My office phone is ringing on a Friday morning and I can’t help but smile when I hear a familiar sounding voice say, “Hello. This is Suzy Kolber.” Even the most jaded sports fan couldn’t help feeling excited about getting a call from arguably the country’s top female sports broadcaster. The popular TV personality is well respected by her colleagues and fans for her intelligence, work ethic and passion for sports.
Kolber is probably best known for anchoring ESPN’s daily SportsCenter show and for her work as a sideline reporter during NFL games. The former high school sports star graduated from the University of Miami where she served as the sports director at the campus cable station. Her first job was as a sports producer for a TV station where she had done an internship.
Kolber won a local sports Emmy in Miami before leaving to join the Dallas Cowboys’ new in-house production company. She eventually returned to Florida where she landed a weekend sports anchor and weekday reporter gig for a West Palm Beach station.
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She first gained national recognition in 1993 when Kolber was chosen to co-host SportsNight, a three-hour nightly sports show on ESPN 2, the cable station’s hipper, younger sister network. That eventually led to her serving as host of the popular X Games extreme sports competition. She briefly left ESPN for Fox Sports for the chance to cover NFL games but returned to the Bristol, Conn.-based network in 2001.
But Kolber’s road to the top hasn’t been without controversy. She endured some chuckling from critics after reports surfaced that she cried because of the treatment she received from her then co-anchor Keith Olbermann. Olbermann later publicly apologized for his behavior in an online column.
The sports anchor also received unwanted attention in 2002 when 60 Minutes commentator and resident grumpy old man Andy Rooney complained that “a woman has no business being down there trying to make some comment about a football game.” She responded by saying, “He has a right to say what he wants, but from my standpoint, it’s not a reflection of me. I clearly know what I’m talking about.”
Kolber remains single and openly admits that she chose to focus on her career first before starting a family. She currently hosts a highly-rated weekly football show called EA Sports NFL Matchup.
YOUNG MONEY TALKS TO KOLBER:
In an exclusive interview with YOUNG MONEY, sportscaster Suzy Kolber spoke candidly about how women in sports are judged by different standards from men and her climb up the career ladder.
YM: How did you get interested in broadcasting?
KOLBER: I was in the school of communication and in my junior year I went on the telecommunications track. I started interning at what was then the CBS affiliate in Miami in the summer of my junior year. It got to be a joke after that — “Suzy’s interning at channel four again.” — because I never left. Every semester after that I continued and eventually I was getting paid. Most of my background there was as a sports producer.
YM: Have there been special challenges related to working in a male dominated industry?
KOLBER: While I do believe that especially then, and even now, we get judged differently, I don’t think it personally affected me because I’ve always been a perfectionist. I’ve always been my toughest critic and have a single-minded focus. So I don’t think that I could have worked any harder whatever the industry I had chosen. So it sort of fit because you can’t make mistakes and be considered credible. A man can make mistakes and a woman cannot. But I don’t believe that that was a hurdle for me because it’s the way that I would have approached it anyway.
YM: You mentioned your ability to stay focused and do the proper research. Are those the main reasons for your career success?
KOLBER: I would say that and respecting the subject. That no matter what job it is that I’ve been given, from the X Games to the NFL, I respect all of the athletes equally and what they do. I believe it’s up to me to do the research and be well prepared. And then it doesn’t matter if you’re a woman or a man. Everybody just wants to be asked good intelligent questions. So for me it all comes down to the respect factor. That I respect them enough to do the research and go into the interview prepared.
YM: What’s the toughest part of your job?
KOLBER: I think the toughest part is that there are times when you look at things and say, “There’s probably an easier way to do this but I don’t know what that is.” Because ever since I was a little kid I wanted to be a 100 percent prepared. I’ve never known how to mail it in. So every new challenge is tough because I’m going to try to do it the absolute best I possibly can. So every single thing is fun but it’s also challenging.
YM: What’s your work schedule like behind the scenes?
KOLBER: Television is definitely not glamorous. I mean, there are times during football season that I’m on the road six days a week and I’m working seven days a week. And that goes on for six months at a time. It’s not glamorous and when you think about how much reading and research and things you do in school, it never ends. It’s an endless process because you’re always reading and researching something new.
YM: What’s been the highlight of your career?
KOLBER: I would say in terms of highlights, when I worked for Fox we did the Super Bowl and just being on the field doing post-game interviews with the confetti falling. For Fox, I did a TV special called “Opening the Lost Tombs: Live From Egypt.” I spent two weeks in the Giza Plateu and in the pyramids seeing things that most people will never get to see. Also, another highlight has been the extensive travel, including covering figure skating in all different countries, and all the different cities I’ve been able to explore because I cover the NFL and I’m in a different city every week.
YM: What are your future career goals?
KOLBER: I love being at the games and at the events, and I would always want to have a hand in that in some way. But I think my goal is to just keep creating the niche because I still want all the other things out of life too. I want family and kids so you have to be able to craft the right mix to be able to have everything. I’ve worked really hard up to this point and been focused on my career and on what I wanted to achieve. It’s being able to keep things in perspective and know what the proper priorities are and really have it all.
YM: Do you have any general career advice for young people?
KOLBER: The number one thing for me always was the internship. It is invaluable to actually be in the workplace and see how things are. The key is doing an internship and then to choose something that you are truly passionate about. Those are the absolute two musts for me.
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