For ESPN's Erin Andrews, Spotlight Is a Double-Edged Sword

The Washington Post's Dan Steinberg interviews ESPN's Erin Andrews about the "sport" of spelling and then solicits "Dancing With the Stars" Host Tom Bergeron to put Erin on his show. Video by Anna Uhls/The Washington Post
By Steve Yanda
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 28, 2009; 9:56 AM

Inside the Grand Hyatt Washington on Wednesday afternoon, adolescents with name tags and pens and notebooks scurried about. The opening rounds of the 2009 Scripps National Spelling Bee were underway. There was no time to dally.

One floor below lobby level, men and women with uniforms and badges and grim expressions huddled in groups of two or three. A security conference was about to begin. There was no time for wandering gazes.

And riding down the escalator amid the bustle was a woman far too used to being recognized. No one stopped. No one stared. No one introduced themselves or asked for a picture.

"No one has a clue who I am," said ESPN reporter Erin Andrews, who is in town to cover the spelling bee for the network. "It's kind of nice."

Earlier Wednesday morning, as Andrews stood in line at a security checkpoint at the Atlanta airport, one of the guards couldn't resist the urge to ask: You're Erin Andrews, right? Where are you going this week?

Andrews has traveled across the United States since joining ESPN's NHL coverage in 2004. Since then, she's covered college basketball, college baseball and professional baseball, but she is known most prominently for her work with the network's Saturday night college football broadcasts.

Or at least, she'd like to be most prominently known for her work. Instead, Andrews has become a recognizable figure to many American sports viewers because she is an attractive, confident young woman. She understands her appeal, says it has brought her abundant opportunities she wouldn't otherwise have had and hopes it will bring her even more in the future.

But Andrews also thinks her appeal is sad. And funny. But mostly sad. The native of Gainesville, Fla., who grew up idolizing female sportscasters such as Hannah Storm, Jill Arrington and Melissa Stark wishes more of her audience would appreciate her ability to gather information about their favorite teams or to dispense knowledge of their coveted games.

Instead, attention is paid to her clothes and makeup, both of which had better be perfect at all times, lest the message boards get lit up after the game.

"I think it's funny," Andrews said in an interview over lunch. "I honestly think it's comical. I tell everyone I'm not a girl who wears makeup. I wear my hair in a ponytail. Wear a baseball cap. I don't really see myself that way.

"On the other end of it, there's been so much made of, 'Oh, she looks like this and she looks like that,' and then there's been people who have said, 'She really needs to concentrate on being a sports reporter.' But sometimes I like to bring up the comparison of, 'Well, how come you can't look nice and be both?' "

This has become her conundrum over the past two years, one that intensified last summer when Mike Nadel, a Chicago area sports columnist, wrote about Andrews's attire and behavior in the Chicago Cubs' clubhouse rather than about anything baseball-related.

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