Yesterday's column by Mike Nadel caused a major stir in the sports blogatorium and sports media in general when he crucified America's favorite sideline princess, Erin Andrews, for her wardrobe and flirtatious reporting style while she was covering the last game in the Cubs/Brewers series Wednesday night. Even ESPN felt the need to make a statement about the column. Kind of. ESPN's Norby Williamson issued this response through PR:
"Erin is a tremendous reporter. She's a prepared and a hard-working journalist, who is well respected and asks excellent questions. We're proud to have her as an important part of our coverage team. Beyond that, we feel it's unnecessary to even respond to any of the specifics outlined."
Fair enough. Thanks for playing. Nadel took the time to speak to us about his motivation for the piece, the feedback he received, and if he would write it differently after it happened. His e-mail answers are below.DS: So, I'm going to assume that your column caused a lot of very enthusiastic responses. Would you say it was split down the middle or were there more "Stop Picking On The Pretty Lady!"-type nonsense? MN: It leaned toward the latter. Interestingly, many of those who "yelled" at me ALMOST got my point. One e-mailer criticized me for making "a sad remark on the respect of women in sports journalism." Another said I was playing "right into the stereotype of women sportscasters/reporters." Actually, the remark I was making about women in sports journalism is that it's difficult for them to do their job when one of their colleagues is feeding the stereotype. At least a dozen fellow "mainstream media" reporters - including three women - have told me they liked the column and agreed with its premise. I heard no dissent from anyone in my field, though I'm sure there must be some out there. Plenty of blog readers had fun commenting on my sexual orientation - as in: Only a gay guy could possibly object to the way Erin dressed and acted. Well ...Shhh! My wife thinks I'm straight! DS: Did you intend to write a story about her? Or was that just something that happened during your coverage of the game? And would there have been any change in your approach in hindsight? MN: I was expecting to write a baseball column Wednesday. But as the scenario unfolded in the clubhouse, I began to notice - it would have been impossible for me not to have. And when Cubs manager Lou Piniella saw Andrews and bellowed: "Hey, hey, hey! Look at this! Are you doing a baseball game today or a modeling assignment?" I realized that pretty much everybody was thinking exactly what I was thinking. In my mind, that made it a viable angle. (I also bounced the idea off my editor to make sure it worked.) As I've learned, A LOT OF PEOPLE CARE DEEPLY ABOUT ERIN ANDREWS. Many, a tad too deeply. As for the second part, I wish I had included a couple of paragraphs about all of the excellent female sportswriters and broadcasters I have worked with over the years. Many of them would be described as "good-looking" by most men, though that's not the point. Many have been leered at by athletes, just as Andrews was Wednesday. But these women have worked hard to overcome the stereotypes. They never would pander to athletes. They never would get touchy-feely. Being considered professional is paramount to them. I believe they would have been mortified to see that scene Wednesday: a reporter who LIVED the stereotype and profited from it. I also wish I had used the word "sashayed" instead of "sauntered" in my lead. Good word, sashayed. DS: My biggest objection to the column was the fact that it seemed like it was condemning Erin Andrews a little unfairly compared to other journalists. Erin Andrews is Erin Andrews. She's on her own island. Not because she's the greatest, most bangable sideline reporter ever to carry a microphone, but because her Erin Andrewsness has become her biggest commodity. ESPN knows that. She probably knows that. It just didn't seem fair to exploit the obvious in such a demeaning way. We get it: Erin Andrews is hot and maybe a little too friendly with the players. If anything it seems the issue could be more with ESPN than with her at this point. MN: Fair enough. That seems logical. My intent wasn't to condemn Erin Andrews but the "Erin Andrewsness" you refer to. Maybe we are supposed to totally dismiss the journalism aspect of it and look at it strictly as entertainment - as if she were the card girl at a boxing match. Maybe that's what Disney/ESPN wants. That's a sad commentary in its own right. And as far as her being "the greatest most bangable sideline reporter ever to carry a microphone" ... are you forgetting about Craig Sager and His Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoats? DS: Do you honestly think that what Erin Andrews is doing is making it tougher for sports journalists — not just female but males too? MN: Definitely for females. Probably not for males. The comment I keep seeing over and over again from Deadspin readers - and readers of the approximately 87 gazillion other blogs that linked my column - is that I'm "jealous" of Erin's popularity or access or something. I get plenty of interviews, as do most of my male cohorts. I never once have said: "Player X won't talk to me. If only I were a gorgeous blonde, I'd get some quotes." I'm much more likely to say: "Player X won't talk to me? I don't need the douchebag anyway. And hair is way overrated." For years, when ESPN, Sports Illustrated, the major TV networks, the New York Times and other heavy hitters in the industry have asked for access, they've gotten it. It's just something "local media" must deal with. Plenty of male ESPNers could get all the same interviews Erin Andrews does. Of course, Pedro Gomez has lovely eyes. And Rick Reilly's smile ... don't get me started! DS: If Erin Andrews were not attractive, wearing that dress, showing that much leg, etc. and had still interacted with the players in a similar fashion do you think you would've found it objectionable enough to be column worthy? MN:Almost surely not. What made me even think of the column was the way the athletes and manager responded to Andrews. DS: At anytime the players were making the lewd remarks, etc., do you think you would've joined in had you not been writing the story? Like there are obviously other reporters, athletes, etc. who have brought up the way she approaches her job and her appearance in casual conversation. (And in Rick Sutcliffe's case — on-air conversation.) That exists in any industry: everybody wants to bang the hot girl/guy at the office regardless of how good or bad she is at her job. In fact, they call it "locker room talk.". But it rarely goes public. Do you think in some way by including those little anecdotes (Cubs players hubba-hubba-ing, etc.) you were in some way crossing the line both as a human being and a columnist? Well, before I even knew I was going to do a story, a Cubs player did make eye contact with me and nod his head in Erin's direction to make sure I saw her. I took a few steps closer to him and softly said, "Wow!" But no, I never once thought of saying: "Yeah, I'd love to get all over that, how about you?" It's not my nature to pal around with the athletes I cover. They have their world and I have mine. As long as we can meet in the middle occasionally and have a professional relationship, I'm happy. I believe the vast majority of sports journalists - male, female, print, broadcast, Internet - agree with me. I did ask myself if I was crossing some kind of line by writing about the clubhouse scene. I decided I wasn't. (As did my editor.) Erin is a public figure. The athletes are public figures. Piniella's comment was made loudly enough for folks in Sheboygan to hear. If one wanted to make the argument that I shouldn't have used the line of dialog I quoted from one player to another, I'd certainly respect that opinion. DS: Do you think she does her job well? MN: Honestly, I don't pay enough attention to Erin or any other sideline reporter, regardless of gender, to make such a judgment. They seem so unnecessary. Then again, I'm sure they feel the same about bald (but beautiful) sports columnists.