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Interview: Rebecca Haarlow

We had the great privilege of sitting down with Rebecca Haarlow, Blazers Broadcasting Sideline Reporter, to hear a little about her and to get her views on the job and what it's like being in the Blazer orbit.

Blazersedge: I think most Blazer fans know you did your undergrad work at Princeton and have heard vague rumors of a stint on the track team.  Fill in some gaps for us.  Where and how did you grow up?  What was your degree in?  (If it was English, forgive the preposition on the end of that sentence.)  What was your life like before you become the sideline reporter for the soon-to-be best team in basketball?  

First of all, thanks for the interest and taking the time to ask thoughtful questions.  I'll try and be succinct!  I grew up in Chicago and started playing sports as soon as I could walk.   It was soccer in the fall, gymnastics in the winter and track & field in the spring and summer.  At Princeton, I was a history major and member of the track team for four years.  I competed as a sprinter and heptathlete.  A lot of people don't know what the heptathlon is so here it goes: It's a two-day event that includes the 100 meter hurdles, high jump, shot put, 200 m. sprint, long jump, javelin and the 800 m. run.  Just writing that makes me tired!!  But it was an incredible challenge both physically and mentally, so I loved it.  Before joining the greatest team in basketball, I was working for Fox Sports Net in Los Angeles.  

Blazersedge:  Did you always know you wanted to be part of an NBA television broadcast team?  If not, when and how did that aspiration develop?  

I knew I wanted to combine sports with creative business, but it wasn't until after college that I considered television. I do, however, remember the exact moment I discovered my fate. I had just graduated from school and it was my first day as a radio intern for the Golden State Warriors.  The team was playing the Cavs and I figured I'd be filing papers. Instead, my boss handed me a recorder and sent me straight to the locker room after the game to conduct interviews.  I was terrified, but all of the sudden that same adrenaline I felt as an athlete - and desperately missed in the "real world" - came rushing back and I was hooked.  Broadcasting live TV constantly challenges me and I love it.  I'm also not surprised I ended up in the NBA.  I grew up in Chicago watching the Bulls.  As a kid 70 plus wins and ring after ring seemed normal to me...what's not to love?

Blazersedge:  What has your professional background been?

I started as an intern working for ABC, NBC and the Golden State Warriors in San Francisco.  Later I worked for the San Jose Sharks, SAP Open (ATP tennis) and as a sideline reporter for a station in Sacramento.  Before moving to Portland, I hosted several shows for FSN in Los Angeles and worked as a sideline reporter for Big Ten college football.  

Blazersedge:  How did you break into the league?  

My break came when I got a job as a sideline reporter for a small television station in Sacramento, covering the Kings.  I had relatively little experience in front of the camera at that time, but my then-boss trusted my knowledge of the NBA and gave me the opportunity.  It was great because he taught me so much and I had a lot to learn.  

Blazersedge:  What is your role as a sideline reporter?  What important things do you bring to the broadcast?  

Mike and Mike do a fantastic job of calling and analyzing the game while I jump in with additional stories about the teams and the game.  Sometimes the information pertains to basketball and other times I shed light on what the players are doing off the court and in the community.  One of the important things I bring to the broadcast is that I'm mobile.  I'm free to move around during the game so I can do everything from join the team in the huddle during timeouts, to interview people in the stands, to conduct post game interviews on the floor or in the locker room.  Barrett says he's happy he doesn't have to jump the table and scramble to the floor anymore, although I'd like to see him do it someday!

Blazersedge:  Walk us through a typical game day.  What are you doing before the game to prepare?  What do you do during the game when you're not on camera?  Duties afterwards?

In the morning (with Starbucks in hand) I attend the Blazers shoot around and interview the players and Nate McMillan to make sure I'm completely current with their thoughts on the game.  I spend the afternoon studying game notes, stats and stories.  I get to the Arena around 4:30 pm to interview the opposing coach and players and then its time for the pregame show with Tony Luftman and Michael Holton at 6:30, where I usually show a feature shot during a non-game day.  During the game when I'm off-camera, I kick back with a drink and enjoy the game.  Kidding.  I'm constantly taking notes and studying the action.  Afterwards, I'm doing player interviews for the post-game show.  

Blazersedge:  The travel required of a person in your position is extensive.  How are you finding that and/or coping?

The travel is definitely an adjustment.  I completely lose track of what day it is and what time zone I'm in at the moment.  I have admit, I have a whole new appreciation for the athletes in the NBA because I find myself exhausted a lot of the time, and I'm not even playing!  When the team has 4 games inside of a week and we hit 5 different cities including Portland, I require a lot of coffee.  In fact, executive producer Scott Zachry gives me sacred information in each city: the location of the nearest Starbucks to our hotel.  But honestly, I enjoy the travel.    

Blazersedge:  Have you found any favorite places yet?  

My favorite stop this year was Chicago because I got to see my family.  Otherwise, I would say Atlanta.  Have you had fried chicken and waffles??  Amazing.  

Blazersedge:  What is the most enjoyable part of your job?  

I absolutely love the organization.  Everyone from the top executives, players, coaches, ushers at the Rose Garden etc., are so classy and have been so welcoming.  I work most closely with the broadcast crew and that extends beyond Mike and Mike.  The off-camera guys and gals work extremely hard as well to bring you the games you see on TV, and I'm lucky to be working with all of them.  It was a bit intimidating to move to a new city without knowing anyone, and they've made me feel right at home.  

Blazersedge:  What is the most challenging or difficult part of your job?  

The toughest adjustment is living so far away from my family, friends and my dogs.  

Blazersedge:  Do you have any particular favorite moments from your broadcast career, either during your tenure with the Blazers or prior?  

My favorite moment was the day the Blazers called me to tell me I got the job.  I have known and respected the crew for several years now, so this really is a dream turned reality.  

Blazersedge:  I have to ask the question everybody wants to know:  What's it like working with the world-famous Mike Rice?  Is it as glamorous as it seems?  

Absolutely.  I adore Ricey.  Did you know he's my fashion consultant, especially now that he's gearing up for the Sergio faux-hawk?  But seriously, his basketball IQ is incredible; I'm constantly interested in his perspective.  I cannot tell you how great it is to work with both Ricey and Barrett.  

Blazersedge:  Can you share a little about being a woman in a male-dominated sports environment?  It's not the same as it was 40 years ago but that doesn't mean it's easy.  The Blazer players have a reputation of being VERY nice people.  Does that make this kind of situation easier?  Or is it even an issue at all?  

I've been an athlete all my life, so this "sports environment" is exactly where I belong regardless of my gender.  The players are like my brothers - they look out for me, just like I look out for them.  The fact that they are such a classy group of gentlemen has absolutely made my job easier.  At the same time, the dynamic is nothing new to me.  I've been in the business for a while now, so the difficulties associated with being one of the few women in a male-dominated sports environment is one challenge that makes me work harder.

Blazersedge:  There's no question that being considered attractive helps in the television industry and all three of the Blazers' on-air broadcasters certainly are attractive.  Part of why people accept you easily into their living room is because they enjoy looking at you.  Sometimes, though, people take that overboard.  Some suggest you are only something to look at and disregard your other talents.  Others--apparently feeling that viewing you on T.V. gives them the freedom to say anything they want--make boorish comments or suggestions as if you were more an object than a human being.  Again I'm sure you knew that some of that would come with the territory but it can't be easy to hear that kind of thing.  How do you deal with it?  

Who's making boorish comments?  I'll introduce them to our Bigs in the paint!  Of course it's difficult for anyone in any situation to be objectified, but I understand it happens in this business.  I value traits like character and dedication, so that's what is important to me.  I focus on working hard and being a good colleague and person.  Let the rest of it be the rest of it.  

Blazersedge:  OK...Blazers versus Lakers in Portland.  13 seconds to go, Blazers' ball, down by two.  We have Roy, Aldridge, Outlaw, Jack, and Jones on the floor and need a bucket.  What play do you call, Coach Haarlow?  

When the team plays the Lakers, they'll put `em away long before 13 seconds, so this moot, but I'll play with you anyway.  Jones inbounds to Jack, and he dishes to Roy.  As soon as Brandon draws the double, the ball goes to LA.  He sends the ball to Outlaw or Jones in their sweet spots, depending on who has a better look.  Of course, they are in opposite corners (which helps spread the d), just waiting to nail a three.  But like I said, Blazers are up twenty and our rookies are teaching the Lakers a thing or two about the game.  

Blazersedge:  Anything else you'd like to say to Blazer fans?

I'd like to say thanks.  I've seen a lot of arenas, and Blazers fans really make a difference.  Plus, people have been so welcoming and supportive.  I appreciate all the kind "hellos" at games and around Portland.  

There's some good stuff in there.  My favorite was "Ricey".  I wonder if she knows that's gonna stick like gum in your hair? Also if she's going to be an adopted Portlander we need to give her some better options for coffee than Starbucks. Feel free to make suggestions in the comment section of your favorite local coffee places and their addresses.

Thanks to Rebecca for taking the time to chat with us!  Here's to many more happy post-game interviews after wins!

--Dave (