Time to Abolish Sideline Reporters

Time to Abolish Sideline Reporters

“I don’t disagree with you at all regarding the role of sideline reporters.  Most of the time, I find those interviews to be fairly useless,” a nationally relevant sideline reporter once told me years ago.

The opinion I expressed and she agreed with was “sideline interviews serve no purpose.” In our off-the-record chat, I stated further, “We never needed these practices to begin with.”

And we have the testimony of NFL Network and Notre Dame reporter Alex Flanagan. This exchange between Flanagan and The Sherman Report says it all.

Sherman: “You know what the critics say about the value of sideline reporters. CBS doesn’t even use them. What’s your response?”

Flanagan: “I’m often asked to defend the job of the sideline reporter. I think of myself as an accessory. I don’t know if you can appreciate this, but I tell my female friends, ‘When you get dressed up in that great outfit, the one thing that can top it off is a great accessory. Like a necklace or ear rings.’

Are we a necessity for a telecast?

No. But I can see a lot of things that happen on the field that (the announcers) can’t see from up high.”

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Sideline princess” is a fairly common term in the sports blogging world.

The most dominant subset of the “sideline princess” classification is the sideline reporter.

Well, thanks, Captain Obvious!

 People like Jenn Brown, Erin Andrews, Charissa Thompson, and Jenn Sterger.

 Erin Andrews and Charissa Thompson have in-studio upgrades now, but they still possess the same qualities you find in nearly all sideline reporters. At least their highly managed public personas do. They're as inoffensive as possible at all times. They treat everybody in the media room like their best friend. I’ve worked with many sideline reporters over the years and it’s astounding how many of them conform to this stereotypical Hollywood actress archetype.

“They have to be nice to you, because they don’t know quite yet whether you’re somebody who can do something for them or not,” a Hollywood producer who wishes to remain anonymous told me my phone Monday.

“They’re all about getting ahead; and if you’re not connected enough, they simply don’t have any time for you,” she continued.

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Most sideline reporters are not very informed regarding the beat they cover; and I've yet to meet one that is exceedingly intelligent. I'll never forget the time at the NCAA Tournament when a sideline reporter was bothering me and my tag team partner David Kay to acquire basic college basketball knowledge.

She just didn't know what she was talking about. Numerous sideline reporters were cheerleaders, pageant winners and bikini models before going into broadcasting. Cheerleaders comprise the second major category of the sideline princess, with the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders coming first- and all other NBA Dance Teams, NFL Cheerleading squads, and college cheerleaders a distant second.

Although, those in need of page views should write about the Oregon Ducks cheerleaders, USC Song Girls, and L.A. Laker girls whenever possible to remedy that.

A select few of the many cheerleaders turned sideline reporters

-NFL Network's Michelle Beisner (Denver Broncos)

-Fox Sports' Erin Andrews (Florida Gators)

-NESN's Jenny Dell (UMass)

-ESPN's Renee Herlocker (Denver Broncos)

-Fox Sports Arizona's Amanda Pflugrad (Oregon Ducks)

-CBS Sports Lauren Gardner (Denver Broncos)

-Fox Sports.com Katelynn Johnson (Oregon Ducks)

The Elvis Presley of sports journalists, the Godfather of sports blogging, Bill Simmons agrees that we don’t need to take sideline reporters seriously at all.

Why couldn’t someone like my wife become a sideline reporter? Why do we have to pretend it’s a serious gig? My wife would file reports like, “Guys, Corey Maggette seems sad, he just seems sad to me, I hope everything’s OK,” and “Phil Mickelson and his wife are sitting courtside, and guys, I do NOT like her roots, it’s like she hired Faith Hill’s colorist from the late ’90s,” and even, “Guys, I’m still trying to get an answer as to why Amare Stoudemire is wearing that suit — lime green is NOT his color as we all know …”

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Pithy!

And if subtlety isn’t your cup of tea, you can go the Deadspin route. Following the Tracy Wolfson vs. Bo Ryan train wreck at the Big Ten Tournament; Deadspin said this about sideline reporters.

Something needs to be done about our expectations of the sideline interview. Not a single person with a functioning brain thinks they are worth a damn, yet they persist, making athletes worried, coaches angry and viewers uncomfortable.

It’s unfair to really ask for anything insightful from an in-game interview, whether it’s strategy, emotion or a prediction. Coaches and players are professionals, paid to coach and play. They shouldn’t break character for any of this nonsense; they should just give mindless interviews and move on to what’s important. And we should just suspend our disbelief for the 20 seconds it takes. Everyone involved just needs to repeat quietly to himself: “Here’s a waste of time in between game action. I am mentally prepared for this.” Berating sideline reporters or giving them intentionally obstructive interviews is the peeled and portioned orange of low-hanging fruit.

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The heavy weights of the sports blogging world have spoken. It’s now on the networks to listen and take action.

Paul M. Banks is the owner of The Sports Bank.net. He’s also an author who also contributes regularly to MSN, Fox Sports , Chicago Now, Walter Football.com and Yardbarker

Banks has appeared on the History Channel, as well as Clear Channel, ESPN and CBS radio all over the world. President Barack Obama follows him on Twitter (@PaulMBanks)

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