In fall 2008, during Charissa Thompson’s first run as a sideline reporter for Fox Sports, the blog Deadspin ran an item titled “Charissa Thompson Continues Down Suicidal Path to Frumpyville.” (She’d dyed her hair brown and donned glasses.) It stung, but it also steeled the Kenmore native—who grew up playacting postgame interviews with her brother—against the realities of being a woman in sports broadcasting. Today she doesn’t have time to care what people think of her hair or anything else: After stints at Versus, the Big Ten Network, and ESPN, she’s back at Fox, hosting its highlights show, Fox Sports Live, and reporting on celebrity news for Extra. Oh, and she’s blonde again. Not that that should matter. —Matthew Halverson
I was working as a receptionist at my first job out of college, and I was miserable. I always knew I really wanted to be a sports broadcaster, so I started looking up jobs at Fox Sports. They only had a few openings, and one of them was in HR. I went for the interview on my lunch break, and I was nervous and just wanted to get it over with. The interviewer was asking me questions like, “Why do you want to be in HR?” And I was like, “I really like working with people?” I just bullshitted every answer. It was awful. So I called him on the way to my car, and I was like, “Wasn’t that a really bad interview?” And he’s like, “Yeah, really bad.” So I said, “Here’s the deal: I want to be in sports broadcasting. But I will give you a year, and I will be a great assistant. I will do anything you want.” And he just started laughing. Then a little while later I got the call and I got the job. He goes, “I gave you the job because you called back and were honest about what you wanted.” I wanted to at least redeem myself because I felt so fake in the interview. And hopefully my success is derived from a place of being honest, even if it’s being honest about my faults.
You get in the door of the sports business by being a woman, and you stay there by being good at your job. But there’s also an ebb and flow to this thing. I was joking with this girl the other day who wants to get into the business: “You’re going to take my job in a couple years, and I totally understand it.” In a couple years there’s going to be another 24-year-old hot chick that used to be a cheerleader at Oregon who wants to get into sports broadcasting. That’s the way it goes.
When I’m doing Fox Sports Live I try to think of myself as a viewer: If the topic is basketball, I don’t want to hear what the random blonde chick at the end of the desk has to say. I can add things here and there and ask questions, but I should be the ombudswoman. I should ask questions that, if I’m sitting at home, I would want some followup on.
I’m the youngest of three. My parents were 23 and had three kids under the age of five. My mom was like, “I don’t care, just name her something.” So my dad is like, “Well I got this name: Charissa.” She says, “Where did you get that?” and he’s like, “Uh, Sports Illustrated?” But it wasn’t until later that he told her it was the swimsuit edition. She was some redhead. I actually like it now. It’s original.
When the recession hit my dad asked me to do a few commercials for his car dealership. So it started out as me helping him out for a little bit, but then it just kept going. He kept asking me to do them, and I said, “Dad I need creative control, because even I make fun of these commercials.” Eventually he started paying me, and I saved up all the money and ended up giving it back to him to help my parents with the beach house they were building on Hood Canal.
Now I keep the money.
Sometimes I cringe at what I say on Extra: “Kim Kardashian dyed her hair blonde!” I wanna shoot myself when I read that, because I couldn’t care less what color her hair is. But I understand that some people do.
Marshawn is very charismatic and has a great personality. And every other word out of his mouth is something inappropriate, so he’s better served not speaking. But I like him.
On Fox Sports, for better or worse, I can be me. I look completely different on Extra than I do on Fox Sports Live. I have a wig of fake extensions on Extra. It’s not cute. But that’s what my boss wants, and growing up my dad would say, “The coach is always right.” So if the coach of your show wants you to have long hair, then you get long hair.
I gamble a lot on sports. I understand somebody saying, “How are you allowed to do that if you’re in sports?” But I’m not on the Thunder and gambling against the Thunder. I’m not Pete Rose. If I worked at ESPN, they would never let me be vocal about that, but Fox is—all jokes aside—very liberal.
I’ve started to own who I am. I’m a sports and entertainment reporter. I’m not saving the world, but I most certainly love my job. And I want to be authentic. I don’t want people to be like, “She pretends to be something she’s not.” No, I am a train wreck. I might be drunk in the afternoon on Sunday, but I will be ready to do my job on Monday.
My refrigerator consists of a bottle of wine and baking soda. I’m so pathetic. I’m never home.