Eyes on the prize: Affable Sterger focuses on the brass ring
While helping to lend some support to Jay Williams’ Rising Stars charity event on Saturday night, Jennifer Sterger – the host of the upcoming sports show The Daily Line on Versus – often found herself the center of attention, something she’s grown accustomed to. But it wasn’t entirely for the reason you probably think it was.
Don’t get me wrong, she looked just as great in person as she does in her photos. But what everyone at Foley’s found out while watching the end of Northern Iowa’s upset win over Kansas with her is that she’s a blast to hang out with.
“Most people are like, ‘Dude, she’s so normal,’” Sterger said. “I feel like your personality makes you what you are. The fact is, I can sit at a bar like this with a bunch of goofballs, and say this is the best time I’ve had in a long time.”
Sterger’s story is pretty well known; she and her friends, who liked to dress up as cowgirls for Florida State games, ended up on camera during FSU-Miami in 2005 (See below). Brent Musberger animatedly voiced his approval, and the Internet went crazy for her.
However, Sterger, who had designs at the time on going to law school, had no interest in letting her fame be limited to 15 minutes.
“Someone actually hacked into my Facebook the day after all the stuff happened in the game. They stole my pictures and posted them on the Internet,” Sterger recalls. “Deadspin got a hold of them, guys like A.J. [Daulerio] and Will [Leitch]. I parlayed that attention into Maxim and Playboy.”
From there, she wrote some articles for SI.com, did some NCAA basketball television work for ABC and served as Gameday Host for the New York Jets, before landing the show on Versus, which is scheduled to air weeknights at 6 p.m. ET.
Any friend of Jay Williams is a friend of mine, but besides that, I honestly found her to be pretty much just like you and me – and again, I’m not referring to the fact that she genuinely does seem to enjoy hanging out, drinking beer and watching football.
The main way we can relate to Jenn Sterger is that she’s focused and driven to succeed, and that she’s as excited about her opportunity with The Daily Line as any of us would be about something like that. On Saturday night, she was particularly excited about going to see her studio for the first time.
I remember right after I landed the job in sports I currently have, which was a big step for me personally and professionally, how I felt cautiously optimistic that I was on the verge of something big. She’s hoping the same exact thing – it’s her chance to finally prove herself to a skeptical, cynical sports media that loves to tear people down.
“I’m actually getting a chance to have a show and have an opinion!” Sterger said – her emphasis, not mine. “I’m not just going to be another girl asking four questions on a sideline, or reading a teleprompter.”
Something I’ve witnessed first-hand at my job is that it’s a challenge for women to get ahead in the testosterone-driven world of sports because of the stereotypes that are perpetuated. Along with the popularity she’s found, Sterger’s faced plenty of vitriol from people – i.e. Deadspin commenters – who haven’t taken the time to learn that she’s actually got a great sense of humor and a terrific personality. Nor have they read her blog, which is well-written and thought-provoking.
Sterger has an ability to take criticism and use it as fuel, detailing a “love-hate relationship” with Deadspin. Even while they’re poking fun at her, they’re keeping her name out there. There’s no such thing as bad publicity.
Despite all that, facing off with the 6 p.m. SportsCenter is rather daunting – Jenn describes it in Dodgeball terms as “kind of like being in Average Joe’s gym, going up against the Cobras.”
But the fact that she naturally feels comfortable with, well, the Average Joes drinking beer at the adjacent table is why the format might just work.
“I’m a huge dork, I really am. This is the type of crew I really hang out with,” Sterger said. “It’s something where I feel like I could go and sit at those guys’ table over there, and they could feel like they’re totally part of the conversation. (Pause) Granted, those guys would probably love if I sat at their table considering they’re chest-bumping their waitress right now.”
I turned around to look, and that’s actually exactly what was happening.
“It’s guys like them that kind of put me in the great position I’m in,” Sterger added.
That’s half-true; it’s also her tendency to relate to them, as she spent the majority of the night joking around, watching hoops, and proving to everyone at Foley’s that she’s comfortable being just one of the guys.
And at the same time, Sterger is smart enough to be able to take advantage of when things fall out of the sky. Unlike what you might have heard, she’s a laid-back girl with big dreams who just happens to be opportunistic when the situation calls for it.
And though going against SportsCenter won’t be easy, Jenn Sterger seems up for the challenge. And if her history dictates how it’ll turn out, I wouldn’t bet against her.
The Daily Line premieres April 5 at 6 p.m. ET on Versus. It replays at 2 a.m. Here’s more information on the show: http://www.versus.com/shows/the-daily-line/