We're not unicorns- we do exist!


We're not unicorns- we do exist!


When people, and by people I mean both men and women, find out what I do for a living, it’s always the same response and question, “That’s cool! So you’re on TV?! Why sports broadcasting… do you like sports?”  Now, the inner smartass in me wants to say, “No, I hate sports.  I just think pro athletes are hot and rich and famous, and I just want to sleep with them and hang out in locker rooms!”  Because unfortunately that is exactly what many men (and even some women) think.  But instead, I give the standard explanation: I played college basketball.  My parents were both athletes and coaches and PE teachers so I literally grew up on the baseball field and in the gym, playing every sport I could.  But since I can’t play competitively anymore, I decided covering sports was the next best thing… so here I am.

It’s a conversation that seems harmless, and I really don’t mind sharing my story.  In fact, I’m very proud of my athletic career and upbringing, because I truly love sports and it’s a big part of who I am.  But does anyone ever ask a man in sports broadcasting, “Why did you pick that profession… do you like sports?”  I would guess that has possibly never been asked of a man, at least the latter part.  Because for some reason if you were born with a penis, you automatically know how to play sports and can understand sports.  And when a man gets on TV and talks about the Warriors win over the Cavaliers and Stephen Curry’s big night, he is automatically considered qualified and knowledgable.  I mean, does anyone ever think to ask a man who covers the NBA, did you actually play basketball?  We women get that question all the time. I love it when guys say, “what do you know about football, you never played it!”  Which is true - but do you know how many men cover the NFL who never played the game either? 

If we’re comparing resumes, I would venture to say that most of my male counterparts don’t have athletic careers that rival mine.  Did they play Division I sports on a full-ride scholarship?  Were they four-year starters and all-conference selections? Did they set scoring records and get inducted into their University’s Sports Halls of Fame?  I did.  But I don’t hand out my resume when I go to work just so that I can have the same respect as the men around me. Once I actually had an MLB team executive tell me that he Googled my name when I started covering the team and was impressed to read about my basketball career!  It was like he looked at me in a totally different way.  I suddenly had his respect.  And yet strangely, I kinda liked the fact that he looked me up, so at least he knew I had the credentials to be there.  But unfortunately, that is most often the case when you first start covering a team.  The front office, coaches and athletes are quick to judge you based on the very first question you ask… you can almost hear them thinking, “oh boy, let’s see if this woman knows what she’s talking about.”  

When I talk to young women who want to get into this business today, my first piece of advice is to always know what you’re talking about and be prepared to back it up. I tell them to do their homework and be more prepared then the men around them, because every time you open your mouth, you will be judged.  And the one time you mess up, mispronounce a name, get a stat wrong, it will be because you are a woman and just a cute skirt who doesn’t know sports.  That’s our reality in this so called man’s world.  And I gladly accept the challenge… because unlike many of my male counterparts, I am a retired athlete, who still needs to fuel my competitive fire.  So bring it on.  I love proving people wrong and showing I can “hang with the boys.”  I don’t even mind when I get that response from a guy at the bar who looks at me and says shockingly, “Wow, you really know your sports.  You’re like every guy’s dream girl!”  Yet another comment I’m sure my male counterparts don’t hear on a daily basis.  But I laugh.  It’s funny and sort of a back handed compliment.  I get it, it’s not every day you hear a woman talking about a cover two defense over sushi!  But we are not unicorns, we do exist. 

Of course, when I’m not behind the mic, I still really enjoy playing pickup ball and embarrassing dudes on the court, because they immediately assume that I can’t play.  Or playing in a golf charity event and having guys stare in amazement at my long drive right down the fairway, because you know girls aren’t supposed to be able to hit a golf ball… or throw a baseball… or make it rain like the Splash Brothers… or talk a good game!  After all, we’re missing that important piece of anatomy.  Oh and for the record, when we do have to go into the locker room to DO OUR JOBS, we aren’t trying to check anyone out! Only a man would do that.  

"As a woman in sports, I already know I HAVE to push harder." ABC Sports Reporter Dionne Miller


"As a woman in sports, I already know I HAVE to push harder." ABC Sports Reporter Dionne Miller


What experience had the biggest impact on your life and career in sports and why?
It’s hard to point to just one experience, I mean I have loved sports for as long as I can remember. Honestly, I cried when John Elway led “the Drive” to beat my Browns! Actual tears!! That was the moment I knew sports meant more to me than just entertainment. As I got older, I realized sports is just like real life… sometimes we succeed, sometimes we fail, but the next day, the next play we all try our best to be a little bit better. This is why I love sports!! But my plan was never broadcasting. My plan was teaching- English Lit- to high school kids. I think watched “Dead Poets Society” a dozen too many times and wanted to see kids standing on desks citing poetry. Clearly, I took a detour!!  It was actually thru some pretty big real-life struggles in college, and taking a semester off – that I realized how much I wanted to be a writer- not creative writing but a journalist!! I attended a small private liberal arts school that had no professional writing program to speak of, so they sort of created curriculum for me- what a gift!!

On my way to becoming a magazine columnist, I had to fulfill a communications requirement. On a whim, I signed up for TV Broadcasting. One of my first assignmentswas to report from a “Fire” for our faux news cast. I prepared, researched, took my place in front of the “Fire” back drop, and the red light went on. Game. Changer. I have no clue what I said, but I remember what I was wearing when I realized what I wanted to do with my life. I left the class, called my parents and immediately added a minor in communications. Though it honestly never crossed my mind to do news. I was already talking about sports, and binge watching ESPN. Sports just made sense.

Who’s had the biggest impact and why?  
Because I didn’t attend a Journalism school, I graduated knowing precious little about this job I wanted so badly. I was advised to pursue an internship, which I did at WWSB ABC7 in my hometown of Sarasota, FL. I walked in the first day, wide-eyed and so eager to learn all I could. I had the best teacher in Kevin Neghandi. Kevin was the weekend sports anchor at the time and honestly taught me everything. Everything. Shawn McClintock (VP Root Sports Pittsburgh) I met Shawn when I took it upon myself to show up in his news room and interview for a position I wanted. He didn’thire me, told me to accept a job offer I had in San Diego (which I did) and then told me to keep in touch. Less than a year later, I was let go from my job in California. I had never dreamed I would be fired. Let alone for no other reason than new management wanted someone else. I called Shawn. He not only encouraged me through that time, but led me to the two jobs that would change my life forever.

He told me he had a college friend who was at a start- up station in Columbus, Ohio and they were looking for a female anchor. Shawn also said he wanted to send my reel to Fox Sports Ohio as he was good friends with the bosses there. Well, that “college friend” not only helped get me hired in Columbus, he became my husband. And after the station we met at folded, Fox Sports Ohio hired me. That job with FSO led me to Big Ten Network, which led me to Chicago and here we are.

What are some of the funniest moments you’ve experienced as a woman in sports?
When I was hired at FOX 32 in Chicago, they sent a station wide email welcoming “Dionne Miller to the Sports Department”… I was told later they all thought I was an African- American man. This cracks me up.

What was the most negative moment you’ve experienced? The one that got youfired up or perhaps made you think about quitting.
Losing my job sucked! I pride myself on being a team player, I work my butt off, & I did everything I was asked to do and then some. But it wasn’t enough. Still makes me mad! I see now what a gift it was that this happened. I had so many more blessings as a result. And I can truly say it NEVER made me want to quit. It only drove me to push harder.
And as a woman in sports, I already know I HAVE to push harder. I have to know more, I have to research more, I have to work harder. I can’t make as many mistakes. I am fully aware of this fact and it’s a drag sometimes. But it will never make me want to quit. I know what I signed up for. I pray that one day there is more equality in Sports Broadcasting- especially when it comes to pay. But no job is perfect. And I love mine!

Have you had any teachable moments?  i.e. someone made an ignorant comment, but had no idea you were offended– until you said something?
I remember one of my first college football experiences, I interviewed the coach at Montana State University. I asked a question about his failing secondary and he basically answered me like I didn’t know that his team played football. It stuck with me. Especially because the next question came from a male reporter who asked virtually the same thing and got a specific football answer. Annoying.

Any awkward moments?   
Let’s face it, every time I march into a locker room, it’s awkward.  It just is. Athletes have gotten comfortable with it, and truthfully so have I. We all understand I am there to do a job, but it took some getting used to. I always wonder how I would feel if men came into my bathroom while I’m trying to get dressed or undressed. AWKWARD! But show respect, get respect. That’s kind of how approach it.

What are you most proud of?
I’m a mom of little people… sometimes I’m most proud that I am awake for work at10pm, and dressed! Kidding aside I am most proud to be a working wife and mom in a city I can’t believe I get to call home, at a station that gives me the opportunity to do so many amazing things, and continue to sharpen my skills. Six months into my first job in Billings, Montana, I was filming a HS Football game for work. Got tackled and broke my leg in 3 places. Never once during months off the air, rehab and being thousands of miles from home, did I consider quitting. Not once. I am so proud of where I am and my journey to get here. Because it’s MY story. I can’t wait to see what happens next!

Many girls look up to you--any advice for those that want to get into sportsmedia?
1st- NO JOB IS BENEATH YOU! I feel like I need to shout this at young girls wanting to get into the business. Try everything, trust your talents and dive in. If someone offers you an opportunity you think isn’t “ideal”, remember that it could open a door you never imagined if you just go for it. Trust me, you will not be stuck in “Montana”--Nothing will last forever and you will not die. Also, understand what the landscape of the business is. Yes, we will always be outnumbered. Yes we will be judged by our dress, hair, and make up before anyone actually hears the words we say. None of this is a surprise. I’m not saying just accept ignorance. Not at all. But to act like this isn’t happening is ridiculous. It is. And its not just in TV. It happens in every job.

BE KIND! To your co-workers, your competition and yourself! First of all, you need absolutely everyone in the building you work in to make you look good on the air. DO not take this for granted. Be kind to your competition- especially other women. Yes, work hard to get your story correct and the best it can be. But do not tear down others on the way. This business is small. Everyone knows everyone. A bad reputation will ruin a stellar resume and incredible on-air talent. Male or female. And be kind to yourself. You will make mistakes. You will. I do. It’s ok. It will always be ok. Nothing is ever as bad as you think or as good. Stay humble, but don’t beat yourself up. If you make a mistake, or miss a story- learn, make a change and know you’ll do better next time… there is always another show coming.

How has social media changed how easily fans can reach out to you? Do you let it bother you?
I have a love/hate relationship with social media.  I love it for keeping me connectedwith what’s going on all over the sports world. But I hate that if I have one slip up on the air, I get immediate comment on twitter. Or if I show personality and it rubs someone the wrong way, I get an email attack. It’s the worst when someone attacks my clothes and hair… um- did you even hear what I said??? Yes.. It sucks. And honestly, sometimes it does bother me. But I am working towards letting that stuff go. I have to remind myself that the people who use social media to attack me, don’t know me. I know the men I work with get comments too, so I never feel singled out. I just wish people would pause before they lash out. Social media gives us no reason to filter. People are mean. But we can rise above.

Join us for the CSN TOMBOY symposium


Join us for the CSN TOMBOY symposium

When: Monday, March 6th 6-8pm (doors open at 5pm)
Where: McMenamins Mission Theater - 1624 NW Glisan St, Portland, OR 97209 (Seating is limited to the first 200 guests to arrive)

What: TOMBOY Symposium – Elevating the Conversation About Gender Equity in Sports Symposium features partial documentary screening along with panel discussion surrounding gender and sports. The event will be hosted by CSN's Amanda Maynard along with an esteemed panel of local females working in sports. Doors open at 5:00pm, event is from 6-8pm

Our Panelists:

Nadine Angerer: Portland Thorns goalkeeping coach; two-time FIFA Women’s World Cup champion; 2013 FIFA World Player of the Year. Twitter: @NAngerer

Erin Hubert: CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of Portland; former EVP/COO of the Portland Trail Blazers

Emily Menges: Portland Thorns defender and 2016 team MVP. Twitter: @em_meningitis3

Anne Peterson: Associated Press sportswriter Twitter: @AnnieMPeterson

TOMBOY Documentary Description:

Equal opportunities and mutual respect for women and girls stand among the most hotly contested social issues in America. The divisions that exist affect the development of confidence, disturb corporate boardrooms and even disrupt presidential politics. In the testosterone-heavy sports world, the journey of the female athlete is often discouraging, and despite progress achieved during the Title IX era, gender equity in athletics has a long way to go.

In TOMBOY, CSN explores female participation in organized sports and the challenges faced at every level. From the obstacles that young girls encounter at the recreational stage, to the stereotypes, language issues and cultural disparities that follow, and ultimately the insufficient media coverage and compensation that afflicts elite professional athletes seeking full recognition for their talents. The documentary includes interviews with four-time World Cup champion Lindsey Vonn, Little League World Series pitching sensation Mo’ne Davis, Basketball Hall of Famer Ann Meyers-Drysdale, and many more.


NBC Sports Regional Networks recently announced the launch of TOMBOY, a multi-platform documentary project that aims to elevate the conversation about gender in sports told through the voices of many of the world’s most prominent female athletes, broadcasters and sports executives. The initiative culminates with a special one-hour documentary. TOMBOY will debut on Sunday, March 12 at 9:30pm on CSNNW.

Receive Updates about #CSNTOMBOY on any of our Social Media platforms:

Twitter @CSNNW


Instagram @CSNNW



Skating like a man


Skating like a man


In late December, I was invited to play in a pick-up hockey game with some other members of the local sports media community. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that I was one of only twowomen there that day. Even now, female ice hockey players aren’t exactly common. After the game, a reporter I’ve known a while – a guy I like a lot – said to me: “Don’t take this thewrong way, but you skate like a man.” I didn’t take it wrong, of course; he meant it as a compliment.

The reporter wanted nothing more than to tell me I’d impressed him.I thought about this exchange a lot in the days that followed. Had someone told me I played hockey like a boy when I was 15, I would have worn that description like a badge. Hell yeah, 15-year-old Sarah would have thought, I do play like a boy. I’m as tough as a boy. I’m as fierce and
competitive as any boy on my team. I would have reveled in it, just as I reveled in a similar labelI’d received even earlier in my adolescence: tomboy.

Yeah, I was a tomboy. I hung around with the neighborhood boys, riding bikes between each other’s houses or catching salamanders in the creek that ran through town. I loved sports, and my bedroom walls -- papered with newspaper clippings and photos of Flyers players -- were afar cry from the pink-tinged rooms that belonged to the girls at school. As much as I could, I dressed like a boy too, even once cutting the sleeves off of an oversized T-shirt before I went out to rollerblade with our next-door neighbors.

My grandmother, who wasvisiting at the time, pulled me aside to tell me I really ought to dress more appropriately. I rolledmy eyes. I was a tomboy, and I loved the word and everything it stood for. I felt pride in mytomboyishness, believing that the things I liked – the things boys liked – were clearly better thanthe things stereotypically left to the girls. I’m almost embarrassed to admit it was a conversation with a 15-year-old that changed myperspective, just a few days after my reporter friend had compared my hockey skills to those of a man.

I sat down with Mo’ne Davis, the female Little League pitching phenom, for this very project. I asked her if she identified as a tomboy, and she shrugged. Not really, she said. Maybe other people wanted to define her that way, she suggested, but that wasn’t how she viewed things.You know that record scratch sound effect they play on TV or in the movies? The one that denotes a sort of “wait … what?!” moment? That’s what happened in my head. Mo’ne Davis, the girl who played on the boys’ team and excelled, didn’t consider herself a tomboy?

Something clicked in my head after that. I’ve long identified as a feminist, and I’ve been a bigsupporter of girls in sports for as long as I can remember. I coach girls hockey, I’ve spoken at schools and camps about playing and working in sports as a woman. For some reason, though,it took a 15-year-old shrugging her shoulders at the label “tomboy” to take the power out of the word for me. Why does one have to be a tomboy, when one can simply be a girl who kicks ass? How had I never considered this before? In many ways (and especially in sports) if something is male, it’s considered superior. It goesbeyond just the things kids like to do, and it’s all old news. It’s also something I’m ashamed toadmit I’ve bought into for practically all of my life.

But no longer. How can I help change the narrative if I’m too busy playing along with it? And if I could do it over, when that reporter approached me after our hockey game to tell me Iskated like a man, I would have smiled, shook my head and said: Nah. But I skate like a darngood woman.

Colleagues, Competitors


Colleagues, Competitors


It was an aspect of working in sports media that I hadn’t even considered, but when I walked into the Fenway Park dining room my first day on the job, I quickly recognized it. 

Among all the randomly filled tables, there was one cluster that looked purposefully occupied. The people sitting there didn’t seem like casual colleagues -- they appeared to be actual friends. 

My coworker brought me over to the area; turns out that’s where he sat, too. They were a motley crew of media types: writers, radio personalities and those who worked behind the scenes. Some were veterans to the industry, others were fairly new like myself. I joined them and quietly observed this dynamic I didn’t expect to find in a highly competitive market, especially on a Red Sox beat that at that time was in the midst of World Series contention. 

Their warm welcome was refreshing, as was their obvious support for one another, even though they worked for different outlets. From that day forward, they continued to call me over to join them for meals, included me in postgame outings, and invited me to their annual holiday gathering (which I eagerly anticipated like a freshman going to a senior party). 

It was never about wanting to be part of a group to “feel cool,” though. These people, who I am pleased to call my friends years later, were a support system in this small world of sports. When I had a question, they were there to offer advice. When a new job opportunity arose, they were fast to put in a good word. Anything I was going through, most of them had already encountered. Fenway Park meals turned into an instant learning experience. Being able to turn to them was invaluable as I began navigating the ropes. 

I didn’t view myself as a “female reporter” when I began this line of work. Many women, including Jackie MacMullan -- who I interviewed for the TOMBOY podcast -- had broken down barriers in the Boston market years before I got there. Rather I saw myself as a young journalist starting off in a demanding industry ready to work hard at a new job. Both men and women alike were eager to help. When I was asked to write about my experiences for TOMBOY, the first thing that came to mind was, “I have been fortunate to have some really positive ones.” These relationships played a part in that. 

As I got to know these fellow media members better, something unexpected happened. I ended up making two best friends who are so close to me I consider them like sisters. I was fortunate to meet women who saw the same value as I did in helping to build each other up. We have leaned on each other on countless occasions, able to uniquely relate to one another in both work and in life. 

Even though the three of us live in different states, we have maintained a friendship for over 10 years. We got creative with how to see one another in spite of our often conflicting schedules. “Girls weekends” were far from the typical getaways -- we’d meet in New York for Red Sox-Yankees series. Cover games during the day, catch up at night. Not exactly a weekend at the spa, but it worked for us. 

The sports media industry is competitive. There are races to break stories and battles to get a scoop. Somewhere in between, though, is the importance of having people to turn to along the way. It makes the grind a lot smoother. 

One of the boys: Part 1 -- Tryouts


One of the boys: Part 1 -- Tryouts


Part 1: The Tryouts
As the father of three girls, ages 13, 11 and 11, I was encouraged when, at different times, they all tried out for different sports.  The usual suspects of soccer, basketball, lacrosse, volleyball, gymnastics and softball were all attempted at one time or another.  There were varying levels of success, but the main point was to get out and try, be fit and make new friends.  I found that the social element is particularly big with my girls.
What surprised me was when one daughter told me she wanted to play baseball.   I said, “You mean softball?”
“No, I want to play baseball, with all of the boys.”
Now keep in mind that my daughter, Sasha, stood about 4-foot-3 1/2 and weighed maybe 45 pounds -- with weights in her pockets.
I wondered, to myself, “Why?  Will they allow that?  She could be overwhelmed.  How will the boys treat her?  What will the coaches think?  What if she got hit by the ball and started crying?” 
There was plenty more to think about, but I said, “OK, let’s sign you up.  And we have to start practicing.  We’ll play catch and then go to the batting cages.” 
So that is what we did.  We played catch on the side of the house, then she would practice alone when I couldn’t be there.  She would throw the ball off the house 100 times before she came in for dinner.  Keep in mind that she didn’t always catch it, and that sometimes she missed the target, but she was trying to get better. 
Tryouts came, and each player got three pitches to swing at to show what they could do.  At the tryouts, I overheard one boy ask, “Why is there a girl here?”  He wasn’t mean, he just wanted to know.  Sasha didn’t hear him as she walked to the plate for her chance. 
She got in her stance and was ready for her first pitch.  Tentative swing… and a miss.  She seemed a little unsure and overmatched, but she had two more chances to show her stuff.  The coach told her to get ready and the second pitch was on the way.  Swing and a miss. 
Now, I am a man of somewhat tattered faith, and this is when I decided to make a deal with God.  There are no atheists in a foxhole… nor when your daughter is trying to compete with the boys!  Please, just let her foul the last one off!  Anything but a swing and a miss.
Sasha got in her stance for the final time and tapped the plate with her bat.  Third pitch was on the way.  Sasha swung the bat with the violence only used when trying to destroy a piñata.  Then, it happened, she trickled a ground ball to the left side.  But in the force of her big cut the momentum swung Sasha around and she got twisted up like a pretzel.  As she started to run she stumbled , tried to catch her steps, but it was too late. 
Face plant.  It got quiet as everyone was stunned at what they had just seen.
I cringed waiting for something.  The boys making fun, the coaches babying her, Sasha wilting in a pool of tears. 
But that didn’t happen.  Sasha slowly got up on her knees, her long hair over her face, and when she brushed her hair away she had the biggest smile.  She did it.  She hit the ball!
“Way to go, Sasha.  Good swing.  Now run it out and get back in line," yelled the coach.  And that is what Sasha did.
I looked around and everyone was enjoying the moment. People thought it was awesome.  A girl trying out for Little League.  Other parents started to clap and cheer her on.  The other boys either congratulated her or ignored her, both good things.
And in the end Sasha proved that she could be one of the boys if she wanted… even while she was a girl.  The only girl in her town’s Little League.

"My goal is to show my daughter and all little girls what it takes to be a strong woman in a man’s game."


"My goal is to show my daughter and all little girls what it takes to be a strong woman in a man’s game."


“I’d like to invite you to take part in a project called TOMBOY… CSN will present a unique look at thechallenges girls and women face in sports...."

Five minutes before I received the email message above, Adam on Twitter apologized for calling my then 7-month-old daughter, Isabella, a boy after viewing a photo of Joel Embiid holding her.  I replied: “No harm, no foul…Isabella is a TOMBOY just like her mom.”  Timing: it’s a beautiful thing.

“A multiplatform project… our talent will write blogs about their experiences as women in sports.”

That was the direction I received for this, my very first blog post. Here’s the thing. My entire life has revolved around sports, so I called an audible. I decided to roll with the path that led me to Philly, reflecting on the power of hard work, staying true to oneself, surrounding yourself with good people, continuously learning, playing nice and dreaming big. My mom is the strongest, smartest and most beautiful woman I know, and now as a new mom myself, I hope my own daughter will grow up knowing the value of a life that includes participating in sports and learning its lifelong lessons.

“We’ll produce podcasts with each of our female talent and a guest who’s had a prominent impact onher life.”

Onward to introspection and the next part of the TOMBOY project. I caught up with fellow swimmer Summer Sanders. Beginning in seventh grade, I became a fan of the TV show “NBA Inside Stuff” and could hardly wait for Saturday mornings after swim team practice in Las Vegas so that I would be ‘in theknow’ about everything basketball. Summer hosted the show for eight years with Ahmad Rashad. I remember thinking that she had the best job ever -- always smiling, having fun, talking hoops. In my world, Summer was the epitome of class and cool. She connected with people in a way that helped me fall in love with the art of storytelling. Summer was often the only girl on the show, and it was evident that all of the coaches, players, front office and people within the association clearly respected her. Looking back, I now realize why that was normal to me. I, too, am an athlete, training with the boys throughout my career as a distance swimmer was a key to my success and prepared mefor my current life’s work.The NBA is my first love. But it took me a few years to find my niche. For 14 years, I swam competitively. I chose the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill over UCLA because, well, for starters, the Dean Dome is connected to the pool and on my recruiting trip they took me to a Carolina basketball game. (OK, there was a little more to my decision, but that certainly helped show I was born to be a Tar Heel.) With wet hair and wide eyes, I would watch the TV broadcasters prepare for every UNC home game, and to help with the transition after graduation, my coach introduced me to UNC alumni that were leaders in the field of sports broadcasting. I can recall one such conversation with my coach where I shared with him that I felt in one of the alumni meetings this particular alum was bothered by my approach, to which he responded, “She thinks you want her job.” Truth was, I did, but there’s enough room for both of us, right?  In my mind, we were still on the same team, not only because of our Carolina connection but also as women in sports.

That’s when my mom told me, “Remember this moment and how she made you feel.  You'll be in her position one day with the ability to pay it forward.” Every time someone (male or female) asks for help or feedback, I always think back to how disappointed I was with that interaction and, to this day, I never let competition get in the way of doing what’s right. Because I was on a full ride athletic scholarship, my focus was on time spent in the pool, leaving very few discretionary hours for a broadcasting internship until my four years of eligibility were met. Following that internship at the CBS affiliate in Las Vegas, my first paying job out of college was actually a double. From 9 to 5, I was a publicist for a public relations company specializing in the hotel-casino industry where I learned the other side of reporting with a focus on writing and effective communication from a media perspective. At 5 o’clock, I would book it to my second job as a news production assistant, where I edited packages, ran audio, wrote scripts and field produced for nightly newscasts. Those 15-hour days launched me into a producer gig until my reporter missed an assignment and the “suits” told me to step in. Yes, my first on-air gig happened because I was the only one at the shoot. Lesson: always be prepared.

I was moved from reporting on a weekly segment to hosting and producing my own weekly show, which eventually led to hosting my own daily half-hour show. In my spare time, I even wrote and published a book. My hometown of Las Vegas is one of the few cities where sports and entertainment are intertwined, so while my first year in front of the camera was as an entertainment reporter, I often found myself covering the sporting events that were in town -- such as the NBA Summer League.  I can hear you: This was my shot! Not exactly. While I have tape of me interviewing LeBron James in 2008, I wasn’t being true to myself with long platinum blonde hair and questionable wardrobe choices while trying to emulate the professionalism of Doris Burke. I found that it was important to return to the kid that grew up watching the NBA with her parents, was obsessed with Jordan and Bird and would practice sideline reports during commercials while craving feedback from my father. Many times it would be a walk-and-talk interview at the half as I followed him as he went to the kitchen to get food. It was during this time when I watched my father mute several (unnamed) sideline reporters. To this day, I work hard so viewers don’t hit the mute button. Seriously. Thankfully, in the fall of 2007, I found a way to return to my athletic roots as a sideline and field reporterfor college football and college basketball for a regional sports network that was owned by Comcast. There weren't a lot of eyes on our game broadcasts, which allowed me to really cut my teeth and hone my craft. In fact, there wasn't a budget for a basketball sideline reporter, so I worked games for gratis and for the experience with an eye on my goal of reporting for the NBA. It was a natural transition, fromentertainment to sports, as it felt like I was home. Just a few months into my new job, Playboy included me in their editorial roundup of the “sexiest sportscasters.” It was a simple poll that apparently turned a few heads.  With comments from colleagues, viewers and even some players, I shrugged it off saying I was in great company (which I trulywas). Keep in mind, I had only a few reps on the sideline at this point. Trust had been formed through my demonstration of professional work and through the professional relationships I maintained.

And because of that, people moved back inside the lines and forgot that someone once thought I was just hot. A good early test. I still hope they don’t press mute. With several high-profile job interviews that followed, the theme remained the same. I wasn't ready. Mywords, not theirs. But, if the phone rings early into your sports broadcasting career, how do you not answer? Perhaps they saw something in me that had yet to be tapped.  However, this is the part where being a woman in sports came into play. From one network executive telling me that they wouldn’t hire me with blonde hair (to be fair -- it wasn’t a good look) and another at the national level asking me to wear something “charming,” there was one job interview that really cut deep, questioning if I would date athletes or anyone associated with the team(s) that I covered.  For what it’s worth, I set them all straight. I could have probably written the entire TOMBOY post on this topic, but I chose a different approach. Were those challenging situations?  You bet, at the time. But it’s just not in my DNA to write a blog devoted to how hard women in sports have it. I like to think I’ve made the most of every challenging situation that has crossed my path. I’ve taken pride in doing things the right way while appreciating the women who helped by paving the way for my next generation.  And because I’ve been on the other side at an elite-athlete level, there is a level of respect that I’ve experienced from the players and the coaches based upon my ability to read a situation and respond as an athlete and in a way that other reporters perhaps could not. Bottom line: be yourself, fight for what’s right and you will land where you are meant to be.

April 18, 2012: Philly called. And just like my first on-air gig, I wasn't CSN’s first choice. Opportunity knocked when their first choice was in a mountain bike accident and unable to accept the assignment. (She ultimately recovered from her accident.) I had three days notice to prepare and to show up ready for the Sixers-Pacers game. I started to panic, thinking about how I had fumbled at various job interviews. It had been my dream job since the beginning of dreaming, reporting in the NBA, and I didn’t want to squander my opportunity. I remember trying to make excuses to my agent as I was in full-blown “Irish exit” mode. This was my big shot. My father pulled me aside and he started digging through a box filled with newspaper and magazine clippings from my days as a swimmer -- photos, videos, everything but the water from the pools where I had competed. My father said, “You’re ready.” He was right. Everything that I had experienced led me to that moment.  

Currently, I’m writing this on the Sixers flight to Milwaukee as the only girl traveling with the team. From day one, it was important to me that I earn respect from the organization. I felt I could best do that by working hard. They trust me. And that means everything. Whether it’s the Sixers or their opponent, it’s important in my role to establish who you are from the jump. For me, it’s the fact that I know the game and they know I’m here to help tell their story. I have cultivated an unspoken understanding that whether I’m tracking a player down on the court after a shootaround or reporting from the locker room after a game, both the players and I have a job to do on behalf of the fans. Shortly after HBO Real Sports ran a women in sports television piece, I had a mini debate on Twitter with a self-described feminist. She questioned why I was “sticking up” for a colleague that was featured in the special. Why? Because she is really good at her job. It’s the same reason I didn’t focus on the very few negative experiences along my 10-year journey as a sports reporter. Because, then, they win. I would rather share my story and hope that it might inspire someone out there in the same way that Summer Sanders and Doris Burke helped to inspire me.

Perhaps it would be helpful to readers for me to address my thoughts about social media. During the 2014 NBA playoffs, I worked for TNT and NBA TV.  That was my “welcome to social media” moment, even though I had been in the league for three years. All eyes were on the Hawks-Pacers series. I generally don’t take myself too seriously but I take my job extremely seriously. If a viewer doesn’t like the clothes I have chosen, that’s on them and I’m moving on to my next assignment. Other times, there can be a little more substance in the message. To be honest, I do internalize and embrace most feedback. I enjoy that side of the job. It brings me back to my years as a competitive swimmer always looking to tweak my performance to show improvement. Like everyone who engages social media, I’ve come across some beauts on Twitter. The birth of my daughter has opened my eyes to what matters most in life. Being a mom is 1 and my job is 1A. Reporting on my first love and for the city I love. I have also learned that you're only as good as your teammates, and I have found the best teammates in the NBA. My goal is to show my daughter and all little girls what it takes to be a strong woman in a man’s game.

The Boy My Dad Never Had


The Boy My Dad Never Had


My name is Fallon Smith.  My father had four girls.  He likes to tell people I’m the boy he never had.  Does that bother me?  Heck no!  I love it.  To be honest, I’m proud of it.  It makes me smile and laugh when somebody asks, “how many brothers or sisters do you have?”  I reply “three sisters.”  Their responses are always about the same “wow he had all girls!?”  I say “well, yeah, but I’m the boy he never had.”  Laughter ensues.

But really, I am.  Let me explain.  I was always (and still am) “daddy’s little girl.”  But it was my mom who loved to dress us all up, especially on Easter Sunday.  It was like a hobby to her.  She would have us all wear matching dresses, big bows, tights and the most uncomfortable dress-up socks to go over the already uncomfortable tights. 

Let’s just say the entire “getting dressed” process was a nightmare for her when it came to dressing me.  I would throw a tantrum.  I hated those horrible tights.  They made me itch like crazy.  Just to show my mom how much I hated them, i would put holes in them or rip them so she had no choice but to let me take them off because she didn’t want her daughter looking crazy in public. (Oh, but I don't think I got away with that scot free - I most definitely was punished for every tantrum I threw and every pair of tights I ruined, and trust me there were A LOT.)  Eventually, my mom gave up; she knew I was a lost cause.  

When I was about eight years old things, started to change.  She let me wear what I wanted, which was either sweats or guy shorts, sneakers, big shirts, basically whatever was comfortable.  I went from being forced to act in musicals as a kid to my mom finally letting me do what I really wanted - and that was go to car shows with my dad and play sports, specifically basketball. 

My dad even started an AAU club in San Jose and was my AAU coach.  Sports became my life. I was an athlete all the way up to my freshman year at UCLA, when I suffered severe head trauma.  I had a freak accident and fractured my skull, had bleeding in my brain, 5 bone fractures in my face, and a hairline fracture on my spine.  The UCLA doctors wouldn’t release me to play sports after my freshman year. That was a pretty devastating time in my life, but it may have been a blessing in disguise.  I was able to focus on what I wanted to do for a career.  I couldn’t see my life without sports, and I talk a lot, so that’s how I got into broadcasting.

While I’m writing this, I’m realizing not much has changed.  I absolutely dread the process of getting ready to go on the air.  The hair, the makeup, the dress, the heels (which I cannot walk in,) oh and the spanx, can’t forget the spanx.  I’m not ashamed, but man they’re almost as uncomfortable as those tights my mom used to make me wear.  I always think, “wouldn’t it be cool if we could go on air without makeup, hair in ponytail, and sweats?”  Ha, in my dreams.  

Why am I telling you this?  Behind the makeup, behind the hair, behind the dress, I’m a TOMBOY.  I’m the boy my dad never had, but the only thing people on the outside see, the only thing the viewers see, is this woman all “done up” talking about sports.  When I’m out in the field reporting, here’s what I usually hear from viewers/fans, especially at Raiders games: “Fallon, I love you, you’re so hot! Marry me!” Ugh. (By the way, I’m married already).  Of course I do get the occasional “You do a great job, I really enjoy your work”.  Which compliment do you think I like more? 

When people see me as “just another pretty face,” they aren’t listening to me when I’m anchoring/reporting/delivering sports news – they’re only looking at me.  They don’t value my entire body of work.  When I hear comments like “you’re so hot - marry me” It sometimes makes me feel as though they don’t think I’m credible.  People ask “how did she get this job?” or better yet, “who did she have to sleep with to get this job?”  I got a lot of nasty emails like that when I was living in Wyoming and Tennessee, but Lord, that could be an entire book by itself, so I won’t delve into that.

That’s usually the first impression people have of me, and hey, If you think I look good, great!  But I’m not here for those types of compliments.  I guess I understand... after all, we are in a visual medium.  But I always tell fans whom I meet on the street that the hair, makeup, etc.  “are just smoke and mirrors.”  I’m really the complete opposite of what you see on tv. 

They don’t believe that I’m a tomboy; they don’t believe that I played sports; they say “wow, you come off as a girly girl to me.”  Huh?  Because of the way I look?  It’s ridiculous.

For the viewers who have a negative first impression, I usually am able to win them over if they keep watching.  That’s the uphill battle we women have to fight everyday in this business, proving ourselves credible every single day and trying to show the viewers we know just as much as the men beside us. 

We are judged more harshly and critically.  We are under a microscope every day.  One minor mistake will come off as a huge “flub” if it’s a woman making the mistake, but if a man does it, it’s just a “mistake.” He just “misspoke.”  That’s fine.  I like to be held accountable every day.  I like working hard.  It’s just sad that these double standards still exist in 2017 despite the amazing and talented women in the sports industry.  


Here are two of the other things I personally have to deal with as a female reporter covering a professional football team: being the only woman on the Raiders beat (there are other women that cover them on game days, but not every day) and carrying myself appropriately in the locker room.

Most of the time, I’m not conscious of being only girl on the Raiders beat.  I know others see it that way, but I really don’t.  Maybe it’s because I feel like I’m “one of the guys.”  But after being a tomboy my entire life and having a ton of male friends, I’ve never felt weird being the only girl around.  

When I first started covering the Raiders four years ago, the beat reporters – just like the viewers - had similar first impressions.  I did not receive a warm welcome from the other beat writers.  Many of them didn’t talk to me.  Several thought “who is this new girl covering the Raiders for CSN; what does she know?” It was kind of like I was a joke.  I didn’t get a ton of respect; as a woman, I had to earn it.  But I didn’t care whether they respected me; I really only cared about the respect of my employers.  But since I did have to see these people every day, my approach was to be friendly, but be myself and do my job.

Over time, things changed.  I now have a great relationship with the other beat writers.  We all hang out and go to dinners while on the road for games, where I’m usually the only woman and still don’t realize it until somebody brings it up.  Some of them have even admitted that they did have a negative first impression of me, one that was founded on that “pretty face, but does she know sports?” stereotypical bullcrap. But after seeing me work, ask the tough questions and produce thought-provoking and creative stories, they came to realize I really am just one of the “guys” and I really do know my stuff. 


People always ask me “what’s it like being in a locker room full of naked men?  Is it awkward?”  I have to admit, at first, yes, it was very awkward for me.  I had covered college sports for five years prior, and media isn’t allowed inside college locker rooms, so I didn’t know what to expect.  But that awkwardness went away after a couple times of being in there. My mantra is “get what you need and get out.”  First of all, locker rooms smell TERRIBLE, and when you’re in work mode and trying to get a story done on a deadline, you’re not even thinking about the fact there are naked men in there.  For the most part, when media is in the locker room the players are respectful and they change while covered with a towel.  

Building professional relationships with players and coaches is crucial, for both female and male reporters.  But for a woman, it’s that much harder.  Some players and coaches may not take you seriously at first.  They want to see what type of questions you ask and how you carry yourself before giving you any respect.  They want to know if you even know anything about football.  They never question a man’s knowledge of football from jump street; in fact, they probably assume he knows football because he’s a guy.  Unfortunately, that’s just how it is.  We are not equally judged from the start.

And just like the respect I’ve gained from the beat writers, I’ve had to earn that respect from the players and coaches.  I’d like to think I’m in pretty good standing with them. 

Another issue women facing only female reporters is getting “hit on” by a player.  I always have to say and make very clear “I’m sorry, I’m trying to have a professional relationship with you, so please respect that - not to mention I’m married.”  You also can’t come across as a b*tch, because then they will just be a pain in the butt to work with and interview going forward.  It’s very hard to balance this.  And trust me, plenty of players have thought I was a b*tch. Ha. 

When getting “sources”, many are respectful, but SOME will ask “what do I get in return for his info?”  Like whaaaat? Nevermind, I don’t need it.  There’s always this fine line you have to balance, and it’s not always easy.  I could write a dang book on this really.  But for the purpose of this blog, I’ll just stop there.  

So as much as I see myself as a “tomboy” “just one of the guys” or “the boy my dad never had,” I’ve realized that not everybody on the outside sees me that way.  Their first impressions will not guide them to believe that is who I am.  It takes time; it takes them getting to know me; it takes me proving myself, exuding my love, passion, and knowledge of sports through my work.  

But why does it have to be this way?  Why don’t people believe women know just as much about sports as men?  Why do you have to question my knowledge in the beginning just to get proven wrong in the end?  I sure as hell don’t have the answer to these questions.  So to those who don’t believe there are a million women like me out there, you ask yourself these questions and answer them, because I would love to know what you have to say.


Why do I have to be called a tomboy? Why can’t it just be a girl/woman who likes sports?   

According to the dictionary, the definition of tomboy is a girl who enjoys rough, noisy activities traditionally associated with boys.  Maybe this is the problem, because the word was first introduced in the 1500’s, with a negative connotation attached to it.

Really, what in the world is wrong with women liking or playing sports?  A typical man might say “I would love it if my wife loved sports.”  But when a man sees a woman on TV delivering sports - here come all the stereotypical comments women face in this business all the time.  And now we’re back to square one.  So start from the beginning and read this blog over again.  LOL.

The importance of women playing in sports from Jill Sorenson

The importance of women playing in sports from Jill Sorenson


I don't need to go into all the reasons that it's a good idea for girls to play sports. You know by now that it teaches them teamwork, leadership, time management, confidence and strength. I think an overlooked skill girls develop from playing sports is effective communication. 

As a former college athlete, current youth softball coach and sports reporter, I'd like to share how sports has helped me become a better communicator. I grew up playing soccer and softball year-round, and enjoyed playing most sports for fun with both girls and boys. I noticed early on how my guy friends communicated with each other in sports. If they were mad because a teammate played poorly or didn't see someone when they were open, they confronted that person and told him to get his act together. That sometimes involved a bunch of swearing, and could even end up in a fistfight. But after that, they went back to being friends and teammates like nothing ever happened. 

From a girl's perspective this was amazing. In my experience, girls hesitated to address potential problems fear of offending each other. That reluctance could lead to talking about teammates rather than to them or to coaches. Moreover, avoiding confrontation meant teammates were less likely to reinforce their coach’s messages with each other. Over my athletics career, I learned that the direct communication went a lot further to help the team. Obviously, that didn’t mean fistfights like the boys were the best outcome, but up-front conversations were necessary to affect change.

I believe playing sports helps girls gain confidence, and it's important to harness that in ways that will help them later in life, like having the courage to communicate directly. This is something I continue to talk to my daughters about. This lesson also helped me accept straightforward feedback in a positive way. I always preferred the coach who told me where I stood. Tell me I stunk. Tell me where I messed up. But please, please, please tell me how to fix it. Because of this mentality I had as an athlete, I grew up to respect bosses and co-workers who did the same. That’s why I always appreciated working for the late George Michael.  Man, he would get frustrated with 23-year-old me. His temper was legendary.

But after calling me and yelling at me 30 seconds after I got off the air, he always told me how much potential I had and exactly what I could do to be better. He was a teacher and a coach, in addition to being a boss. Because of those lessons, he helped mold my career into what it is today. I appreciated the directness and I gave it in return. 

To me, teaching my young daughters to communicate directly has translated to the sports field. I love when I see them encouraging teammates in positive way to be better and try harder, or asking coaches how they can be better and earn more playing time. This is a lesson I learned through sports, and has certainly helped me in my professional career. Now it’s helping me as a mom.

She’s a Girl! So What?


She’s a Girl! So What?

She could feel the ground beneath her shaking. A loud eruption pierces the air as all of the fans in the crowd simultaneously stop stomping and jump to their feet in jubilation. She smiles, celebrating along with the crowd. The kicker trots out onto the field, surveys the distance and lines up. The ball travels through the air slowly, almost deciding its fate, but flies through the goal posts. The referees blow their whistles, signaling the end of the game and another victory. The bench clears and the football players gather around the kicker to start the celebration. The kicker’s helmet falls to the ground and her ponytail swings free.

Those were the memories of a happy mother watching her daughter play a sport she loved. Watching as young boys celebrated her daughter’s prowess as a kicker, not caring that she is a girl. However, those fun memories were short-lived.