Exclusive Interview With Super Bowl Sideline Reporter Michele Tafoya
by Megan Sayers
Who's ready for some football?!
I'm a huge sports fan and with the Super Bowl on Sunday, I was super excited to get the chance to chat with Michele Tafoya. She's the sideline reporter for NBC's Sunday Night Football, which means she's going to be inches away from all the action on the field!
But lucky for me, the busy mom of two took some time out of the hectic preparations to answer some questions about the big event, balancing work and family, and how she manages to succeed in such a male-dominated industry.
How are you getting ready for the Super Bowl?
"Well, there's a lot of different kinds of preparation. I just finished up a meeting with the referee and the back judge to ask them some questions and to get to know them a little bit, know how they typically call the game and later today I have some type of rehearsal.
I've spent every day for the last two weeks doing research whether it's reading articles from the New York newspapers or the Boston newspapers or any other newspaper we can find an article. We went to a Patriot's practice, a Giant's practice and had meetings with all the players that we wanted to talk to."
Wow. That's quite a bit of work.
"It's funny, sometimes I wish people could see how hard we all work. Some people think we just show up on the game day. It's so far from the truth. We do so much work getting ready so that we've got our facts straight and we're prepared for every possible scenario imaginable.
Once the game actually starts, it's not that different from a regular season game but the preparation is much different, and the atmosphere leading up to it is much different. It's like the players say - you sharpen your focus to a level that you didn't know you had."
So what originally inspired you to go into sports reporting?
"My dad was a real sports fanatic. He wanted us to play sports, he wanted us to watch sports - we lived in Los Angeles and had season tickets to the San Francisco 49ers, so during football season we would make the commute every weekend to see them play. We were just kind of that family, we loved sports.
And the NFL, for whatever reason, was my favorite. It was an addiction early on. I also wanted to get into broadcasting so I thought, you know I can merge these two things... and that's really what drove me."
What challenges do you face, working in such a male-dominated field?
"When I first started, people would look at female reporters like, 'what does she know?' But meanwhile a male reporter could show up to a press conference or event and no one is going to think twice. He could be clueless but no one will think twice because he looks like he fits in.
So that's the first challenge: to overcome every one's skepticism. As a result, I've always prepared like crazy so that no one could ever accuse me of not knowing what I was talking about.
But after a few years, once you gain credibility - you're just one of the crew."
What do your kids think about your job?
"You know, the other day my six-year-old son asked me, 'Mom, who do you work for again?' and I said 'NBC sports' and he goes, 'cuz one of the kindergarten teachers said she saw you on TV.' Now, he definitely knows that I'm on TV but I don't think he realizes that anyone else knows.
But overall, it doesn't really phase him. I mean, it's always been this way for him. Shortly after he was born, I did my first Super Bowl and we took him along.
My daughter is only three, so for her it's more of just seeing me on the TV and getting excited. It's funny because when I'm home - and I could be right there in the living room with her - and we turn on any other kind of football game that I'm not covering, she'll point and go 'Mommy!' because she thinks, oh, football - Mommy should be there."
Speaking of kids, how do you balance motherhood with such a demanding career?
"Actually, I used to have a full-time radio show, and I finally had to give it up because it just became too much for the entire family. Mom was gone too much.
I'm hoping that now I'll find a better balance, because it wasn't the best thing for my family for me to be working too much. Some people have to work two or three jobs to stay afloat and some moms are single moms who have to do it all. In my case, I'm very lucky - my husband works and I both work so we have a two income household. We were very fortunate that I was able to slow it down.
The one thing I always tell myself when I come home from work is that I have to be a mom. It's not the kid's fault if I'm stressed and I'm exhausted- that's not their problem. So I just tell myself - 'I can do it, I'm a grown up.' I just turn on the mom mode and have fun."
I think it's amazing that you made that sacrifice - giving up something you loved because it wasn't right for your family.
"For a long time, I've had this little tree of priorities and the very top priority is to feel happy and at peace. And what makes me feel happy and at peace is my family. Certainly job satisfaction is part of that whole tree - no question about it. But ultimately, what it comes down to is my family. They are my number one priority, without question.
And yes, it was a really grueling decisions, but I look at my children and I think, I waited too long to have a family. And I went through a lot to have a family and I'm not going to just coast through this. I want to enjoy it. I want to be with these kids."
A great mom, a great sports reporter and did you know she has an MBA? Michele Tafoya is one impressive lady. And while she couldn't tell me which team she would pick to win this Sunday, she did give me one exclusive tip:
"I will tell you this... and I can't tell you why, but trust me - do not miss half time!"
I don't know about you, but I can't wait to see what surprises are in store for the big game. Fingers crossed for another Bruce Springsteen appearance!
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