Pam Oliver will miss the action, the fans and the security guards who sneak her into secret rooms for cocoa or coffee. But when the 53-year-old reporter wraps up her 20th and final year on the NFL sidelines for Fox Sports, she won't miss the cold weather that comes with the gig. "People would send me battery-operated socks," she says.
Still, when Fox first offered Oliver a warm and cozy role doing big interviews and in-depth stories instead of roaming the field, she was not ready to be sidelined. She fought for another season and Fox relented. However, Erin Andrews, 36, the Dancing With the Stars cohost whom Fox lured away from ESPN in 2012, took her place on the network's No. 1 game-calling team with Joe Buck and Troy Aikman while Oliver joined Kevin Burkhardt and John Lynch on the No. 2 crew.
"I just felt like my 19th year was such a train wreck, starting with getting a concussion," she says of being hit in the face with a football during a pregame warm-up. "I didn't want to go out on that note."
Oliver, who says she's "having a blast" on her farewell tour, also wanted the chance to say goodbye to old friends and soak up the scene at stadiums she may never visit again. "I take more fan pictures than I do pictures with me and fans," she says. "I love to see how people just lose their minds." Meanwhile, she's "continuing to process that there's an expiration date — that this is going to be over."
Oliver's last regular-season game is this Sunday as the Dallas Cowboys visit the Washington Redskins (Dec. 28 at 1pm/ET); she'll also work the playoffs.
"The one thing people don't understand is if you're not on camera, you're still working your butt off," Oliver says. "I call it a three-hour track meet. It's hard work. But then you see the joy when these guys score a touchdown or they stop somebody on the goal line and the part of you that loves the game, that's kind of a fan, you're like, 'That was fantastic.'"
After her season ends, Oliver will become Fox Sports' first senior correspondent. She's happy with her new multiyear contract and is ready to tackle the story ideas she has collected over the years. On Sundays next fall, she says, "I'm promising myself to do all the things that you wish you could do on the weekends — antiquing, going to lunch with girlfriends, cleaning out my closet or garage. But if it's a good game, I'm going to watch."