Admittedly, having grown up in San Diego, I love the Chargers. When they’re winning. And, you can get me fired up on any team and game if you give me a good background story, but that’s as far as my enthusiasm for football goes. Breezy Mama’s Alex loves to make her chili and that’s as far as her interest goes. For seasoned fans or those more like Alex and me, NBC reporter and the NFL channel’s Alex Flanagan – a mother of three who you’ve likely seen reporting from the sidelines or during the Olympics — gives Breezy Mama the scoop on making football fabulous and, for the true fans out there and novices alike, tips on the teams and players to keep an eye out for this season. Plus! How her love of the pigskin sport began and life as a working mom.
For moms who aren’t fans but indulge their husbands every week, what tips can you give them to make it exciting?
Join a Fantasy Football League. I am part of an all girls league. Few of the women know anything about football, but they are all learning and we have a great time. We’ve made it a social event where we watch games together and your husband just won’t know what to do when you tell him you are leaving him with the kids for the night so you can go watch the game with your fantasy league. Setting up a league is not as hard as it seems. Find a handful of friends and NFL.com will do the rest for you.
What’s your favorite part about football?
I love the passion and emotion associated with sports. I remember watching a Super Bowl with a friend a few years back when the New England Patriots beat St. Louis Rams and he was hysterically crying after the win because he was so happy they had won. Few other things in our lives evoke such passion as sports.
We get the whole touch down, interception, sack the quarterback concepts — any pointers on other plays to keep an eye out for?
– Football is two sides working against each other, each side always trying to out scheme or out think the other. It is a continuous game of adjustments.
– Both sides are always trying to fool each other by moving around the field or just by standing or lining up a certain way. Good players can tell what an opponent is going to do before he does it just based on their body position.
– When the quarterback gets the ball he has a number of different options based on what he sees from his opponents (the defense) and what his own teammates are doing. Each person has a job or in football terms an “assignment”. Your job might be to block a defensive player, your job could be to run a designated pattern (up the side of the field and then turn around or run diagonal to the middle of the field and then look for the ball. As a defensive player on some plays your job might be to just try and get to the quarterback and knock him down).
– The interesting thing about football is everything can be blown if one person misses their assignment. If an offensive lineman doesn’t block well, the quarterback can be sacked. If a receiver runs the wrong way the ball can be intercepted. I could go on and on…
And if that doesn’t capture non-fans, how about –Who are some of the better looking players?
Terrell Owens’ body deserves to be admired. The Browns might not win, but they look darn good trying. Quarterback Brady Quinn and Wide Receiver Braylon Edwards sure are lookers. Atlanta Tight End Tony Gonzalez, Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald, and Jets QB Mark Sanchez all make my list.
Did you get the job as a sideline reporter because you are a fan of football? Or how did you end up with this job?
My college degree is in broadcasting and journalism and I knew I wanted to be a reporter, but my initial goal was to cover news. So my first few years out of college I was a news anchor and reporter. About 11 years ago I was offered a job as a producer/reporter on a national investigative sports show and that was what opened the door for me into the sports world.
How did you become a fan of football to begin with?
My Dad played at Pepperdine University. He was a football fan and had season tickets for the University of Arizona (my Alma Mater). He would take me to games with him. As a kid, I identified and rooted for the Chargers, when my dad watched NFL football on Sundays, because I was born in San Diego. I loved Dan Fouts and the 49ers because I thought Joe Montana was cute. I have since had the awesome opportunity to meet both and Montana still is cute!
Is your husband a fan? Is he stoked you are doing this?
If you can believe it, he’s not really a big sports fan! He played basketball at the University of Arizona, but doesn’t really watch a lot of sports on TV. I always tell him the fact that I eat, breath and sleep sports is a bit wasted on him. I am truly the stereotypical man in this situation. My weekends revolve around games and he’s always saying, “Are you watching football AGAIN?” I sympathize with men who just want to sit down and watch a game. My two girls on the other hand are becoming very educated football fans. I bought them pink football jerseys and a football. We will put them on and play two on one tackle football. They snap, throw and run the ball and I try and tackle them. They love it. My 1-year-old boy loves the tackling part, too! The other day I had a game on TV and my 5 year old out of the blue said, “Is that Brett Favre?” I couldn’t believe it. I asked how she knew that and she said, “Oh, I’ve just been hearing his name a lot.”
They will watch football with me and pick a team to root for, usually based on what color jersey they like or what city or state the team is named after, and they will jump up and down and yell at the TV with me. Right now they like Minnesota because of their purple jerseys and Favre and Arizona because that is where their cousins live.
Is it hard with three kids (ages 22 months, 4 years and 5 years old)? How do you manage your schedule?
Yes! I get far less sleep during the football season which is a pretty crazy time in our house. I have a very capable nanny and a husband who steps up in the fall. [My husband] Kevin often has the kids by himself on the weekends when I’m working, and he has it handled. Our situation has forced me to squelch my type A personality. I’ve learned that when I’m gone the kids aren’t always dressed in the outfits I would have chosen and the house is not kept the way I would keep it, but they always have a great adventure together and that’s what is really important.
Do you enjoy being a working mom?
Yes. I’m at a place in my career where many years of sacrifice and hard work are paying off. I find a lot of self-worth in my work and enjoy the excitement of my job. I’m also fortunate that it is seasonal. I put my head down and work, travel, stress for 6 months and the other 6 months I get to be home most of the time, spending time with my children. I kind of get the best of both worlds. I get to be a stay at home mom part of the year and work the other part. I can truly relate to the struggles, guilt and rewards both working and non-working moms feel.
What teams do you cover?
All 32 NFL teams. I work for the NFL Network. We are the CNN of football. Football 24/7. But since I live in San Diego I get to cover the Chargers more frequently than other teams. I also cover Notre Dame College football for NBC, which takes me to the campus in South Bend, IN at least a handful of times a year.
You were very much discussed when a coach angrily stomped off the field while you were running after him to interview him and you were nine months pregnant in 2007. You never missed a beat! Was that difficult? Were you working on adrenaline?
I [often] work with Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis, the coach who you are speaking about. I did have to chase him down a lot when my little boy Declan was on board (and still do every week). It certainly might have been easier if he had stopped. But coaches have a lot going through their heads when I am trying to interview them in the middle of a game. Their livelihoods and careers are at stake no more so than during games. If you can’t win, you get fired. So I understand how serious the moment must feel for them when they are focused on the game and I’m trying to ask them questions. Part of the excitement of being a sideline reporter is dealing with and being in the middle of the action. I enjoy running onto the field to run down coaches and consider it one of my strengths. Now that I don’t have 30 pounds worth of baby in front of me I’m pretty fast… Weis may walk, but I’ve yet to let him get by me without answering a few questions!
When will we see you on TV next?
I am on the NFL network on Mondays on a show called Total Access and on Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s on a show called Around the League 5pm Eastern/8pm Pacific. You can see me on Notre Dame games when they are playing at home. Next game is October 3, 3:30 Eastern/6:30 Pacific on NBC.
What team match up are you most excited to see this season?
The Chargers. Last year I was one of NBC’s sideline reporters for the Super Bowl. I was assigned to cover the Arizona Cardinals. I grew up in Arizona so it was really fun for me to watch my home team play in the Super Bowl. Now that I live in San Diego I would like to see the Chargers play in a Super Bowl. I have gotten to know some of the players and coaches and feel like this it — their time. Plus it would be fun to have friends come to the game in Miami!
Watch Alex in action:
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