BY CHARISSA THOMPSON
It didn’t really hit me when my assignment was first handed down.
Over the summer, I was entering my second year as a jack-of-all trades host for FOX Sports 1 when I found out that I’d been chosen to fill in on the NFL sidelines during the 2014 regular season. My good friend, Erin Andrews, serves as the regular sideline reporter for FOX’s top-billed NFL crew, but is pulled away from that duty for the baseball playoffs.
I was so pumped. I didn’t know the where, when or who I’d be covering, but I remembered how much fun I’d had working football games earlier in my career and I got lost in the sheer excitement of the news.
First a confession: I am a complete sports dork. I grew up in an athletic family right here in Seattle and graduated from Inglemoor High School in Kenmore. I was constantly competing in sports with my brother and sister and watching games with my mom and dad. Seahawks games weren’t just what played in the background of our Sunday afternoons. They were our Sunday afternoons. I’d covered the Hawks while doing NFL games a few years ago, but never a game in Seattle.
So when I got my assignments I didn’t have to scan too far down the list to see that I’d be coming home. My first game? October 12, 2014. Dallas at Seattle. See you there.
The beauty of the NFL is the passion. The atmosphere, the fans, the players and the impact it has on all of us. With that said, I thought it would be fun to pull back the curtain and provide a behind-the-scenes look at my weekend and what it was like to come home.
Back home in Seattle
On Thursday I arrive in Seattle, and just landing here makes me happy. I know I am here for work, but selfishly, I think about getting to see my family and work the sideline for a team I grew up rooting for. It is truly the best of both worlds. I had to remind myself that I needed to discard the fan persona as soon as I get to the stadium. But I can enjoy some of this, right?
Friday, after a run, I head out to the Seahawks facility with my teammates from the FOX crew to meet with Seahawks players and coaches for our production meetings. At the team’s facility in Renton, I find our crew’s play-by-play announcer, Thom Brennaman, and color analyst Troy Aikman. They are headed out to practice, but I elect to stay in the meeting room, do my research, look over my notes for the game and continue to put together my questions for the production meetings.
Just as my pumpkin latte is about to wear off, I am energized when Earl Thomas walks in for our meetings. He is a quiet guy, but he is in a good mood. He gives us great insight into the Cowboys’ offense and how they’ve been so balanced and successful. Next up is Russell Wilson – such a gem. He is always charismatic and keeps things light, but noticeably so calm and comfortable in his skin. He and Earl cross each other in the meeting and joke about their experience at the White House, agreeing that they need to get back. Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and Pete Carroll round out the meetings. I have a front-row seat as Troy Aikman talks to Russell Wilson about playing quarterback. How cool is that?
After we wrap our meetings, I head to Lake Union to meet my family. I join my mom and dad, sister, nieces and nephews for lunch on Lake Union. It is so great to see my family.
Saturday arrives and we do our conference calls with the Cowboys at 8 a.m., similar to the meetings with the Seahawks, just not in person. After that I go to my dad’s car dealership in Kirkland. Wherever I go, people from Seattle mess with me about the Lee Johnson Chevrolet TV ads that I do. I know they’re cheesy, but I like doing them for my dad. I spend the rest of Saturday preparing and hanging out with my family.
Game day arrives
Sunday finally arrives and I am so stoked for game day. It’s also time to do some real work, so I get to the field around 10 a.m. It is only fitting that the first person I see is Kenny Mayne, fellow Seattleite and ESPN host. He is a beauty. I ask him to help me find Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray. I chat with Kam Chancellor about whether he will be able to play and ask Russell about making the switch to a new center.
You probably don’t need me to tell you what the energy of CenturyLink Field is like on game day. I haven’t been on the sideline for football in four years, so the adrenaline and excitement at kickoff are indescribable. The game lives up to the hype. I’m always amazed at how fast and physical the players up close.
The score goes back and forth. I monitor several storylines, taking direction from the producers and seeking up-to-the-minute information on injuries. Ultimately, the result isn’t what the home crowd wants, but it is awesome to be there.
Afterward, I hustle out to the field, where I do a one-on-one interview with Murray and then a sit-down with Dallas quarterback Tony Romo for my regular nightly show, “FOX Sports Live”.
It turns out to be a special weekend for me. To get to work with the NFL on FOX and being this close to the action again is an opportunity that I relish. Thanks letting me share it with you.
I promise I’ll be home again soon.
Charissa Thompson graduated from Inglemoor High School in Kenmore, and the University of California, Santa Barbara. She started at FOX Sports in human resources, later hosted”Best Damn Sports Show Period.” The Venice, Calif., resident worked for Versus, Yahoo Sports and ESPN before being hired by FOX Sports 1.
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