Blackie Sherrod Lifetime Achievement Award Winners Share Their Best Cowboys Stories
The two longest-tenured female sports journalists that have covered the Dallas Cowboys are the 2017 Blackie Sherrod Lifetime Achievement Award winners. Charean Williams and Kristi Scales have covered the NFL for a combined 50 seasons.
After receiving their awards from the Dallas Sports Commission during last week’s Beyond the Baseline Women in Leadership luncheon during the NCAA Women’s Final Four, Charean and Kristi answered 5 questions for 5 Points Blue.
Charean, a sportswriter for The Ft Worth Star Telegram and first woman to serve as selector for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, started covering the Cowboys in 1999 after a 6-year stint covering the Tampa Bay Bucs for the Orlando Sentinel. Kristi, the long time Cowboys sideline reporter, started her first season with the Dallas Cowboys Radio Network all the way back in 1991.
They’ve got stories to tell, so let’s get started with the first question.
What’s your favorite storyline, event, or person that you’ve covered as an NFL reporter, and why?
Charean: The Cowboys are never boring, which means the beat is never boring. Jerry Jones wants it that way. He is “the most interesting man in the world” if there really is such a title. So Jerry ranks as my favorite.
Kristi: Jerry is great, especially during our one-on-one weekly Owner’s Box live interviews during every Cowboys pregame show. But my all-time favorite story isn’t Jerry or the three Super Bowls we broadcast in the 1990’s. In 2007 one of our Cowboys Cheerleaders was Christina Murphy, a beautiful dancer and talented young woman who is extraordinary. She was a great dancer which is impressive because she couldn’t hear the music. Nor the sound of her mother’s voice, not even her own voice. Christina is profoundly deaf. I’m a judge for DCC auditions, so that’s how I first met her. She earned her spot on the DCC and served as an inspiration. Ten years later she’s a nurse, and more importantly, a mom to a beautiful little girl. I’m so proud of Christina. She’s the best story ever.
What’s the most surprising part of your job? In other words…People would be surprised to know…
Charean: We don’t get autographs. We don’t get free tickets. And we aren’t cheerleaders for the team. We just try to report, without bias, what happens.
Kristi: There’s a lot of “down time” in between press conferences and/or access to players & coaches. And then, all of sudden, it is hurry, hurry, hurry! But mostly it’s “hurry up and wait” (and boring while you’re waiting around!!!). Efficiently utilizing that “down time” in between the hectic periods is important.
Did you always want to cover the Cowboys and football, or did you start your career covering other sports?
Charean: I told this story during the awards induction ceremony: When I was in the second grade, growing up in Beaumont, I asked my teacher, Cindy Bridges, how far it was to Dallas. She answered and asked why I wanted to know. “Because I’m going to marry Roger Staubach,” I said matter of fact. She called the local newspaper which sent a columnist to write a story on “The Dallas Cowboys’ Youngest Fan.” In the article, I said my goal was to cover the Cowboys. That was my lifelong ambition. I just had to take a couple of detours, covering things in other places first.
Kristi: I moved to Dallas at age 10. Back then, the Cowboys practice field was in my neighborhood in Dallas (Lake Highlands). After school, we’d walk 2 blocks up the road to the practice field. We’d hang on the fence, or sit on top of the dumpster, and watch the end of practice. Then we’d wait for player autographs (Staubach, Dorsett, Drew Pearson, Golden Richards, Cliff & Charlie, etc.). Then we’d dive into the dumpster in search of practice-used gear! But it never occurred to me that a girl could ever work for the Cowboys or be a sports reporter. I was going to teach high school government, but right after college, I got a summer job at KVIL Radio in Dallas as promotions assistant/producer. A year later, KVIL signed a contract to become the Cowboys’ flagship station, and suddenly I was the Cowboys Radio producer. It’s been a very long summer…and I still haven’t gotten around to my teaching gig. But life is what happens while we make other plans! You know the saying: if you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.
What’s your best advice for young women trying to break into a traditionally male career field such as sports broadcasting?
Charean: Whatever your dream is, your passion, pursue it. Don’t live with regret wondering “what if” later. It’s not easy to break in, but the odds increase with every person in the business you meet. It’s who you know, not what you know, that gets your foot in the door.
Kristi: Charean is absolutely right. It’s who you know. Best advice for any career field, not just broadcasting/journalism: internships/co-op programs. That’s how you meet people. Talk to academic advisors about internships. Or you may have to cold-call your local newspaper or radio station or sports team to ask about internships/co-op programs. You have to get your foot in the door, and that’s an excellent way to do it. And once you’ve got your foot inside that door, work with as many people as you can (volunteer to do extra work with people in various departments/assignments). Make yourself indispensible by your willingness to do all the nitty-gritty jobs. It will prove you’re a team player, and people will want to keep you on board.
Dallas Sports Commission
What do you tell people when they ask you about being a female who has to spend part of her day inside an NFL locker room?
Charean: It’s a unique work environment for sure. But it’s like anything else in that the more you do something, the more you’re used to it. Sure, I’ve had some uncomfortable experiences, but these days, with these players, it’s almost like working in an office…aside maybe from the dress code.
Kristi: We’re not in the locker room as voyeurs, we’re there (along with male reporters) because it’s the only access we have to players. That applies to weekdays, not just postgame. Like the female reporters, the male reporters don’t like being in there. But it’s part of the job. If we had a choice, we’d conduct interviews elsewhere. Unfortunately, it’s not a choice. Luckily, Charean and I have the most understanding (and self-confident) husbands in the world. Our husbands know that we’re there solely as part of our job.