By Annie Ross
Wouldn’t you love to be a fly on the wall of an elevator with Fox Sports’ Erin Andrews — who will be on the sideline this Sunday during Fox’s Cowboys-Niners game — and Pam Oliver?
Oliver will have one more season as a Fox sideline reporter, although she’ll no longer team up with Fox’s “A” crew of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman. Oliver has written an account for Essence of how Fox broke the news to her, and on where sideline reporting is headed.
Oliver says that when Andrews was hired two years ago, she felt like a dead woman walking. Co-workers commended the 53-year-old Oliver for not being angry about it, but inside, Oliver said, “I was humiliated.”
When Oliver met with her Fox Sports bosses in April, she says they tried to couch it as a reassignment: they wanted to move her to Fox Sports 1 for “specials and long-form stories.” Oliver says she enjoys sideline reporting, and wanted to at least work a 20th year, and was able to convince them to give her one more season. But it wouldn’t be with Buck and Aikman, with whom she’s worked for a decade. Andrews was getting that plum assignment.
Oliver can’t help but notice that Fox, more so than any other network, appears to prefer a certain type of female hire:
Once the changes were announced, people started talking. Some asked, “Do you think it had something to do with your race?” No. I definitely do not. Others asked, “Does it have something to do with your age?” Well, maybe. The business is very demographic-oriented. As one executive said to me, Fox Sports will look radically different in the coming years. I assume that means they want to look younger. It’s not difficult to notice that the new on-air people there are all young, blond and “hot.” That’s not to say that Erin isn’t capable. I think she’s very capable. She’s also popular on Twitter and social media, so I can see how that would also make her highly sought after. Still, covering the NFL is a big deal. Stations like ABC and NBC entrust their programming to veterans. So when people talk about all networks making a turn to a particular type of girl on the sidelines, it doesn’t hold water.
Oliver says she’s now at peace with how things worked out.
At times I’m ashamed of how tragic I was making things out to be. It’s just a job change. I’m not out on the streets. I’m not unemployed. Everybody wins: Fox gets its coveted reporter in the lead role and I get to do my sideline job for my twentieth and final year. I’m also looking forward to developing stories that interest me and delivering long-form pieces for FS1. That kind of work is like being in reporter heaven.
Oliver has spent 20 years doing a commendable job at a deeply stupid position. If it’s her wish to keep doing it, then this sucks for her. But if it’s any consolation, in no other business does the premier reporter get stuck standing in the cold, giving vague team-censored updates on a special teamer who went to the locker room with a hand injury.