Each week during the football season, we will interview a different broadcaster. The goal is for readers to gain insight into how NFL and college football broadcasters approach what they do, along with some questions tied to the game they are assigned that week. Our fourth Q&A subject is Fox NFL broadcaster Pam Oliver, who will be on the sidelines for Commanders at Eagles this Sunday at 1 p.m. ET. Previous weeks have featured Fox’s Greg Olsen, Amazon’s Al Michaels and CBS, Westwood One Audio and WBD’s Kevin Harlan.
Two years ago you gave me one of my favorite quotes at The Athletic. “I’m 60 years old. I’m proud of it. I’m not ashamed of being 60. I’m not trying to be anything I’m not. I’m a grown-a– woman. To me, that’s something to be celebrated.” I bring the quote up to ask you what is the key to having longevity in sports broadcasting?
I think the key is just to be as consistent as humanly possible. We were looking at some production stuff the other day in our meeting and going through some videos. They showed some clips of me with Emmitt Smith and Deion Sanders from the 1990s. I’m looking at that going, “OK, I had shorter hair, I was many pounds lighter, but if I close my eyes, it’s still just me.” The cadence, the questions, everything was just the exact same. The appearance may be a little different, yeah. But it’s a consistency. It was funny to watch but also cool. You deliver the work — and as best as humanly possible. Then I think longevity will follow. But it is a two-way street. You have to have a work partner that wants to be consistent with you. If you find that combination, it can work out marvelously.
Pam Oliver returning to Fox for 29th NFL season: ‘Longevity is beautiful’
Where is the best place for you to be on the sidelines during a game?
That’s always a tough one. You want to be on the side of the team that maybe is having the most issues. I spent a lot of time on the Cowboys sideline for the Cowboys-Cardinals game last week because they were having the most issues. But then you flip that because the Cardinals had so much reason to be joyous. You want to see things from their perspective as well because they worked their a—- off to get to that point. So it’s a gut thing. It’s not, per se, to see if guys are fighting or yelling, but you want to capture any kind of mood. For the initial stages of last week’s game, I was definitely in-tuned to being on the Cowboys’ sideline because this was an upset in the making and I felt that was the best place to be.
What for you is the worst weather-related challenge?
Wind. Piercing wind that feels like teeny tiny needle pricks being shoved into your face. I don’t appreciate wind at all. It’s just not good for the whole aesthetic. A wind chill situation is painful. Not my favorite.
How often will you be talking to your lead producer in the truck during a game?
It’s constant communication. I’m supposed to be a different set of eyes, another set of eyes. I won’t bother him necessarily with things that he’s probably saying. I have a monitor, so I can see what the broadcast has ready to go. I will emphasize something such as, “Are you seeing this defensive huddle?” or, “Are you seeing that (Cowboys linebacker) Micah Parsons appeared to have been injured but then shook it off?” We are in constant communication. I know when to reach out versus constantly bombarding him with nuggets. I know when to get his attention versus just when to let something go.
What is something concrete that would explain your growth as an NFL broadcaster?
I think something concrete is that I believe there are no shortcuts. I once toyed with taking Mondays off. I fooled around with that for a minute and screwed myself because there’s no way you can take a Monday off during the football season. You’ve got to put in the work seven days a week during football season. There’s just too much information flying around. It’s always changing. There’s so much action, there’s so much to read.
Not to be cliche or anything, but there are no shortcuts. I know that’s a cliche, but the minute that you decide that you are going to mail it (in), that’s the day you’re going to screw yourself. You also have to have a process. As we talk today, I am looking at my to-do list. It says, “Jonathan Allen, Clips, Features, Releases Websites, Terry McLaurin, Commanders and Philly Questions.” That’s a little longer than it should be on a Thursday, but I’ll get it whittled down before I go to sleep tonight. There will be no “Thursday Night Football” in my future. I consider this the best job in the world, and you have to do what you need to do to get ready for it.
You have been in hundreds of NFL broadcast production meetings with players and coaches. Is there a singular question in these production meetings that has always produced something valuable for your job?
It typically has nothing to do with an X or an O. It has to do with something a little personal or the work that person has put in. I’ve talked to (Commanders head coach) Ron Rivera 100 times, and they just went through a crappy beatdown (against) the Buffalo Bills. So maybe there is something there regarding that particular showing that has nothing to do with what showed up on film.
The pecking order for our meetings is (analyst) Daryl (Johnston), (play-by-play broadcaster) Joe (Davis) and then me. By the time they get to me, it’s up to me to have something beyond what the other guys have already covered. My job is to come up with something beyond the stuff that you can anticipate. What matters to me in interviewing is the flow of the conversation. I appreciate questions when I’m being interviewed that haven’t been covered elsewhere.
What is one sporting event outside the NFL that you’ve always wanted to be part of as a broadcaster?
The Olympics. To this day, I would give it all up to cover the Olympics.
What is unique about being on the sidelines of Lincoln Financial Field (in Philadelphia)?
That place is a lot of fun. It is unique. It’s not The Vet (Veterans Stadium, the Eagles’ previous home), which was its own unique little organism. It’s challenging in a fun way. It’s not “Boo, Santa Claus.” It’s not in that kind of realm. I kind of judge things on if the fans are friendly or hostile. You take one step there and it’s, “Oh, my God, I love you, I love you,” and then the next step is, “You suck!” You get kind of that vibe there. You never quite know where you stand.
But I have a great time there. It’s a really good energy. They’re passionate about their football and they want good football. If the Eagles don’t deliver, the fans let them know. That is something I appreciate. They’re not just necessarily all kumbaya. It’s like, “You guys better bring it, we’re astute fans, we want good football, and we expect good things from our football team.” It’s one of my favorite places. Probably in my top five.
• Greg Olsen: On Tom Brady and his future at Fox, Jordan Love, Justin Fields and more
• Al Michaels: On criticism, dinner with John Madden, working with Kyle Shanahan
• Kevin Harlan: On his Super Bowl streak, his Buck family bond and the speedy Dolphins
(Top photo: Mitchell Leff / Getty Images)