Yes, Erin Andrews is a sports fan. So, please, stop asking. If there is a football game happening somewhere right now then she's probably watching it. Well, if it's a big enough college game then she is likely reporting from the sidelines. But, make no mistake, she is as smitten with football as many football fans are with her.
Andrews says that her father, an investigative journalist for WFLA-TV in Florida, often tells a story about sitting on the couch watching a sports broadcast of some sort with his daughter one day when she said, "I want to do that for a living." Andrews recalls that "he kind of looked at me and laughed and said 'Everybody wants to do that for a living.'"
But she was serious. By the time she was graduating from Bloomingdale High School, near Tampa, she was convinced of her career choice. "People signed my yearbook 'Hope to see you on ESPN' and stuff like that," recalls Andrews. "It was just always something that I knew I was going to do."
Now one of the most recognized faces on ESPN, and as much a part of college football as gameday traditions, Andrews has realized her dream. Although her Wikipedia page pays her the backhanded compliment of describing her as "an American sportscaster, known for her beauty," Andrews' striking appearance -- and, yes, she is stunning -- belies an obsession with studying football scores, stats and minutiae that has won over her colleagues. Her impressive football accumen has also further endeared her to the hordes of male football fans who were already, shall we say, predisposed to liking her.
At this weekends games between Florida State and Oklahoma game and Florida and Tennessee, though, there will also be contingents of female fans cheering her name just as loudly as part of a charity initiative dubbed "Girls Night Out" that raises money for the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) program.
As the college football season swings into high gear and her latest charitable endeavor has its first event, Andrews sat down with HuffPost Sports to talk about her love for Larry Bird, her broadcasting role models, her reputation early in her career and the way that even her lowest moment -- being secretly videotaped by a stalker -- has helped her bond with female sports fans.
HuffPost Sports: Why sports? What teams or players really grabbed your interest when you were growing up?
Erin Andrews: My dad is a huge, huge sports fan. He grew up in Massachusetts, and he's a big Celtics, Red Sox and Green Bay fan -- he says the Patriots were really bad when he was younger so he ended up cheering for Bart Starr and those guys. But everything about me growing up, and me loving sports, was Larry Bird. It was Larry and D.J. and Kevin McHale and the Chief and K.C. Jones. Larry smashing his face on the parquet floor and then getting back up and beating Reggie Miller and the Pacers at Boston Garden, that's what sports is to me.
HuffPost Sports: Did your father being a broadcast journalist make it easy for you to choose this career?
Andrews: I think it just wasn't weird for me to see my dad on the six o'clock and the 11 o'clock news. I mean, it's just what we did. So, being on TV just wasn't that different from my family. We grew up at the TV station. When I went to visit my dad, I would go to the Sports Department and ask how the football team was going to be and what they thought of the Gators and all that kind of stuff. So, [being on television] is just something that was not weird for me. And then it was watching somebody like Hannah Storm doing NBA On NBC and talking to Charles Barkley -- and him throwing jobs and being funny -- and sitting down with Larry.
HuffPost Sports: Along with Hannah, which female sportscasters did you look up to as you got started?
Andrews: Hannah was somebody that really made it cool for girls to be there. Also, Melissa Stark. I was a huge fan of her on Monday Night Football. I would almost just sit there religiously and wait for her reports and to see how she conducted herself in front of the athletes and for her first hit. I always knew her first hit was such a big one and wondered, "Gosh, she memorized all that?" Or, if she had a teleprompter.
Sage Steele, I was very close with when I was 18-19 years old. And the one thing about Sage that has really molded me is that here I was 18 or 19 at Bucs practice and she was just such a nice female. She wasn't worried if I was coming for her job. She was like, "These are the questions you ask. This is how you conduct yourself in the locker room. This, this and this." So, I have always tried to model myself after her when I deal with other females in the industry.
Sage, Melissa and Hannah all inspired me. And I'm really a big fan of Shelley Smith, I think she does a great job reporting. Lesley Visser is my big role model in my life.
HuffPost Sports: Although your female colleagues like Sage welcomed you, did you find yourself having a more difficult time convincing all the guys in the business to respect you?
Andrews: It's crazy, because I know it was there, but I never felt like they were having a hard time taking me seriously. And I think that's because the knock against me when I started was that I was almost too prepared. I would sit there and just prepare so much and they were like, "OK, we know that you know what you're talking about." It wasn't like "Go act like it," but it was almost like I'm on a football field and I knew so much and I was like what do I do with all of this stuff that I studied?
I never felt like the co-workers that I became close with were like "Alright, how are we going take this one seriously?" I was very fortunate because guys like Herbsreit, Chris Fowler, Mike Tirico, Craig James, Rick Sutcliffe, Dave O'Brien, Steve Lavin and Brent Musburger all just really rallied around me. I think what has really helped me so much in the industry is having guys like that who respect you and they're respected by coaches and athletes. They kind of all said to these coaches and athletes that she's one of us, she's in the fraternity. And I think that's why they all started to support me so well, because they saw everybody who was surrounding me. I think that's what made my transition so easy into the field.
HuffPost Sports: You're a female sports fan who is making an effort to reach out to female fans in a male-dominated space. What sort of relationship do you have with the women you meet at sporting events?
Andrews: First of all, I have always been around men. For women, it was like their brothers knew me, their boyfriends knew me, their husbands knew me, their dads knew me. But then when I started to do Dancing With The Stars, and everything happened with me a couple of years ago then I started to get this female fan base that I never really had before.
The [hardcore] female sports fans have always been there, and they've always been great. But, then, it's funny, to bring in this demographic that cheered for me on Dancing With the Stars that maybe didn't care so much about sports are now like, "Ooh, we're gonna watch our girl on college football," which is really cool.
A funny story I have from that: Being a female in sports broadcasting you can usually get in and out of the bathroom pretty quick because people think you're there just to watch the game. But now when I come out of the bathroom people are like, "Oh, I loved you on Dancing With The Stars. You were so great. How is Max? Bruno is so funny." And, it's just like, "OK. Good, but I gotta go." But it's crazy how we've gotten this audience to become such big sports fans.
But, if you look at the numbers, like three out of five women say they are just die-hard sports fans. One out of five women say they know more about sports than their significant other. It's insane. The best example I use is Sandra Bullock's character in The Blind Side, and how she almost knew more than her husband. How she's calling the coach on the sideline and telling him to run the ball instead of throw it. That's how [female sports fans], especially women in the South, are. I mean, you talk to Kentucky basketball fans and Florida football fans and they know they're football. And don't try to tell us otherwise.
HuffPost Sports: With either your female friends or women who know you from Dancing, do you ever find yourself having to sell sports? Do you have to convince them it's not just something stupid for guys?
Andrews: For sports? No, I don't think you need to sell women. Women are smart. They want to sit there on Sundays and talk to their husband about the game. And, let's face it, you're dealing with men. Women want to know what's going on, whether it's the guys in the huddle the guys on the couch. One thing that's cool that I've seen as I've grown older in this occupation is that women now think it is cool to enjoy sports and to sit there and talk the talk and know what's going on.