filled with errors and blunders. Bad headlines, run-on sentences, misidentified photographs—and I was as proud as a new parent. The students worked hard. Really hard. On deadline night, they were up until 3 am, eating cold pizza, blasting Tupac. I sat alongside Marina and Julie, exhausted, but also thrilled that, potentially, they were getting a taste of the bliss. A couple of days later I drove out to the Long Island printing press and picked up the paper. I helped the students hand out copies; thrilled by the pride in their faces. This meant something to them and, of course, to me.
Over the ensuing year, the paper came out (almost without fail) every two weeks. There were highs and lows, ups and downs. One columnist wrote a line about, “eating like we’re in Ethiopia” (or something like that), and several Ethiopian students complained. There was an ugly college incident involving racial slurs and a school bus, and the reporters covered it well. Some of the columns were blistering—the food here sucks, this college doesn’t care about us—and I encouraged it. A college newspaper is supposed to be a vent; a place to tee off; to express oneself. It’s a learning tool; a very important one.
Come year’s end, three editors landed top-shelf internships: One at MSNBC and the Rachel Maddow Show, one at Sports Illustrated, one at a Wall Street investment newspaper. I was giddy. Beyond giddy. Another staffer, our sports editor, was hired by NBC Sports. Again—giddy.
I didn’t love 4 am deadline nights; I didn’t love driving 1 1/2 hours to get the newspaper; I didn’t love the exhaustion. But, really, things could not have gone better. It was a wonderful start.
Two days into the Fall 2012 semester, I called Marina (the editor) to ask about the newspaper’s first meeting.
“Are you still the advisor?” she said.
“Of course,” I said.
“You may want to check,” she said. “That’s not what I heard.”
I told her she was, surely, wrong. I mean, who dumps a free newspaper advisor? Especially one who helped revive a dead newspaper? Especially one who works in the field and has lots of contacts and loves, loves, loves, loves, loves, loves journalism? I mean, who would do that?
I e-mailed the dean of students.
The dean of students e-mailed me back. He said I should come in for a talk.
I came in for a talk. He stammered and stuttered; lots of “uhhh” and “ehhh.” He said it wasn’t his decision and wasn’t his call, but that the college placed another professor in charge of the newspaper; a professor who has spent the majority of his career doing public relations and consulting. Not that anything’s wrong with public relations and consulting. It’s just not journalism.
The dean told me it wasn’t his call.
“Whose call was it?” I asked.
He didn’t know. Or wouldn’t say.
“So I’ve been fired from an unpaid position?” I asked.
“I’m not sure,” he said.
The editor, Marina, went to The Touchstone office. All the stuff belonging to the previous year’s staff was either removed or thrown out. Nobody told her about the change; nobody told any of the students about the change. A new editor was enlisted—without the new advisor ever telling the old editor she was, like me, dumped.
I was encouraged—by many—to quit the school. “To hell with them,” my mom said. “You don’t need it …”
“No,” the wife said. “You owe it to the students. And you love teaching.”
When I told the heads of my department about the happenings, they had no idea. We wound up having a meeting with the provost. She apologized, also said it wasn’t her call, but that the college was concerned about “the message.” What if prospective students, taking a campus tour, pick up the Touchstone and see a column about crappy food or bad policies? What then? I told her that journalism can’t be taught as public relations; that students must be able to voice their displeasure—and pleasure—in a free forum. A college newspaper is not a promotional pamphlet. A college newspaper is a newspaper.
To my great shock, I sat in front of her and my voice began to crack. Again, I told her, I made no money to do this; I certainly didn’t need to do this for my career. It was, 100 percent, about love, passion, developing journalists, seeing them published and, ultimately, hired. She nodded and smiled and empathized.
The meeting ended.
I was later told, by multiple college officials, that this came down to one thing, and one thing only: Image control.
I felt like I got over it. I really did. My class started its own online newspaper, The Pub Wrap, and that was fulfilling. I was told only my students could contribute; that it couldn’t compete with Touchstone. “Compete?” I said. “This isn’t a contest …”
I moved on; emotionally distanced myself from the college (I’m completing my final semester as we speak); tried to love my students without any of the lingering anger. I brought in some excellent guest speakers (Rick Jervis, a Pulitzer Prize winner; Amanda Sidman from the Today Show; Brian Mansfield of USA Today, Steve Cannella and Jon Wertheim of Sports Illustrated); had the students do a cool (well, I think it’s cool) final project; pushed the kids toward internships. My class evaluations were excellent. I am, I think, a good teacher.
I was fine.
Then the Touchstone came out. And it was brutal. A pamphlet. A PR pamphlet. Awful layout, no rhyme or reason; mugshots alongside every story. It looks like a bad high school newspaper, or a mediocre junior high school newspaper. (For the record, I don’t blame the students at all. At all. They’re new to this). I actually asked the provost for her take. “I thought it was quite good,” she said.
I was speechless.
And that’s when it hit me. The college doesn’t aspire to a quality student newspaper. It’s about safety. Easiness. Why have an established journalist advise students on journalism when you have a PR person advise students on journalism? Why aim for excellence when mediocrity is so comfortable? Hell, I could have helped my students put out a New York Times-quality product, and it wouldn’t have mattered. It was never about the journalism, per se, or the newspaper.
It was about mediocrity.
So now, Manhattanville’s student newspaper is back where it was two years ago. It’s come out two times thus far, with a dormant website, no Twitter presence, no sense of purpose. The clips are—from a career standpoint—relatively useless, because creativity and aggressiveness are clearly not encouraged. I read it and, literally, feel like crying. So much potential; so much opportunity.
So little interest.
What hurts most (and what, I suppose, inspires me to write this) is that this sort of stuff is going on everywhere. Journalism is, undeniably, under attack. Newspapers are closing. Corporate entities are stifling free press; colleges and universities are cracking down on student-generated publications. We, as a nation, are increasingly comfortable with the idea of limited voice.
It’s a dangerous path.
One, come semester’s end, I no longer want part of.
In 1 1/2 hours, I’ll have been officially married to my wife for 11 years.
I’ve never understood time, and I don’t understand it now. Eleven years? Not even sure how that’s possible. It continues to baffle me, how days can feel like years, and years can feel like days. Eleven … eleven … eleven. Sheesh. In 11 years I’ll be 52. In another 11, I’ll be 63. Then 74. Then 85. Then 96. Then … OK. Enough.
The year was 1999. I was at Jon Wertheim’s wedding. He was marrying Ellie, a woman I didn’t know at the time (but now a dear friend). I was, truth be told, a fringe guest; Jon’s Sports Illustrated pal going back a couple of years. Had a couple of guests needed to be cut, surely I would have been home.
It was a fun wedding, as I recall. Good band, tasty food. I was sitting at a table with, among others, Grant Wahl and Hank Hersch, two SI colleagues. Speeches were made. First, Jon’s brother Gerald—the best man. Then this little woman in a violet-ish dress. She had short, brown hair. Looked sorta nervous. I was standing next to Grant as she spoke about Ellie and friendship. I recall none of her words. Just her beauty. She was like a little angel, nervous but glowing. Grant said something like, “She’s cute, huh?” and I agreed. Of course, I also lacked the guts to approach. I was a fringe guest. A Nobody. She was the maid of honor.
Maybe three weeks later, after Jon and Ellie returned from their honeymoon, I asked about the maid of honor. “That’s Ellie’s best friend, Catherine,” Jon said.
“Can you get me her number?” I asked.
It took four months. She was dating this guy, or that guy, or something. The first time I called, I showed off my smoothness by noting, “Catherine—that’s not a Jewish name.”
She didn’t like that.
Still, she gave me a shot. Our first date was at a Manhattan restaurant, Ole. It was a rainy night, and I was late. I walked in, and she was sitting there, as lovely as I remembered. “I’m soooo sorry,” I said—and I was, indeed, sorry … looking. I was wearing an orange-and-black checkered vest (Marshall’s, $10) and a faded black T-shirt that had once belonged to my ex-girlfriend’s dad. We had a nice time, and at the end I said, “I’d like to walk you home but, don’t worry, I won’t come up.”
“Who said I was inviting you up?” she replied.
I liked this one.
Our second date was awful. It’s gone down in Pearlman lore as “The Booger Date,” because—for six or so hours together—I had a hardened, crusty booger attached to the tip of my nose. Horrified, Catherine said nothing. We also argued a lot—about smoking, I think, or politics. Stuff. Toward the end, Catherine was feeling quite down. Another shit date, another shit guy. Then, the magic happened. I walked her home and pulled out (old school!) a mix tape. Why? Not sure. Probably because I liked her, and thought she was gorgeous and … well, why not? Thing had a little LaBelle, a little Sam Cooke, a little Hall & Oates. She later told me she listened to it and laughed—in a good way.
I like to think, all these years later, she’s still laughing.
Dating back to early childhood, I’ve always been fascinated by TV weather-people.
Why? Three reasons:
1) They were on television.
2) They always seemed to be very excited about weather.
3) They often seemed to be wrong.
Regrettably, I never knew anyone who did televised forecasts. Mr. G once came to my elementary school, but not my class. Nick Gregory lives 1/4 mile from my home, but we’ve failed to chat. Alas, my life is a sad and incomplete one.
Hence, it brought me great joy when Amy Freeze—one of America’s most famous TV meteorologists—agreed to be Quazed. Amy is the weekend meteorologist at WABC-TV in New York, but her resume offers up some long, winding, riveting stops and experiences. She was the first-ever female sideline reporter for Major League Soccer. She did the same gig for the Chicago Bears. She lost a ton of weight, married BYU’s mascot, has traveled alone on an airplane with four kids and is a six-time marathoner. Oh, and she’s agreed to speak to my journalism class at Manhattanville College. In other words, she can do no wrong. Ever.
Jeffpearlman.com offers sun, 85 degrees—and one helluva Quaz …
JEFF PEARLMAN:So Amy, I have a smart father. College educated, open-minded, worldly. And he has an opinion about television meteorologists-namely, that, when a potentially awful storm is coming, they will overstate the potential severity so that, afterward, people won’t say, “Man, 500,000 people without power … and all you said was there’d be some bad rain.” Is there any remote truth to this? Do weather professionals sometimes need to watch their backs?
AMY FREEZE: Tell him to watch Channel 7. We don’t hype. I like to think of the weather message as a “Call to Action” or a “Calming message.” If you don’t need to worry, I’ll tell you. But we do need to pay attention most of the time around here—the weather is crazy in New York City these days. In the past year, we have had two landfall hurricanes—Irene and Sandy. We had two tornadoes touch down in the city limits in Brooklyn and Queens.
And we had a long-path tornado in Great River North on Long Island—that twister was on the ground for 4.5 miles with 85 mph winds! Not to mention the incredible flooding, the hot summer, and the early snowfalls we have had—including the October snowfall in 2011. Basically, if it rains an inch in New York City in less than six hours—there will be some type of flooding there’s just nowhere for the rain to go. If there are winds above 45 mph, there will be power outages—the above-ground power lines are vulnerable to big winds. The science is better than it’s ever been. The seven-day forecast is as good now as the five-day forecast was in 1988. The warning time on tornadoes has gone from five minutes to 13 minutes—20 years ago tornadoes happened without warning 74 percent of the time but now we get at least some type of warning out 69 percent of the time. Bottom line: This is not your father’s weather world, J.P.
I’m a scientist. Not an actor. I work to get it right.
J.P.:I watch the weather, I enjoy the weather, I’ve got nothing but respect for the weather. But I must ask: Save for looks, delivery, wardrobe, age, accent-is there any real difference between what you’ll tell me and what the weather folks at NBC, CBS, Fox, etc tell me? In other words, are there substantial reasons to pick a weather person?
AF: Yes. If they were born with a weather name, like Freeze … maybe that’s too obvious. Your meteorologists should be students of the weather, scientists. They should have a degree and be reviewed by the American Meteorological Society with a seal of approval (it requires tests and a peer review). Every meteorologist at Ch. 7 has an AMS Seal. If your meteorologist has the Certified Broadcast Meteorologist Accreditation from the AMS—that is the top seal available (check). If they have a Master’s Degree from University of Pennsylvania with a research thesis in Storm Water, that’s cool (check.). And remember while weather people are these familiar faces that make you feel good when you wake up or soothe you right before bed. There comes a point when your TV friends must be more than eye candy. When it comes to my property, my commute, my $300 cute boots, and how I dress my kids for school in winter … I want the forecast to be accurate.
J.P.:I’ve long argued that life can be depressingly repetitive. Along those lines, is life as a meteorologist depressingly, depressingly repetitive. Rain today, sun tomorrow, snow the next day, then rain, then sun, temperatures in the 40s today, in the mid 40s tomorrow. I say this with no disdain, but it strikes me as, well, sort of a boring gig. Tell me why I’m wrong.
AF: You watched the movie “The Weather Man” didn’t you? It’s not like “Groundhog Day” either. Having a job that’s different every day is awesome. I’ve lived in several different climates forecasting the weather: the Pacific Northwest with epic ice storms, the Rocky Mountains with huge snowstorms, the Midwest with tornadoes, and the east coast with Nor’easters, extreme heat, wind storms, hurricanes and flooding.
J.P.:So you’ve got a genuinely fascinating background. Indiana born and raised, Mormon, cheerleader at BYU, your husband, Dr. Gary Arbuckle, was Cosmo the Cougar. So many things to ask, but I’m stuck on the Cosmo the Cougar thing. Really, Gary was the cougar? A. What does that even mean? And how did you meet?
A.F.: I was a cheerleader at BYU. Cosmo the Cougar is the BYU mascot—who is part of the cheer squad. Although he denies it, I know he became the mascot to meet cheerleaders. Anyway. He’s 6-foot-5, so he was the tallest mascot ever at the university. He’s an animated guy, very funny … and in college we spent a lot of time together.
The next thing I know, we were married.
J.P.: I know your background, but I don’t know … why. Namely, why become a meteorologist? What led you down this path? When did you decide, “Yes! This is what my life will be!” And is it a passion, or just a cool way to score a paycheck?
A.F.: I was born with the name Freeze. However, I did not grow up wanting to be a weathercaster. I actually studied print journalism, I did two study abroad sessions—one in South Africa and another in Germany. I wanted to write for a newspaper (hint: New York Times, Wall Street Journal) about foreign affairs like NATO, European Union, small factions in Africa and conflicts in remote areas. But as you know because of your extensive research (noted above), I was married at 20 and I needed to get a job to support my husband’s graduate school. No newspaper would hire me in Portland, Oregon where I was living at the time. So, I took a job at TV station as a daily writer. The job expanded and I was doing more work for them as a new morning show launched. A consultant saw me while I was a stand-in for the new studio lights. She suggested I become the hip entertainment reporter (Gasp! Interviewing bands like Everclear was very far off from writing about world affairs!). But I needed the money, and the benefits. I took the job and months later the weatherman had a bypass surgery … who will fill in? “Freeze! That sounds like weather … Get up to the weather deck.” I secretly enrolled in Intro to Meteorology at Portland State University … and I loved the mystery of weather. I would eventually get a second degree in Meteorology and a Master’s Degree at University of Pennsylvania. I guess it was irony, fate, destiny, serendipity and all those fancy terms for what’s meant to be finds a way to happen. So … I love my job, and yes, the paycheck is good, too.
A.F.: Well, Costas is a commentator. He should be able to say whatever he wants, he’s paid to give his opinion, to comment. Funny how we like commentators until we don’t like their opinion. Ha! A lot of people have watched him comment for many topics and I think if it’s under the sports realm, expect him to offer insight. While meteorologists have opinions (even on gun laws) our job is to present science. Beyond forecast numbers, climate change is an indisputable fact and we should know about it. The causes and the degree to which it’s happening are up for discussion. Yes, I think serious meteorologists should speak to peer-reviewed science and present the facts on climate change. They should be a part of the discussion and offer evidence and look for answers based in science. The job of every great scientist is not to know all the answers but to ask the right questions.
J.P.:When I think of TV meteorologists, I consider only that five-minute span when you’re on the tube. But what is your day actually like? When do you start analyzing the weather? What are you looking for? When do you get to the studio? Please break it down for me, Amy.
A.F.: I get up at 6. I run. I get four kids ready and out the door for school. I’m off Mondays and Tuesdays. Wednesday through Sunday I work at the WABC-TV usually doing special reports on weekdays and weather on the weekends. But I fill in on all shifts so the times I’m working can sometimes be tricky. If it’s an early morning shift we get in about 3:30 am and prepare the forecast and we use the services of Accuweather but we produce our own forecasts. I put on makeup and comb my hair about 30 minutes before air time. I wear a microphone, earpiece for producer talk and I use a garage door clicker to advance the weather graphics. I get about four-to-five minutes of TV time. It’s all ad-lib. No script. I also have a blog called “Freeze Front” and using social media like Facebook and Twitter.com/AmyFreeze7 is part of the job description.
J.P.: I’ve done some TV, and I have many friends who work in the industry. Clearly, it can be v-e-r-y surface and cutthroat. Right now you’re 38, pretty, etc. But do you worry about sticking when you’re …45 … 50 … 55? Will there always be someone who can be had for cheaper, with blonde hair and a perky smile and … well, yeah. And do you think, in the TV news industry, it’s easier for men to age than women?
A.F.: First of all, I’m not dying my hair blond—so mark that off the list. Are you saying I won’t always look this way? I think I look better now than I did at 28. And for sure, I know more. In the information age, correct information is becoming more and more critical. How you look may increasingly fall short to what you know. My beauty regime is to learn more and get smarter. Plus, as part of my world domination plans I do daydream about owning the network in a few years … job security.
J.P.:I’m fascinated by Sandy-not just because we lost power for 10 days, but because I’m guessing it was like your Bar Mitzvah and Christmas rolled into one. What was the experience like for you? As a news person? As a New Yorker?
A.F.: Sandy may seem like the Super Bowl of the weather world. But big storms are not as fun as you might think for forecasters. As dramatic and exciting as it is to see the power of nature unfolding… when it happens at your doorstep, with devastating consequences, it is too scary. Forecasting Sandy was a chance in a lifetime because the computer models were so accurate about the characteristics and track of the storm. Seeing the storm unfold as we stayed on air at WABC for 96-straight hours was gut-wrenching. Telling the storm stories of lives lost and the shoreline changes and people struggling was emotionally draining. But as a New Yorker it was another testament of resilience. As heartbreaking as it is to see a place you love hurt, the pain is quickly replaced with healing. When this city is hit, it gets right back up.
J.P.:In 1999 you and your husband won $100,000 in a weight loss contest. Let me say that again-$100,000 for losing weight. Please explain …
A.F.:The greatest fitness guru of our time, Bill Phillips, had a fitness transformation contest. His challenge: for 12 weeks or 84 days, eat right and exercise 45 minutes, six days a week. Enter the contest with a before and after photo and an essay about how the physical transformation changed you.
Hundreds of thousands of entrants from all over the world. There are horrible before pics and amazing after pics of me that you can Google. I cut my body fat in half, lost 28 pounds and felt amazing. It was empowering to see the power I had to change my body. It’s very liberating to alter your physique—it makes you believe that you can change anything about your life … makes you feel like there are no limits in life. But how did we win a fitness contest based on transformation? We ate right and exercised consistently. Who knew?
QUAZ EXPRESS WITH AMY FREEZE:
• Number of times a year someone asks whether you changed your last name?: Not Enough. Keep asking. On twitter, like 120 tweets this year. #BornThisWay
• Best response you have for, “What’s the weather looking like today?”: Cloudy, chance of Meatballs.
• Have you seen Book of Mormon? And does it offend you?: Have not seen it … but I’ve read the book!
• Ever thought you were about to die in a plane crash? Please elaborate: I flew from Philadelphia to Portland with four kids. Longest four hours of my life. One kid puked in his seat. Another peed. Gum in my hair. Soda on my lap. I’ve mentally blocked the rest of that flight.
• Rank in order (favorite to least): Michael J. Fox, Nick Gregory, Jim McMahon, onion rings, Conway Twitty, Dead Man Walking, Starkville, Mississippi, long walks on the beach, the Clapper, Ken Phelps, fresh bread, the Storm Water Action Alert Program, Moses, William Weld: The Storm Water Action Alert Program, long walks on the beach, Moses, Michael J. Fox, Nick Gregory, Ken Phelps, fresh bread, Jim McMahon, William Weld, Dead Man Walking, Conway Twitty, onion rings, Starkville, Mississippi, the Clapper.
• My daughter wants to go away for summer camp-she’s nine, it’s seven weeks long. All her cousins go, I want her to stay home. What should I do?: Let her go. I’ll loan you a kid if you get lonely.
• If Jesus Christ floated above your bed—you’re 100% certain it’s him—and says, “Amy, really, the answer is Nuwaubianism!”—would you convert?: I’ll investigate Nuwaubianism.
• Most embarrassing on-camera moment of your career?: Fake laugh while interviewing Tim Allen—it’s a long story.
• Would you rather change your name (officially—for all endeavors) to Pot Smoking Angel of Doom III or spend the next three years barking a solo of Hall & Oates’ “Private Eyes” in Celine Dion’s new Las Vegas show, “Celine Does Oates”?: No. 2 for sure … I have always dreamed of a Vegas career in music.
“Look, just because a guy hires his mistress to a university job she’s unqualified for, then lies to police and university officials about her being involved in an accident, doesn’t mean he doesn’t deserve a second chance.”
My son Emmett is 6.
We have a game we play, whenever we’re telling a story or reading a book. Let’s say, for example, the final page reads, ” … the prince conquered the evil swordsman and went on to marry Princess Laura.” Well, Emmett always (literally, always) adds “… and then a gatorsaur ate them.”
It’s become a saying in our house—”And then a gatorsaur ate them.” This year, my wife even mentioned the gatorsaur on out holiday card.
I digress. Moments ago I had the pleasure of reading the Western Kentucky University press release announcing the hiring of Bobby Petrino as new football coach. It’s unintentionally, uproariously, uniquely hilarious, in that all these dazzling accomplishments are mentioned, without the context of Petrino being a man of John Rocker-esque character and integrity (A refresher: Petrino not only left Louisville after signing an extension; not only quit the Atlanta Falcons midway through a season by leaving a note for his players. No, he lost his Arkansas job after getting in a motorcycle accident, telling police and the university that he was alone (in fact, his engaged mistress was on the bike); and, oh, he hired the mistress to a highly coveted university job she was utterly unqualified for).
Hence, what I did—for kicks and giggles—was add, “Petrino is one of the biggest soulless scumbags in the history of college sports” to the end of each paragraph. It’s amazing how well it works. Here, watch …
BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — Western Kentucky University has named Bobby Petrino its 18th head football coach in school history, WKU Director of Athletics Todd Stewart announced on Monday. Petrino brings a wealth of coaching experience and success to WKU, owning a 75-26 career record as a collegiate head coach, with seven bowl game appearances, including appearances in the 2011 BCS Sugar Bowl with the University of Arkansas and the 2007 BCS Orange Bowl with the University of Louisville. Petrino is one of the biggest soulless scumbags in the history of college sports.
Petrino becomes only the eighth WKU head coach since 1948, taking over a program primed for its first-ever bowl game appearance on December 26 against Central Michigan in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, and coming off back-to-back seven-win seasons. As previously announced on Friday, WKU defensive coordinator Lance Guidry will coach the Hilltoppers in the bowl game as interim head coach. Petrino is one of the biggest soulless scumbags in the history of college sports.
In his eight seasons as a collegiate head coach with Louisville and Arkansas, Petrino led his teams to a bowl game in seven of the eight years, including four 10-win seasons, leading both the Cardinals and the Razorbacks to their first BCS bowl games in school history. Petrino guided Arkansas and Louisville to top-10 finishes nationally three different times, including finishing the 2006 and the 2011 seasons ranked fifth in the Associated Press poll. Petrino is one of the biggest soulless scumbags in the history of college sports.
In his most recent coaching stop at Arkansas, Petrino led the Razorbacks to a 34-17 record in four years, going 29-10 in his final three years, increasing his win total in each of his four seasons with Arkansas. In just his second season in Fayetteville, Petrino led Arkansas to an 8-5 record and its first bowl win since 2003, winning over East Carolina in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl. The success of the 2009 season propelled Arkansas into the national spotlight in 2010, as the Razorbacks went 10-3, earning a bid to the AllState Sugar Bowl against Ohio State — the program’s first-ever BCS bowl bid. Petrino followed up the 2010 season with a remarkable 11-win campaign in 2011, matching the single-season school record. Arkansas closed out the year with a win over Kansas State in the Cotton Bowl, boosting the Razorbacks into the No. 5 national ranking in the final AP poll. Petrino is one of the biggest soulless scumbags in the history of college sports.
Arkansas led the Southeastern Conference in passing offense (300.7) for the third consecutive year in 2011, while also leading the conference in total offense (438.1) and scoring offense (36.8). In Petrino’s final two seasons at Arkansas, the Razorbacks went 13-1 at home, including a perfect 7-0 at home in 2011. Petrino is one of the biggest soulless scumbags in the history of college sports.
Overall, Petrino’s four years at Arkansas resulted in a plethora of school records falling. In 2008, the team broke eight school records and in 2009 it set or matched 26 individual or team records. In 2010, the Razorbacks set or matched 48 individual or team records, while 2011 saw 24 more records fall. On the individual stage, tight end D.J. Williams claimed the school’s first-ever John Mackey Award in 2011, given annually to the nation’s top tight end. WKU senior tight end Jack Doyle was a semi-finalist for the award this season. Petrino also coached quarterback Tyler Wilson to first team All-SEC honors in 2011, becoming the first Arkansas quarterback to earn that honor. Kick returner Joe Adams was the SEC Special Teams Player of the Year in 2011, while also being one of five finalists for the 2011 Paul Hornung Award, an award that WKU junior running back Antonio Andrews is up for in 2012. Adams was recognized as an All-American following the 2011 season, and was drafted by the Carolina Panthers in the fourth round of the 2012 NFL Draft. Petrino is one of the biggest soulless scumbags in the history of college sports.
Developing student-athletes has been a constant for Petrino, as he has worked with numerous players that have gone on to careers at the professional level, including an impressive track record developing quarterbacks. As a head coach, he helped develop quarterbacks such as Ryan Mallett (2008-10) at Arkansas and Stefan LeFors (2003-04) and Brian Brohm (2004-06) at Louisville. As a coordinator or assistant, he tutored Jason Campbell at Auburn (2002), Chris Redman at Louisville (1998), Jake Plummer at Arizona State (1993), and Doug Nussmeier (1990-91) and John Friesz (1989) at Idaho. Petrino is one of the biggest soulless scumbags in the history of college sports.
While his track record is proven developing quarterbacks, Petrino has also adhered to the philosophy of a balanced attack offensively. In his last 14 years as a collegiate coach, both as a head coach and as an offensive coordinator, Petrino’s offenses have put together 86 100-yard rushers and 64 300-yard passers in 170 games during that 14-year span. That equals 150 of 170 games having at least a 100-yard rusher or a 300-yard passer. Petrino has coached the likes of current NFL running back Michael Bush (2003-06), who rushed for over 2,500 yards during his time at Louisville. Petrino is one of the biggest soulless scumbags in the history of college sports.
Prior to becoming the head coach at Arkansas, Petrino was the head coach with the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons in 2007 after spending four years as the head coach at Louisville. Petrino was the named the head coach at Louisville in 2003 after a year as the offensive coordinator at Auburn. In four seasons at the helm of Louisville, Petrino put together a remarkable 41-9 overall record, winning at least nine games in each of his four seasons, including an 11-win season and a 12-win season. Petrino is one of the biggest soulless scumbags in the history of college sports.
In his first season with the Cardinals, Petrino immediately began to make his mark, leading Louisville to a 9-4 record and a berth in the GMAC Bowl. Taking over a team that had finished 7-6 the season before, Petrino became the first Louisville head coach to win nine games in his first season. It didn’t take long for Petrino to set the tone in his first collegiate coaching stint. In his first career game as a head coach, Petrino led Louisville to a 40-24 win over arch rival Kentucky. By the end of his first year, Petrino’s team led the league and ranked among the nation’s best in total offense, rushing and scoring. The Cardinals ranked fifth in the nation in total offense (488.9), 10th in rushing (228.2) and 15th in scoring offense (34.6). Louisville set six Conference USA records including the mark for total yards after the Cardinals racked up 779 yards, including 445 rushing yards, in a 66-45 win over Houston. Petrino is one of the biggest soulless scumbags in the history of college sports.
The four losses in 2003 would be the most during Petrino’s tenure at Louisville, as he led the Cardinals to a 12-1 record in his second season, winning a Conference USA title, while also winning the Liberty Bowl over 10th-ranked Boise State. The Cardinals led the nation in total offense (539.0) and scoring offense (49.8), scored 40 points or more nine different times, scored 50 points seven times and set an NCAA record by scoring 55 or more points in five straight games. Petrino is one of the biggest soulless scumbags in the history of college sports.
After a 9-3 season in 2005, Petrino took Louisville to new heights in 2006, finishing the season with a 12-1 record and a 24-13 victory over Wake Forest in the Orange Bowl. The 12 wins were the most in school history, besting a previous high of 11 set during Petrino’s second season. The BCS bowl win was the first in school history. Petrino is one of the biggest soulless scumbags in the history of college sports.
During that particular 2006 season, the Petrino-led Cardinals averaged over 37 points per game offensively, ranking fourth nationally in that category, while still limiting the opposition to just over 16 points per game. Petrino’s offense ranked second in the nation in total yards per game (475.3), while leading the Big East in passing offense (290.0) and first downs (296). Louisville jumped as high as No. 3 in the national polls during the season, finishing the year ranked sixth in the AP poll, posting three wins over top-15 teams, including third-ranked West Virginia en route to the program’s first Big East title. Petrino is one of the biggest soulless scumbags in the history of college sports.
During Petrino’s time at Louisville, he coached Bronko Nagurski and Ted Hendricks Award winner Elvis Dumervil, who led the nation in sacks (20) and forced fumbles (10) on his way to earning All-America honors in 2006. During that same season, running back Michael Bush scored 24 touchdowns and became the school’s first 1,000-yard rusher since 1999. Petrino inherits a running back in Antonio Andrews at WKU that rushed for 1,609 yards in the regular season, ranking sixth nationally in rushing yards per game. Petrino is one of the biggest soulless scumbags in the history of college sports.
Prior to his time at Louisville, Petrino served one season as the offensive coordinator at Auburn in 2002. In his one season with the Tigers, Auburn went 9-4, including three wins over top-10 ranked opponents, and won a share of the SEC Western Division title. Petrino is one of the biggest soulless scumbags in the history of college sports.
Before Auburn, he spent three seasons in the NFL with the Jacksonville Jaguars. He was the quarterbacks coach in 1999 and 2000, and the offensive coordinator in 2001. Petrino is one of the biggest soulless scumbags in the history of college sports.
In his first stint at Louisville, he was the offensive coordinator for the Cardinals in 1998. In that one season, Louisville was the top-ranked NCAA Division I-A team in scoring and total offense while recording the biggest turnaround in the nation. The Cardinals improved from 1-10 in 1997 to 7-5 in ’98. Petrino is one of the biggest soulless scumbags in the history of college sports.
The Helena, Mont., native was the offensive coordinator at Utah State for three years (1995-97) before going to Louisville. While in Logan, Utah, he helped Utah State set school records by averaging 468.5 yards of total offense and 317.5 yards passing during the 1996 season. Prior to his arrival, USU averaged just more than 300 yards per game in total offense. In 1996, the Aggies also racked up a school-record 273 first downs, an average of nearly 25 first downs a game. Petrino is one of the biggest soulless scumbags in the history of college sports.
In 1994, he was the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at the University of Nevada. The Wolf Pack ranked second in the nation in passing (330) and total offense (500) per game, and was third in the nation with 37.6 points a game. During his one-year stint at Nevada, the Wolf Pack boasted 10 100-yard rushing performances and six 300-yard passing efforts. Nevada posted a 9-2 record and won a share of the Big West title. Petrino is one of the biggest soulless scumbags in the history of college sports.