Michele Tafoya was a 28-year-old sports talk radio host in the heart of college basketball country [url=http://www.officialwild.com/authentic-adidas-joel-eriksson-ek-jersey]Joel Eriksson Ek Jersey[/url] , embarking on a long-desired vocation in an unforgiving field when she felt her first career boost from a bold on-air prediction.
Cal will beat Duke.
That’s what Tafoya told her listeners that defining March day in 1993 on WAQS-AM in Charlotte, North Carolina, a place with an abundance of ardent NCAA Tournament followers and, naturally, self-appointed experts.
The Blue Devils were the two-time defending national champions and an established power from a haven state of hoops.
The Golden Bears, despite the presence of star point guard Jason Kidd and a no-slouch No. 6 seed in the Midwest Region, had no such pedigree. They also happened to be the team from Tafoya’s alma mater, prompting predictable howls of foolish bias.
Well, guess who won that second-round game?
Cal 82, Duke 77, was the final score. Apologies were the star of the show the following day.
”I give the fans credit. They all called in. The phones were lit for hours. Everybody was saying, `We’re sorry we doubted you. Clearly, you knew what you were talking about. You weren’t picking with your heart,”’ Tafoya said. ”My stature as a person with some knowledge shot up that day in a 24-hour period.”
Making sure she knows what she’s talking about has been the driving force behind Tafoya’s rise to sideline reporter for the NFL’s showcase Sunday night games on NBC .
She’ll work her fourth Super Bowl on Sunday in Minnesota, where this Southern California native first moved in 1994 for a job with KFAN-AM as a sports talk host and Vikings sideline reporter.
She continues to call the Twin Cities area home , with her husband, Mark, 12-year-old son, Tyler, and 9-year-old daughter, Olivia.
”She usually knows more than what’s going on more than we do [url=http://www.officialwild.com/authentic-adidas-kyle-quincey-jersey]Authentic Kyle Quincey Jersey Kids[/url] , because she talks with so many different players through the course of the week,” NBC analyst Cris Collinsworth said.
”You can tell the respect level that the players have and the coaches have for her. It’s a difficult job.”
Asking questions of coaches and players in real time on the field amid the intense NFL atmosphere with millions of viewers critiquing word choice, speaking style and wardrobe is a daunting assignment.
As is working in the professional sports environment as a woman, a glass ceiling that Tafoya has helped smash with predecessors such as Lesley Visser and contemporaries such as Suzy Kolber.
”I don’t think I have to fight it anymore. I’ve been doing this long enough. I’m old now,” Tafoya said Wednesday at the Mall of America, the media headquarters for Super Bowl week.
”You do this long enough, and people start to trust you. It was tough for quite a while the first few years, but that’s why I always felt like I had to prepare like crazy.”
Tafoya has been doing promotional work for Secret deodorant, with a campaign spotlighting women in the football world who’ve overcome the catcalls, prejudice and machismo to stand out in the field.
”I’ve never been one of those `I am woman, hear me roar’ kind of people. I’m more about being a professional. I’m going to do my job. I’m going to do it to the best of my ability,” she said. ”I don’t care if you’re a man or a woman.”
With NBA finals and Olympic Games also standing out on her football-centric resume, Tafoya has been nominated six times for a Sports Emmy award. Her proudest moment, she said, actually came when the sports part of her reporter responsibilities was sidelined by a health emergency when then-Houston Texans head coach Gary Kubiak suffered a mini-stroke at halftime of a game in 2013 .
Tafoya was interviewing Indianapolis Colts coach Jim Caldwell at the time, trying to ignore the shouts of her producer in her earpiece. Once finished and informed of Kubiak’s collapse, she sprinted across the field to try to see what was going on and fill in the concerned viewers.
”I was a journalist covering an emergency situation, and it was the story of the week, and we covered it really, really well,” Tafoya said [url=http://www.lionscheapshop.com/cheap-authentic-da_shawn-hand-jersey]Da'Shawn Hand Jersey[/url] , ”all of us as a team.”
The NBC crew wouldn’t have it any other way.
”I don’t think a lot of people understand and say, `What do you need sideline reporters for?”’ said play by play announcer Al Michaels.
”She can get information to us that we can’t get. She sees things. She understands the game as well as anybody, and for my money she’s as good as any reporter as there is in the country.”
Sonny Gray will get at least one more chance to show he deserves to keep his place in New York’s rotation, though the Yankees are growing increasingly concerned about the struggling starter.
Justin Smoak hit a three-run homer, Yangervis Solarte reached base four times and the Toronto Blue Jays beat Gray and the Yankees 6-2 on Friday night.
Smoak connected in Toronto’s five-run second inning, when the Blue Jays batted around and put an early end to Gray’s outing.
”I am concerned but we also believe in the stuff,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said of Gray. ”We’ve got to try and help him right the ship a little bit.”
Gray (5-7) allowed five runs and six hits in two innings, his shortest start of the season and his third straight loss.
”It’s not early in the season anymore,” Gray said. ”This is when you’re expected to go out there and contribute and get in some type of rhythm and put together solid starts back to back. I haven’t even been close to being able to do that.”
Gray lasted just 2 1/3 innings in his previous start, matching a season worst by allowing six runs in an 11-0 loss to the division-leading Boston Red Sox.
Boone said Gray will face Baltimore next week and dismissed the idea of skipping Gray to help clear his head.
”Part of it is right now we feel like he’s our best option,” Boone said.
Solarte went 3 for 4 with a walk as the Blue Jays won for the 12th time in 16 home games.
Aaron Hicks homered and had two RBIs in the opener of New York’s 11-game road trip. Hicks has hit five home runs in his past five games.
Gray retired the first two batters before loading the bases with two walks and a single. He escaped unscathed when Russell Martin struck out swinging.
Things went downhill for Gray in the second, which began with Randal Grichuk’s double. One out later, Devon Travis and Curtis Granderson hit back-to-back RBI singles. Smoak capped the inning with a two-out homer, his 12th.
Hicks hit a solo home run in the third, his career-high 16th, then chased Blue Jays right-hander Sam Gaviglio with a bases-loaded walk in the fifth. Joe Biagini came on and struck out Giancarlo Stanton looking, then got Didi Gregorius to fly out.
New York went 0 for 6 with runners in scoring position and left nine runners stranded.
”We just didn’t get that hit to put us over tonight,” Boone said.
Gaviglio allowed two runs, one earned, and four hits in 4 1/3 innings. Gaviglio is winless in seven starts, dating to a May 25 victory at Philadelphia.
Biagni (1-5) pitched 1 2/3 innings for the win [url=http://www.lionscheapshop.com/cheap-authentic-levine-toilolo-jersey]Levine Toilolo Jersey[/url] , snapping a streak of 10 straight losing decisions.
Five Blue Jays relievers combined to pitch 4 2/3 shutout innings, allowing just one hit.
”Our bullpen did some kind of job,” manager John Gibbons said.
Boone said finishing off hitters is Gray’s biggest challenge.
”It’s getting himself into good counts and making pitches when he has a chance to put guys away,” Boone said. ”That’s what he’s really struggled with.”
David Hale pitched 5 2/3 innings in relief of Gray, his longest career outing as a reliever. Hale allowed one run and five hits.
ALL IN THE FAMILY
Sallie Gibbons, the 80-year-old mother of John Gibbons, threw out the ceremonial first pitch to her son. ”It made my night, that’s for sure,” said Gibbons, who got his mom to autograph the ball afterward.
Yankees: New York recalled INF Tyler Wade from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He takes the place of 2B Gleyber Torres (right hip), who was placed on the 10-day disabled list Wednesday. … RHP Masahiro Tanaka (left and right hamstring strains) allowed two runs and three hits in five innings in a rehab start at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Wednesday. Tanaka is expected to return to New York’s rotation next Tuesday at Baltimore. … Boone said LHP CC Sabathia will pitch the opening game of Monday’s doubleheader against the Orioles. New York will call up a pitcher from the minors to start Game 2, Boone said, with RHP Luis Cessa and RHP Jonathan Loaisiga among the candidates.
Blue Jays: LHP Jaime Garcia (shoulder) felt good after a bullpen session Friday and will be re-evaluated Saturday. He has yet to begin a rehab assignment. … Utilityman Darnell Sweeney cleared waivers and was assigned to Triple-A Buffalo.
Yankees RHP Luis Severino (13-2, 1.98) faces Blue Jays LHP J.A. Happ (10-4, 4.03) on Saturday afternoon. Severino, who leads the majors in wins, will be pitching on extra rest thanks to New York’s off day Thursday. Happ lost to Detroit last Sunday, matching season worsts by allowing seven runs and 10 hits. The defeat snapped Happ’s streak of six straight winning decisions.
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