Whenever I get together with Fox sideline reporter Erin Andrews, it inevitably becomes Larry Bird story hour. As she said in this week’s episode of “Renaissance Man,” she is “33 for life,” and we both have that devout Larry Legend love in common.
She eats up any details about Larry, who coached me when I was with the Indiana Pacers, and at the end of the podcast, she said, “I thought you were going to surprise me with a Larry Bird call in, but I just want to tell you that my hopes were up.”
I couldn’t leave her hanging, so I reached back into my LL story bank. I told her how I always brought my A-game and my Sharpie to Boston when we’d play the Celtics. Why did I need a Sharpie? Well, that’s because after shootaround, I would hang back and sneakily draw “LB 33” on the cuff links of the Leprechaun at half-court. I knew she’d get a kick out of the mischief.
Like Reverend Brown in “Coming to America” loves the Lord, EA loves to be right in the middle of the action. So I wanted to know what was the most exciting sporting event she’s attended, either for work or fun.
“Maybe just because it’s fresh in my mind, [Tom] Brady going to Lambeau [Field] to take on [Aaron] Rodgers when Rodgers is having an MVP season. I mean, I was freaking pumped … I was raised a Packers fan … I don’t know how it gets any better than that. Two future Hall of Famers and going head- to-head to go the Super Bowl. Holy cow.”
After all, it was a jolt of excitement during a very tough season, where the pandemic dictated everything. It was a miracle the leagues were able to pull off their seasons, and we were fortunate enough to still have ballgames to distract us from the hardship and fear around us. But Andrews has always used sports as a positive distraction.
In 2016, she was diagnosed with cervical cancer. And she got the frightening call while she in a meeting preparing for an NFL game in New York.
“My female doctor calls me up and she’s like, ‘ I got to talk to you,’ ” she told me. “And it’s Sunday, and I’m like, “No, I don’t have time for anyone. It’s Week 3 of the NFL, baby.’ I’m worried about Eli [Manning]. I’m worried about what’s going on right here with the Giants … And she’s like, ‘You’ve got cancer.’ ”
That year her network had the Super Bowl, and she was adamant that she wasn’t going to miss a single quarter of pigskin. She had surgery on a Tuesday and against the advice of her doctor, she was back at the game on Sunday.
The lessons she took from that trying time?
“Don’t complain about the little things … keep your team tight, the ones you trust … And I think, don’t abandon what you love because that helps you get through it in the tough times.”
Andrews has been through a lot of adversity in her career, and I admire how she’s handled all of it, especially her diagnosis. Instead of letting it sideline her, she let it fuel her both on and off the field.
In fact, she’s used sports to launch a passion project that’s become very successful: a women’s apparel line.
“I was with ESPN for eight years, worked College GameDay, worked college basketball, worked everything and then went over to Fox, where I started working in the NFL. And I just knew there was a white space that needed to be filled for female fans and fan apparel.” For five years, she kept pitching her idea. Then two years ago, Fanatics gave her the green light for WEAR with Erin Andrews, which includes gear for NFL, NBA and now NCAA teams.
And for this episode, she really buttered me up. She put a rack behind her and filled it with the jackets for team colors I played for, including Michigan. It meant a lot that she made that effort.
Most recently, Andrews started a podcast with our pal Charissa Thompson called “Calm Down With Erin and Charissa,” where they’re interviewing nonsports folks. She said Martha Stewart, Faith Hill or anyone from “Schitt’s Creek” would be a dream guests and asked me for some advice on podcasting. She’s still trying to figure out a balance between her network persona and her off-the-field, carefree EA. But I think she already has a handle on how to make her guests feel special: See the jackets on the rack.
Doing a podcast is different from stiff network broadcasting. It’s hair-down, wine-on-the-table time.
And when it comes to the table, she travels all around the country to large and small cities for work and knows her way around the restaurant scenes.
“I can tell you what concourse to go to in an airport to find a good sushi roll,” she said. She recommends Craig’s in Beverly Hills, Hinterland Brewery in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and is looking forward to staying at the new Lodge Kohler hotel across from Lambeau Field. But I learned that I need to have Troy Aikman on the pod because she said that he gets the best restaurant recommendations from head coaches and quarterbacks.
I also want to have her co-host Thompson on, so I asked for some dirt on our friend, which she more than delivered.
“She had an opportunity at the Big Ten tournament back in the day when she worked for the Big Ten Network to sit down with Michael Jordan and Larry Bird together, and she refused to do it.”
“She was afraid she would be let down by her heroes. She was like, ‘What if one of them had bad breath?’ ”
I can attest that neither MJ nor Bird have halitosis, but Thompson is not going to live that one down.
As for Andrews, she and her husband former NHL player Jarret Stoll have a golden retriever, so I asked what she’d like to add to her family next. “Babies,” she quickly responded. So hopefully next time we chat, she will have added a new title to her already very robust résumé.
Detroit native Jalen Rose is a member of the University of Michigan’s iconoclastic Fab Five, who shook up the college hoops world in the early ’90s. He played 13 seasons in the NBA, before transitioning into a media personality. Rose is currently an analyst for “NBA Countdown” and “Get Up,” and co-host of “Jalen & Jacoby.” He executive produced “The Fab Five” for ESPN’s “30 for 30” series, is the author of the best-selling book, “Got To Give the People What They Want,” a fashion tastemaker, and co-founded the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy, a public charter school in his hometown.