Fox Sportscaster, A Football Follower Just Like Her Mother

Pam Oliver is one of the most successful sideline reporters in sports. It is, of course, a field very much dominated by men. Oliver talks with NPR's Rachel Martin about her career.

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The Super Bowl is long over, the NFL season, long gone. And reporter Pam Oliver is getting a much-deserved off-season reprieve. Or is she? This is after all, one of the hardest working women in television sports. If you've turned on a football game sometime in the last decade or more, it's likely that you've seen Oliver on the sidelines giving reports from the trenches, trying to capture some nugget of insight from the hundreds of players and coaches she has interviewed in victory and in defeat.

When Oliver broke into the world of sports reporting in the early '90s, she became a member of a very small club of women. Pam Oliver told us she started out as a local TV news reporter, but her real passion was sports.

PAM OLIVER: I had always grown up in an environment that centered actually around the NFL, Sundays and Thanksgiving. I was born in Dallas, so we were dedicated to the Cowboys. And I remember my mom just being the ringleader of this whole thing. You know, as a family, we sat down and watched sports. We watch the NBA. We watch the NFL. So that's something...

MARTIN: And it was your mom. It wasn't your dad.

OLIVER: Yeah, my mom led the - yeah, my dad was hanging out. But my mom was leading the pack.

(LAUGHTER)

OLIVER: And so, you know, we knew nothing different.

MARTIN: What was your break then into sports reporting? Was there a particular event or story that changed your trajectory, your professional trajectory?

OLIVER: Yeah, actually. I was working news. I just done a gubernatorial campaign and did a lot of, you know, murder trials. And it was around Thanksgiving and one of the reporters in sports asked for the holiday off. And I just jumped in and said I'll go - I'll do it. It was a Tampa Bay Bucs/Green Bay game. I covered the game, the Bucs were horrendous.

(LAUGHTER)

OLIVER: And the head coach, Ray Perkins, I remember him commenting after the game that we were so bad we couldn't be high school team. And I just sort of raised my hand and I said, well, if you can't beat high school teams, shouldn't you step down.

MARTIN: Ooh.

OLIVER: But these heads whipped around to figure out who was that girl? And it got a little attention in Tampa. And my boss always says it's such a big step down, I said, Bob, I want to do sports. You know, I just waited my turn and then the phone started ringing. And then it just sort of took off from there. I've been holding on for dear life since.

(LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: When you were first starting out did you get a lot of guidance on your appearance? This is the thing that women in TV -and men, but women to a higher degree, I think - have to deal with.

OLIVER: Yeah, we went through sort of like a media training where what hairstyles and, you know, we had makeup people coming in and teach us various things. And for whatever reason, I always channeled my inner Patti LaBelle. I cannot get on enough eyeshadow...

(LAUGHTER)

OLIVER: I just - you look back at some of these pictures, my makeup - the foundation color was all wrong. And I love this woman and so I said oh, and then she does this and I see in this crease. Then your job breaks out. You get out into the elements and, you know, your hair falls, your makeup is sliding all over the place. But it was very - it's always because it say visual medium, it's something that's always emphasized.

MARTIN: You have spoken publicly about your distaste for social media. You are not on Twitter or Facebook, which is kind of unusual now when most reporters are encouraged to have a social media presence.

OLIVER: I've been encouraged, yeah.

(LAUGHTER)

OLIVER: But I just - it never appealed to me. You know, just as the compliments come, you know, that criticism is going to come. It's really just venomous stuff comes out of people. And I just don't want to expose myself so it.

MARTIN: You did get a lot of flak recently for just superficial things.

OLIVER: Oh, yeah.

MARTIN: How do you - how did you manage that? How did you let that go...

OLIVER: Well, I...

MARTIN: ...people criticizing your hair?

OLIVER: Oh, my hair. I did do a couple of hair extensions. And I did it - they were clipped-ins, blonde, like blonde-ish, but I maybe got a little carried away.

(LAUGHTER)

OLIVER: But people are always going to find something. So it's just part of it. You just learn to go on and just try to do your job to the best of your ability, block out that noise; which is what I consider Twitter and Facebook and Instagram. I consider it noise.

MARTIN: This past year, I understand was your last on your current contract with Fox News. Are you...

OLIVER: It's coming up.

MARTIN: ...do you mind? Oh, it's coming up. OK.

OLIVER: I still have a little while, yes.

MARTIN: So are you going you in negotiations? Is this something you want to keep doing for a while?

OLIVER: I love the NFL. And people ask me: You don't want to do that much longer, do you? Well, while you're sitting at home on the couch watching a game, I'm actually there. So yeah, I mean I'm kind of addicted to that. I don't know. I - who knows where this stuff is going to go? I just want to continue to cover the NFL until the wheels absolutely fall off.

MARTIN: Fox sports reporter Pam Oliver. Pam, thank you so much for talking with us. It's been so fun.

OLIVER: It's my pleasure. Thank you so much.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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