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NFL Sideline Reporter Michele Tafoya Plays Not My Job

Sideline reporter Michele Tafoya speaks on a panel at the 2011 Summer TCA Tour in Beverly Hills, Calif. i i
Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images
Sideline reporter Michele Tafoya speaks on a panel at the 2011 Summer TCA Tour in Beverly Hills, Calif.
Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

Michele Tafoya is the Emmy award-winning reporter for NBC's Sunday Night Football, but she's spent time on basketball courts, softball diamonds, gymnastics mats and now public radio quiz show game grids.

We've invited Tafoya to play a game called "Enter at your own risk!" As one of the first female reporters to be allowed inside the NFL locker room, she has been a pioneer in her field. But there are still places out there where they believe in cooties, so Tafoya will answer three questions about men's-only clubs.

Copyright © 2013 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

PETER SAGAL, HOST:

And now the game where we ask people who've achieved great things questions that diminish all their achievements.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: The job of the NFL sideline reporter is three parts glamour, four parts grit and 10 parts fending off the advances of a randy Hall of Fame quarterback.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Michele Tafoya is the Emmy Award winning reporter for NBC's "Sunday Night Football," but she's spent time on basketball courts, softball diamonds, gymnastic mats and now public radio quiz show "Game Grids." Michele Tafoya, welcome to WAIT WAIT...DON'T TELL ME! Pleasure to have you.

(APPLAUSE)

MICHELE TAFOYA: Thank you.

SAGAL: So you are and have been for how long now, the sideline on-field reporter for NBC's "Sunday Night Football"?

TAFOYA: I'm entering my third season for "Sunday Night Football."

SAGAL: Yeah.

TAFOYA: I spent about eight seasons before that on "Monday Night Football."

SAGAL: Uh-huh.

TAFOYA: And so if they come up with any other days of the week, I'll be happy to try those, as well.

SAGAL: That's exciting.

TAFOYA: Yeah.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: And is this something you always wanted to do? Were you a football fan growing up?

TAFOYA: I adored football growing up. But I must tell you, I find that being a reporter is so much easier than being a fan. Vikings fans got to agree with that.

(LAUGHTER)

TAFOYA: It is so hard.

(APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: Now, why is that because being a reporter seems like a hard job?

TAFOYA: No, it is, but the emotional rollercoaster of being a fan, it's just not worth it.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: That's an interesting message for somebody who works for "Sunday Night Football" to send.

(LAUGHTER)

TAFOYA: But still, tune in each Sunday night.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Well, tonight, Michele Tafoya's special segment, What the Hell is Wrong With You People?

(LAUGHTER)

FAITH SALIE: Michele.

ADAM FELBER: Welcome back to You Disgust Me with Michele Tafoya.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: So how did you get into the - how did you - I mean, I'm going to guess...

TAFOYA: Yeah.

SAGAL: ...that it's harder for a woman to get into major league professional sports reporting than it is for a man. Am I right?

FELBER: No.

(LAUGHTER)

TAFOYA: You know what, though, timing is everything, and I think I sort of followed the floodgates that were opened by Lesley Visser and Robin Roberts. And it had just started to become something that women could do, and I thought I can do this.

SAGAL: Well, how did you prove yourself?

TAFOYA: Oh, gosh. The best advice I ever got was go get a job somewhere.

SAGAL: Yeah.

TAFOYA: So I went to Charlotte, North Carolina, and I did five hours of sports talk radio every day, and that was my...

SAGAL: You did?

TAFOYA: Yes.

SAGAL: That is the hardest job in the world.

TAFOYA: It was not easy.

SAGAL: How do you talk about sports for five hours without boring yourself to death?

(LAUGHTER)

TAFOYA: One time, I found myself - and I had a co-host normally - one time, I was solo, and I found myself reading to my audience out of the newspaper...

(LAUGHTER)

TAFOYA: ...because I had run out of material.

SAGAL: Seriously?

TAFOYA: But you do that all the time, don't you?

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: I did. I ran out of material 10 minutes ago. Couldn't you tell?

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: I thought I'd bring you on and see what you had. I got nothing left.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: But I want to know how you got from there. Well, first of all, so now...

TAFOYA: Yeah.

SAGAL: Describe your job. You're the sideline reporter. You're the person they throw down to as...

TAFOYA: Yeah.

SAGAL: ...they say in the trade.

TAFOYA: Yeah.

SAGAL: And you've got the reports in the sideline, well, this guy's injured, well, this guy feels this way.

TAFOYA: All right.

SAGAL: That's what you do. Your job is sort of provide on-field commentary.

TAFOYA: Yes, on-field commentary, pre-game interviews, post-game interviews. I talk to the coaches at halftime as they walk in or out of the locker room, and that's always a load of fun especially the losing coach.

(LAUGHTER)

MO ROCCA: Can I ask you, when you talk to the losing team, do you kind of put on, like, a nice mommy voice, or do you change your tone of voice?

(LAUGHTER)

SALIE: Like gee, coach, it's not going so well, is it?

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Do you do that because I've wondered about that?

SALIE: Do you have a minute for me, coach?

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Do you do that?

TAFOYA: No.

SAGAL: Is that how you approach them?

TAFOYA: No, no, no.

SAGAL: What do you do?

TAFOYA: I mean, you get to know every single coach and how he's going to respond to you in...

SAGAL: Yeah.

TAFOYA: ...that moment, and you just sort of brace for it.

SAGAL: What's the worst reaction you've ever gotten in that situation?

TAFOYA: I cannot tell.

SAGAL: Really?

(LAUGHTER)

ROCCA: Really? Did it air? Did it air?

SAGAL: Did somebody drop some profanity on you?

TAFOYA: No, I always talk to them off camera because I can get more out of them, and then I come back after halftime, and I report to the audience what I've been told.

SAGAL: So you came back, and you're like, well, I just talked to the coach of the losing team, and he suggested certain things that were anatomically impossible. Back to you, Brett.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Really? Is that what you do?

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

TAFOYA: Well, you have to maneuver around that. I mean, because if you sell out the coach, you never get to talk to them again, so I don't want to sell out the coach.

SAGAL: I got to ask you about the locker room. Do you go into the locker room?

TAFOYA: Yeah, I used to much more so in the NBA, and that's quite something.

SALIE: And so...

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Well...

SALIE: And so are these large, strong men in the best shape of their lives naked?

(LAUGHTER)

TAFOYA: Pretty much, yeah.

(LAUGHTER)

SALIE: What...

SAGAL: Faith wants you to give details.

SALIE: Where the...

SAGAL: I was just thinking about with the NBA, it would be more difficult because you need to think about what would be at eye level in that situation.

(LAUGHTER)

ROCCA: Yeah, that's got to be awkward.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

FELBER: Yeah.

SAGAL: Because I remember - this was now going back 20 years ago maybe...

TAFOYA: Yeah, yeah.

SAGAL: ...when the first female reporters were working major sports, and they wanted to go into the locker room and do the same damn interviews that their male counterparts were doing.

TAFOYA: Right.

SAGAL: And some of the players were like, wait a minute, we don't want girls in here.

TAFOYA: Yeah.

SAGAL: And those pioneers were like, no, we're going, we're doing our job. So is it awkward for you?

TAFOYA: Let me tell you about my first time.

SAGAL: Oh, please.

(LAUGHTER)

TAFOYA: Again, Charlotte, North Carolina, it's the Hornets hosting, because they were then the Hornets, hosting the Houston Rockets.

(LAUGHTER)

TAFOYA: There's another joke there, but (unintelligible).

ROCCA: Wow, the Rockets.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Were they ever.

TAFOYA: Were they ever.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: So there you are.

TAFOYA: So there I am, and I'm getting ready to go in, and this is the first time I've ever done this, and I'm just going to do some radio interviews for tape to take them back and turn them around, and I said to myself I had a rule I established before I went in. And my rule will be I will only look at their eyebrows. I won't even look in their eyes.

I'm going to look at their eyebrows when I talk to them because that will make sure that I'm focused there, and I can never be accused of looking anywhere else. And this was so long ago that the guy who opened the door said lady in the locker room. It was like, you know, lady with a baby coming, lady in the locker room. So everyone's kind of shuffling around. And I make a beeline for my guy that I'm going to interview, and I'm walking up toward him. And his eyes got to be like the size of paper plates because what I didn't notice was that he was buck naked.

(LAUGHTER)

TAFOYA: I was too focused on his eyebrows.

SAGAL: Right. Of course.

TAFOYA: Yeah.

(LAUGHTER)

ROCCA: And you're charging him.

TAFOYA: And the guy...

(LAUGHTER)

TAFOYA: ...a player sitting next to him says, ma'am, could you just turn around and let the man put a towel on?

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: I thought, you know, when you turned around, he'd have the towel around his head to cover up his big eyes.

(LAUGHTER)

TAFOYA: I think one of the most - and again, I won't name names - but I remember doing an NBA game, and I was asked to go interview a player's wife in the stands about something. And I got there, and she came out to stand next to me on the steps there, and she was wearing a very low-cut, and she was ginormous, and...

(LAUGHTER)

TAFOYA: ...and I couldn't even look at her eyebrows, I was too focused on...

(LAUGHTER)

TAFOYA: But I did offer to donate some yamakas.

(LAUGHTER)

FELBER: There you go.

(APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: Michele Tafoya, we're delighted to have you with us. We've invited you here to play a game we're calling...

BILL KURTIS: Enter At Your Own Risk.

SAGAL: OK. So you're a female reporter, you are allowed inside the NFL locker room, you're a pioneer, but there's still places out there, Michele, where they believe in cooties. We're going to ask you about famous men's only clubs.

TAFOYA: OK.

SAGAL: All right. Get two questions right, and you win our prize. Bill, who's Michele Tafoya playing for?

KURTIS: Daniel Schneider of St. Paul.

SAGAL: All right.

TAFOYA: Oh.

SAGAL: Here we go. Ready to play?

TAFOYA: Nice.

(APPLAUSE)

TAFOYA: All right, Daniel. Going to do my best.

SAGAL: Here's your first question. One of the most famous all-male gentlemen's clubs in London was the Reform Club with the fictional Phineas Fogg started and ended his trip around the world in 80 days. When Michael Palin of Monty Python's Flying Circus attempted to recreate the feat, he failed, came close, but he failed.

Why? A, while he was gone, the club had viewed the classic Monty Python Dead Parrot sketch and decided Mr. Palin was too vulgar to be readmitted to the premises; B, he got back to London but couldn't be readmitted because he was poorly dressed; or C, he tried to drive himself to the club in central London but got lost?

TAFOYA: Oh, man. I'm going to say B.

SAGAL: You're going to say B, he got back to London but couldn't be readmitted because he wasn't wearing a jacket and tie.

TAFOYA: Yes.

SAGAL: You would be right.

TAFOYA: Oh.

SAGAL: That's what happened.

(SOUNDBITE OF A BELL)

(APPLAUSE)

TAFOYA: Gosh, that's so exciting!

SAGAL: He left the Reform Club, traveled around the world in 80 days, came back, ran up the steps, but he was not wearing a jacket and tie. They wouldn't let him in the club, so he finished his journey on the steps. Now, one of the first all-men gentlemen's clubs in America was the Schuylkill Fishing Company of Philadelphia, a club that played a minor role in Revolutionary history when what happened there?

A, Revolutionary officers hid inside from British pursuers who wouldn't enter because they were not members.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: B, George Washington himself went on a three-day bender there.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Or C, Benjamin Franklin became the first and only member thrown out because of his horrible morals?

(LAUGHTER)

TAFOYA: Oh, my.

ROCCA: Is there people saying C? Yeah.

SAGAL: There are people saying C.

TAFOYA: All right. C.

SAGAL: Actually, it was B with George Washington.

TAFOYA: Oh.

SAGAL: The club was famed for its beverage known as Fish House Punch, which according to legend was so potent, it knocked George Washington out of commission for three days.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: OK. This is all very exciting. If you get this one right, you will win. Here's your last question. At the Burning Tree Country Club in Bethesda, Maryland, women are only allowed to visit the club when? A, on Women's Day which is a holiday named after a magazine.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: B, according to the club rules, quote, "at the point in their menstrual cycle when they are least likely to attract bears," unquote.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Or C, in December, only to buy Christmas gifts for their husbands in the pro shop?

TAFOYA: C.

SAGAL: Yes, right.

(SOUNDBITE OF A BELL)

SALIE: Wow.

SAGAL: Very good.

(APPLAUSE)

SALIE: Men, that was all men, that was all men, sister.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Absolutely. Bill, how did Michele do on our quiz?

KURTIS: She did great because she got two right.

(APPLAUSE)

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Michele Tafoya, ladies and gentlemen.

(APPLAUSE)

SALIE: Whoo.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SAGAL: We'll be back in a minute with more of WAIT WAIT...DON'T TELL ME! from NPR.

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