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July 27, 2018

Philly-bred Andrea Kremer, hall of fame bound, blazed trail for women in sports

Andrea Kremer wasn’t about to hide anything. What was there to be discreet about? She earned it. Though, in the early 1970s, it did stir a brief current of curiosity throughout the Kremer household on early autumn Monday afternoons. Clare Kremer would invariably raise an eyebrow each time Andrea, her teenaged, blonde-pigtailed daughter, came bounding home from Friends Select School with a small wad of cash in her hands.

A few weeks went by when, finally, Clare asked her daughter: “Where are you getting this money from?”

Today, Andrea Kremer, the award-winning sports journalist from Philadelphia, laughs at the recollection. Andrea was using her significant football acumen to clean up on the weekly football pools. Soon, her father, I. Raymond Kremer, then a prominent Philadelphia attorney who later would become a Common Pleas judge, was hitting up his little girl for inside NFL info for his office pool.

That’s where it all began, amid a myriad of pasted newspaper clippings, a love for Larry Csonka and the Miami Dolphins, two encouraging parents and a boundless resource of energy and determination.

This weekend, Kremer’s amazing broadcasting journey will be honored in Canton, Ohio, when she’s inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, adding more history to her history-making career. She’s part of the 2018 Hall of Fame class that includes Eagles’ all-time great Brian Dawkins, Ray Lewis, Randy Moss, Bobby Beathard, Brian Urlacher, Robert Brazile, Jerry Kramer and Terrell Owens. With the exception of Brazile and Jerry Kramer, Kremer covered all of their careers.

While no doubt thousands of jubilant Eagles’ fans will flock to Canton to witness Dawkins’ induction, it can’t be lost that Kremer is the only one actually from Philadelphia being inducted.

Kremer, 59, is quintessential Philadelphia. She’s tenacious, personable, humble, driven—and defiant, in the sense that when other women her age might have been checking their hair at Friends Select School and at the University of Pennsylvania, Andrea was dissecting the Pittsburgh Steelers’ fabled trap.

In June, Kremer was named the winner of the prestigious Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award, presented annually by the Pro Football Hall of Fame, which recognizes “longtime exceptional contributions to radio and television in professional football.” She becomes the 30th receipt of the Rozelle award and the second woman to win it, joining Lesley Visser, who won it in 2006.

For Kremer, the whole thing carries a surreal quality.

“Growing up, it was very different back then,” reflected Kremer, a two-time Emmy Award winner who works for the NFL Network and is a long-time correspondent on HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel. “It never, ever crossed my mind for one minute that what I’m doing now is what my life’s work would be. It just didn’t cross my mind.”

The wrong assumption is Kremer was introduced to football by her father, when it was actually the other way around. Kremer’s early Dallas Cowboys hatred was created of her own accord, not passed down like a family heirloom as it is with Eagles’ fans.

"Young girls need to see that women can be involved with football in their own capacity and make an impact, and to make a difference.”

It was young “Andee” who introduced her parents to the game, convincing them to buy Eagles’ season tickets and enduring some dreadful Eagles teams in the 1970s at Veterans Stadium. She remembers vividly the 1980 NFC championship game when Wilbert Montgomery ran wild against the Cowboys—and recalls being devastated when the Dolphins lost to Dallas, 24-3, in Super Bowl VI. She recollects how elated she was when the undefeated 1972 Dolphins came back to win Super Bowl VII.

“At that time, there weren’t a lot of little girls who liked football, and my parents didn’t think that that was weird that I did,” said Kremer, co-host of “We Need to Talk,” the only all-female sports show on the CBS Sports Network. “They encouraged me. They would buy me football books. During the week of the Super Bowl, I would cut stories out in The Inquirer, [defunct] Philadelphia Evening Bulletin and the New York Times and I would paste all of those stories on pieces of paper.

“The morning of the Super Bowl, I would basically present a scouting report to my parents. I was doomed to be a PR person or a journalist. My parents thought it was okay and encouraging. That was hugely important for me that they didn’t direct me elsewhere.

“As a I started to get a little older, around 13, 14 years old, on Mondays, I would come home from school with money. A couple of weeks would go by, and finally, my mother asked, ‘Where are you getting that money from?’ I remember telling her, ‘Mom, where do you think I’m getting it from?’ I told her I was winning the pools. She was completely amused. It was my passion as a kid.”

Then the “Philly” in Kremer arises … “My oldest friends aren’t surprised by what I’m doing today. They all remember that they all got beat in the pools,” she said, laughing.

0730_Andrea_Kremer_1_HBONFL Network/Courtesy

Among a bevy of other roles, Andrea Kremer is correspondent for HBO's “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel.”

Upon graduating cum laude from Penn, Kremer created Sports Week as the sports editor for the Main Line Chronicle in the early 1980s. Armed with advice from Philly sports writing legends Bill Lyon, Ron Reid and Paul Domowitch, Kremer did everything from assigning stories, to writing stories and laying out the paper in Oxford, PA, leaning over a table using an X-Acto knife to cut out the articles and piece them together. She was writing six times a week, including a football column.

In those days, women had to get special dispensation to go into an NFL locker room on non-game days. That’s what Kremer was working against.

Her first huge break came in 1984, when she became the first female producer at NFL Films in August 1984. NFL Films had just started producing rock videos, and two producers left, creating a pair of openings. Former NFL Films vice president Bob Ryan, who had one time given Kremer a tour of the NFL Films Mount Laurel, N.J. offices, interviewed her for one of the positions.

After passing her football test and completing her three-page treatise of the Steelers’ trap, Kremer got the job, though with a caveat.

Ryan told her some people on editor’s row think it was long past the time that they should have hired a woman. However, he noted, there was still a small, crusty faction that didn’t think she belonged there.

“I remember telling Bob I wasn’t there to win a popularity contest; I was there to learn and do really good work,” Kremer recalled. “Bob Ryan, along with Steve Sabol, were my mentors who absolutely launched my career, no question about it. I owe them a lot.”

It didn’t take Kremer long to figure out who didn’t think she belonged.

She was producing segments for HBO’s Inside the NFL, cutting up video and writing. By then, Jeff Kaye had become the voice of NFL Films, replacing the recently deceased John Facenda. Kremer was still new and didn’t want to ruffle the feathers of the old guard. There was a segment about to run, and it was Kremer who found an error.

She corrected it, later to find it was put together by one of her closet detractors.

“We never went out to lunch, but he treated me differently after that,” Kremer said. “My attitude was to put my head down, do the work and prove it with your actions. My attitude was to try and keep the blinders on and stay focused on what my end goal was.”

What launched Kremer unto the front of the camera came in 1989, when she became ESPN’s first female correspondent.

“Steve Sabol put me on the air at NFL Films, but when I had an audition for ESPN, I didn’t know anything,” Kremer admits. “I had no idea how to use a teleprompter. But you know who sat with me, who worked with me, and spent time with me, Howard Eskin. He’s the one who really, really prepared me for that job interview.

“Again, here was someone who could have completely discarded me, and he didn’t. It’s why I have great respect for Howard and great affinity for him. I won’t ever forget what he did for me early in my career. People I consider Philadelphia sports legends were really helpful to me, so when the announcement came out about the Hall of Fame, Howard sent me a really nice note.

“It’s why I’m so grateful to Howard, and Bill Lyon, and Ron Reid, and Paul Domowitch. You should never forget the people that have helped you along the way.”

“It’s why I’m so grateful to Howard [Eskin], and Bill Lyon, and Ron Reid, and Paul Domowitch. You should never forget the people that have helped you along the way.”

For Eskin, it was actually easy.

“Andrea wanted to be helped, I remember how much [famed weatherman] Jim O’Brien helped me, and his attitude was always to help those who are willing to help themselves,” Eskin said. “Andrea is great. She was willing to work and didn’t want to be handed anything.

“I knew Andrea would work hard. You get lucky with hard work. Luck is the residue of hard work. Who knew I would be in TV? People see what you do and you get rewarded. Andrea was enthusiastic, energetic, and willing to learn. And she was such a natural. I helped Andrea in the beginning, but she helped herself get to where she is today. That’s the most important thing. My only regret is I won’t be able to get out to Canton to see her inducted.”

Kremer’s one disappointment about Hall of Fame weekend will be Owens’ absence. She’s had a good relationship with T.O. through the years, one time going down to Mississippi to interview his grandmother for a story. Now, Owens has opted out of attending the Canton enshrinement to instead deliver his acceptance speech at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, where he played in college.

“I feel very strongly about this,” Kremer said. “You spend your life in a team sport, regardless of how many teams that you’re with, then you go into the Hall of Fame with a new team, a team that you’re basically immortalized with. To me, whatever angst [Terrell Owens] has about the selection process, why you would disrespect your teammates is beyond me.

“That’s what I find very difficult to fathom. Because I talked to a number of guys who weren’t first-ballot Hall of Famers, and they get frustrated. They’re really frustrated and they don’t like the process. You think Harry Carson was happy about the process, no. But when you get that call, when you get that knock on the door, it kind of all goes away.

“The reality is, either you’re a Hall of Famer or you’re not. No one is keeping score whether you were on the first ballot or not. That’s what is so unfortunate about this. Terrell plays into all the stereotypes that existed about him—and that’s what I find troubling. To me, he’s trying to detract from his teammates.”

Kremer did state how important it was for her to be going in with B-Dawk, “someone who is a Hall of Fame player, who is an even better person, that sort of says it all, there’s no doubt that’s who Brian Dawkins is,” she said.

So, this Saturday at 6:30 in the morning, the broadcast pioneer who was once a little girl in a blonde-pigtail winning football pools will be sitting on the back of an open-air Corvette waving to the hundreds of thousands that will line the streets of downtown Canton, Ohio, during the Hall of Fame parade route.

She’ll think back about her parents, now deceased, her son and husband, and the message she’s given to Friends Select School students when she’s come back home. She reminds them that before ESPN existed, someone like her didn’t exist—a female sports journalist.

“Even as I got a little older, the women who were doing it, groundbreakers in their own right, like Phyllis George, but her background was as Miss America; there wasn’t the role model of a female journalist who was in sports,” Kremer said. “I remember when Gayle Gardner was hired by NBC as their first fulltime female anchor. She was debuting on January 1, 1988 and I remember standing in front of the TV glued.

“My heart was literally beating fast and I was just thinking, ‘Oh my God, please be great. Please be perfect. Please, please, please,’ thinking if she did, it would open up opportunities for other women. She was. I was invited to go on the parade route, and I actually debated that. I didn’t know whether I felt comfortable doing it. I really felt like that was for the Hall of Famers.

“I was telling this to my husband and asked why. He looks at me and goes, ‘because all of the little girls that are lined up on the parade route need to see you.’ There was dead silence for a second. He was right. What if I had been that little girl waiting out there and what if I saw a woman being inducted into the Hall of Fame, what would that have meant to me?

“It’s the right thing to do. Young girls need to see that women can be involved with football in their own capacity and make an impact, and to make a difference.”

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