On the Sidelines: Michele Tafoya

Twin Cities radio alum (and new morning show host) plays in the big leagues reporting for NBC’s “Sunday Night Football”

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Sportscaster Michele Tafoya

Photo by Carlos Gonzalez

Michele Tafoya started her career as a host and reporter for Minneapolis’ KFAN sports-radio station. Since then, the Edina-based reporter has covered tennis’ US Open, multiple Olympics, and was the first woman to call play-by-play at an NCAA basketball tournament. This month she returns to sideline reporting for NBC’s Sunday Night Football.

“Sideline reporting is very physical, especially on an NFL field. At the NBA level it’s a little easier, because you’re indoors the whole time, the court’s a lot smaller, and you’re not covering as many players. In the NFL, you’re running around like crazy. I would venture to guess that I cover anywhere from four to six miles in a game.”

“You’re battling a lot of different elements. The weather, all the other people along the sidelines, cameras, camera carts, handhelds, still photographers. You’re watching the game action, you’re watching both benches, you’re listening to the announcers, plus your producer chiming in every now and then, and you’re trying to chart every play. It’s multitasking to the nth degree.”

“In the early days, the main obstacle for a woman in this industry was the question, If she didn’t play football, how can she cover football? Additionally, there was this fine line a woman had to walk: Don’t appear too feminine, but don’t appear too unfeminine.  I think a woman covering sports really felt she had to establish her knowledge of sports before she could relax about actually looking attractive on the air. I think there will probably always be people who are skeptical of the knowledge a woman has about a sport she never played.”  

“Our show is big, big, big on preparation. We fly in Thursday night so Friday we can be at the home team’s practice and have meetings with the home team. Saturday the visitors fly into town and we go to their hotel and have meetings with them. Sunday we get up and we’re meeting from 8:30 in the morning, laying out all the graphics we have available, all the roll-ins, all the things we want to get in. And then we leave that meeting, get our own prep work done, and reconvene at the game three hours before the kickoff. And then you fly home Monday and get a little sleep and start all over again. So it’s intense.”

“What we underestimate about every pro athlete is that they make it look so easy. What people aren’t exposed to is how hard these guys prepare. Not just physically, in the training room or the weight room, and they’re in the film room studying film. You can be a really gifted athlete, and if you don’t prepare right, you’re not going to reach your potential.”

“During last season’s Vikings playoff loss, when it was -6 at kickoff, I was as cold as anybody out there. The elements are harder to deal with than you think. I’m taking notes so if I’m wearing a big old bulky pair of gloves with hand warmers inside, it’s not easy to write. It’s hard to talk in the cold, so when they throw to you at a moments notice and [teeth chattering]—W-well it k-kinda s-s-seems like s-some-b-body broke his w-wrist… It was so cold.”