Mon Aug 31 07:16pm EDT
After a month-and-a-half out of the spotlight, wounded and patron saint of blog hits Erin Andrews has done the Oprah thing, which you may watch in all its weepy yet empowering glory when it hits airwaves next Tuesday. (Of course you'll be watching anyway; just a head's up.) More importantly for our purposes, though, E.A. will be making her triumphant return to the sideline for Thursday night's N.C. State-South Carolina kickoff, her first live appearance since the infamous peephole video raced around the Web last month:
Andrews will be reporting from the sidelines Thursday when ESPN televises the college football season opener between South Carolina and host N.C. State. She last appeared on the network as part of its ESPY Awards broadcast July 19. Network officials, who will accompany her to N.C. State, said she had a scheduled vacation through September and was not off the air because of the taping incident.
It seems safe to say that she would have been off the air no matter what she had scheduled following the uproar over the ultimate invasion of her privacy -- some of which amplified that invasion -- if only because she was being hounded by paparazzi. (Entertainment Tonight was denied credentials to cover her return.) But also because, frankly, watching her is going to make a lot of regular viewers feel a little bit creepy. The once-harmless leering at home seems destined to be either replaced by or at least dripping with awkwardness and minor guilt from anyone who ever acknowledged her attractiveness. Players will keep their distance. Lighthearted banter with the guys in the booth is going to seem a little forced no matter how smoothly it comes off; when she chases after coaches for a halftime interview, there will be a little voice wondering, "Do you think he saw the video?" Because deep down, her colleagues are not appreciably different than the leering jerks at home -- no doubt they've looked, brushed, fantasized, possibly commented in some way, because there are no known exceptions to this pathological male behavior. Still, a large part of Andrews' appeal as a sex symbol was always that she wasn't actually a sex symbol at all, not really, and the fact that she was made into one in such a ghastly, illegal way, against her will, is going to make her charming girl-next-door persona a nonstarter for many, many viewers.
Or that's the first quarter, anyway. With any luck, Andrews' underrated professionalism will carry the day and a relieved audience can shelve its chauvinism with minimal squirming. But it's liable to be a quiet little psychodrama there for a few minutes.