(Opinion) Last year it was reported that Fox Sports NFL veteran sideline reporter Pam Oliver had been assigned to the second team of the network's NFL game coverage, and that former ESPN analyst Erin Andrews had replaced her. The ensuing firestorm was intense but brief. For our part, we went straight for the jugular on the situation. From our vantage point, the situation stunk of racism and age-ism. You might not know it without Google, but Oliver is a 54-year-old woman who is clearly of African descent.
Her replacement by a younger, less-experienced, blonde-haired White woman was rife for us and many others. We went at it like a bull charging at a red target and it didn’t take too long for any of us over here to put two-and-two together to come up with four.
But that was just our admittedly myopic point of view. Unlike many others of our ilk who place pen to paper or fingers to keyboards, we never assume that our point of
Despite all the saber-rattling and rabble-rousing that we could possibly muster, the world kept on spinning.
We tried to keep up with the sideline reporting of a sister who many of us at The Shadow League have looked up to for years, but it was difficult to do. So we soldiered through listening to Erin Andrews to enjoy our favorite FOX NFL match-ups, all the while longing for the days when Terry Bradshaw and Howie Long would throw it back to Pam for some insight on the network's premier game of the week.
Since she was first notified of her “evolved” role at Fox Sports, Pam Oliver had been on something akin to a farewell tour this past NFL season with her newly assigned broadcasting partners Kevin Burkhardt and John Lynch, and production team Pete Macheska and director Artie Kempner.
It must have been quite the shocker for Oliver when she received a phone call from Fox Sports president Eric Shanks and executive vice president John Entz back in January about coming back and doing some more NFL sideline reporting for the 2015 season.
"The call was so completely out of the blue," Oliver reportedly told Sports Illustrated. "I also felt it was one of those things like, 'Why would we go back to this possibility?' I felt we had all come through a pretty big ruckus and that door had been closed, dead-bolted, chained up. I had fully weaned myself from that role so to have that door open again, and I had difficulty wrapping my brain around it. So I put the decision on the shelf."
"The emphasis at the meeting was always placed on how they saw what was next for me versus what I saw would be next for me," Oliver said of her initial role change. "I felt I was not done. I still felt I had more to offer with sideline reporting. I think that took them by surprise a little bit."
However, after pondering her return to the sidelines with confidants and family members, Oliver advised her higher-ups that she would return for a two-year duration. Indeed, Pam Oliver’s considerable acumen is something that even Fox can’t simply brush aside. Though The Shadow League and others made an enormous stink about our favorite sideline reporter being relegated to what many of us considered the “second” team of Fox Sports’ NFL coverage, Oliver tells SI that her new roles comes with plenty of unique qualities that her prior position did not afford her.
During her interview with Sports Illustrated, Oliver said that while she misses her old broadcast team, Troy Aikman in particular, her new position affords her with a greater degree of creative latitude and freedom.
"I felt I could do my thing, not without fear, but without dread of making a mistake," Oliver told SI. "It was such a different feel, and this is no criticism of the A Group [Aikman, Joe Buck, producer Richie Zyontz and director Rich Russo]. But this is a different kind of group. I would bring seven ideas to the table with Pete, and he is very open and accommodating. I had a whole bunch of opportunities to add things. I felt I had I had more opportunities with Pete than I had with Richie [Zyontz] but I don’t want this to sound like I am criticizing Richie. There was just a different energy and also knowing it was my last year, I just felt things were just easy and light."
So, after all the pomp and fury that surrounded her demotion last summer, we find that Pam Oliver is in a better space creatively and emotionally. We guess that makes the fact that she was replaced by Andrews all better, right?
Psyche. Just kidding.
All of us here at The Shadow League will be looking forward to seeing Pam do her thing on NFL sidelines like only she knows how this upcoming season, even if we’ve got to watch a less than entertaining NFL match-up in order to do so.
So instead of missing out on a talented, inspirational, hard-working, knowledgeable and more-than-qualified sister making an impact in the world of sports, we all get to actually watch Pam again.
And that matters. A lot.