Michele Tafoya was a 28-year-old sports talk radio host in the heart of college basketball country Tyler Toffoli Jersey , 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 Theo Riddick Jersey , Tyler, and 9-year-old daughter, Olivia.
”She usually knows more than what’s going on more than we do, 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 Adidas Henrik Lundqvist Jersey , 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, ”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.”
WASHINGTON — Having already won their first series at Nationals Park since April 2016, the Philadelphia Phillies will go for the sweep of Washington on Sunday night.
Phillies right-hander Nick Pivetta (4-6, 4.08 ERA) faces Nationals right-hander Jefry Rodriguez (0-0, 4.66).
Pivetta was drafted by the Nationals in 2013 and went to the Phillies in 2015 as part of the Jonathan Papelbon trade.
After struggling for three straight starts — giving up 13 runs in 14 innings — Pivetta allowed two runs and four hits in 7 1/3 innings of a no-decision against the St. Louis Cardinals last time out, striking out a career-high 13 batters.
“That’s some of the best stuff I’ve seen him have all year,” catcher Andrew Knapp told mlb.com. “The curveball was electric.”
Pivetta got 11 swings and misses with the curveball.
“It was nice to have it back,” Pivetta told mlb.com. “It all started with my delivery. I was staying up through it, not trying to rush too much and it worked out.”
It his first start — and second big-league appearance — the 24-year-old Rodriguez picked up a win against the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday. He allowed five runs, four hits and three walks in five innings.
Rodriguez and Satuday’s losing pitcher, Erick Fedde Adidas Mats Zuccarello Jersey , are filling in for injured starters Stephen Strasburg and Jeremy Hellickson.
The Phillies have outscored the Nationals 17-5 in the fist two games of the series. On Saturday, Maikel Franco had four hits and Carlos Santana homered to back Aaron Nola in a 5-3 victory.
“That was just a tremendous all-around baseball game,” Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said of Franco. “It’s so interesting how we’ve been looking for him to be not just a hitter but a defender and a baserunner and an all-around athlete.”
Franco drove in a run and scored twice, including the go-ahead run when he scored just ahead of the tag on Jesmuel Valentin’s sacrifice fly.
The Phillies, who have won six of seven, pounded out double-digit hits for the second day in a row in Washington.
“They have a lot of patient hitters,” Fedde said of the Phillies. “I think that’s what makes it tough. Guys aren’t swinging at bunch of junk, so you have to attack them.”
The Phillies have now won four straight series for the first time since May 2016 and are 2-0 in what will be a stretch of 10 games against the Nationals and the New York Yankees.
Anthony Rendon homered and Daniel Murphy had a two-run single for Washington, which has lost three of four while scoring nine runs.
“Look, I’ve got all the confidence in the world we’re going to start hitting,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. “We’ll start scoring some runs. Right now, the bullpen is a little beat up. We’ve got to get them going again.”
Rendon is doing his part. In his las 15 games, he is batting .382 with seven doubles, two homers and 12 RBIs.
Hellickson (right groin strain) will make a rehab start Sunday for Class A Potomac and then is expected to rejoin the Nationals’ rotation.
Hernandez said first baseman Ryan Zimmerman (right oblique strain) is about a week from beginning a rehab assignment.