Last week I caught up with Oregon alum and current Celtics reporter Amanda Pflugrad in downtown Boston. Amanda was gracious enough to work around her busy schedule and I thank her again for participating in the interview/podcast. You can listen to the full audio above, or read an abbreviated transcript of our conversation.
Let's start at the beginning. You're a senior applying to colleges. Was there any other school you were seriously considering?
I was living in Washington at the time, so I looked at Washington and Washington State and also Arizona and ASU. But the one I was really high on was Montana. I took the campus tour and thought 'I could see myself here.'
What other sports did you play growing up? Any other you considered doing in college?
The one I would've considered had I stuck with it was gymnastics. My mom was a gymnast at Oregon State and she got me involved from when I was five. I did it for about ten years. I decided to step away from it and played soccer, basketball and ran track pretty much throughout high school. Then I did cheer for basketball season my junior year and quit soccer for cheering my senior year. So cheer pretty much took over from there.
What is the scholarship situation like in cheerleading?
Cheerleading was not full scholarship, it wasn't a full ride sport at Oregon. What they would do, is they honored us with scholarships if we were a junior or senior, so we would get a little stipend.
One thing people wouldn't expect as far as the time commitment cheering for a big-time college?
Oh, I considered cheering a full-time job. It really taught me to get things done when I had any time. I'd have classes in the morning through the afternoon, then we'd usually have an evening practice. (About 5:30-6) I'd drive to the Mo and we'd practice for about two or three hours, depending on what we had to work on. I'd get home and make dinner, and from there I'd either be in the library studying, working on a project, or going to the journalism lab to finish up some stuff.
You had the best seat in the house for every game. Do you have a favorite Duck sports memory?
It's really hard to pinpoint it down. I think my entire sophomore season because my brother was playing wide receiver while my dad was the receivers coach. It just made Saturdays extra special and to feel that excitement after a win. That was probably the highlight of it, being able to be that incorporated with my family.
Around that time you were doing reporting packages and internships. Do you remember what your first assignment was?
From the broadcasting side, one of the first packages I remember was that they banned smoking on campus at Lane Community College so I went to talk to the people that were being affected by it. I was literally out there all day, and I was getting close-up shots of the cigarettes and people smoking, talking to smokers and getting their opinions. And they probably thought I was the most random person, like 'can I get another shot of that? Can I get you to take another puff of that?'
I mention the cat fashion show that Veronica Corningstone had to report on in Anchorman. Anything like that?
I did one at Fox Sports Arizona. It was bring your dog to the ballpark day. I enjoyed that one but it was a fun, goofy one that you could kind of play with and just interact. Another thing I did in school was we had to do a music video for a project once, so I lip-synched to Beyonce's "Sweet Dream" and that's probably the thing I can be blackmailed for.
Richard Sherman had his rant while being interviewed by Erin Andrews post-game a few years ago. What was your initial reaction to that and how do you think you'd react in the same situation?
I thought she handled it very well. Everyone that I was with was freaking out watching it. But I think she did a good job of following up and trying to figure out why he was so fired up. You definitely have to be prepared for everything, and I would just hope to be able to respond with that same composure.
Regardless of sport athletes don't seem like they want to talk in-game. Do you ever get frustrated by getting one-word answers?
For me, I try to respect the athletes when they're in game mode because they're not in interview mode. They're focused on competing and improving. I think that can attest to there being difficulties in broadcasting with a one-word answer. Maybe follow up on an individual conversation you had with them pre-game, where they can say "Oh yeah I did say that, I can talk about that." Just really trying to draw it out of them.
How much different do you notice their demeanor at practice and workouts and how much easier do you find it to talk to them?
Pre-game the guys are really focused. You understand, but you also have to do your job. But when you see them at practice, maybe a few days before a game, they're really loose and making jokes. But when it's game time, it's game time.
Do you have a dream interview subject of yours? Anyone you've already gotten to interview?
Probably right now, I'd love to do a sit down with (Steph) Curry. I always find it so interesting when someone's at the top of their game, how they've gotten there, and what the thought process is to remain at the top.
Tom Hanks I got to interview at Muhammad Ali's celebrity fight night, which I covered for two years while at Fox Sports Arizona. He was a really nice guy, and it was fun to just see him as a person. So that was definitely a fun one.
Is there anything you'd turn down in the industry? Would you go cover NASCAR?
I've covered quite a few sports, just from starting out and trying to get the reps. You can challenge yourself every time you cover something new, and it also shows your versatility. I would not be opposed to NASCAR or anything different. Even Travel Channel I would love to do. Anything I think would be fun and I would want to learn about I would do.
What's lost on the average fan as far as the differences between reporting for football and basketball?
When you're covering one sport (like with the NFL) you're preparing that whole week for that weekend's game. Meanwhile with the NBA, you cover one game and then you're onto the next. If it's a back-to-back you're literally getting ready for the next opponent. And just how fast basketball games go compared to football, but there's always a transition. I've been in the NBA so I know what's going on in the sport and around the league, so if you just go to cover a (football) game sideline on a Saturday, you don't have as much of the rich information that you would have had you been able to go to those practices.
Craig Sager getting the SI cover really exposed a lot of people to what goes into a reporter's typical day. What's a typical (game) day for you in-season?
First off, I want to say I love that he got the cover, very well-deserved. I come in at 8:30 to the office, I would be doing a hit, usually it's about a minute about an update on the team. Just any injury updates or quotes that I've gathered and put that together. After I tape that we have a production meeting at noon, for the 30 minute pre-game show. We discuss what we want to do, (I format the whole show). I put in what we want for features, different breaks that we have, what we talk about at the top of the show and what we're going to be closing with.Then I go back to my desk and write the script for the show. I pretty much tape my timeline of what I'm going to do, give it to everyone on our team, telling them these are the features we're going to run, etc. Pre-game I interview Brad Stevens and the opposing coach. And then I come back, host the 30 minute pre-game show. Then I eat and that's very important! As fast as I can. I go watch the game, post-game we do the Brad Stevens press conference I go in the locker room and grab sound for all the guys. Come back and shoot a recap video, and an analysis video we do with one of our analysts. Shoot that, and then I tell the editors what sound bites I want. And then I get home around 12 or 1 (in the morning). So those are really long days.
Are you on a one-season contract? How does that work?
With broadcasting you're full-time or you have the option to freelance. You're going from job to job, you have the luxury to say no to things (with freelancing). When you're contracted, you're with the team and right now I have a two-year contract with the Celtics.
Do you have to get six month leases given the nature of the industry?
When I started out, I had all four or six month leases. I did that for maybe, two years. Just because I felt I had to, I couldn't commit. When you're really trying to get the reps and the experience you go wherever. Now that I'm in Boston I think this is the first time I've actually had a year lease!
How hard is it to keep up with Oregon sports while traveling so much?
I try to catch it whenever I can, whenever I'm home. A lot of the time I'm getting back late, like 2 in the morning. On social media I'll scroll for updates. If I'm at a bar that has the game, then I'll get to watch. I try to be as supportive as I can. But it's interesting the biggest thing for me is that Boston doesn't really have a college sports scene. I'm like 'college football! Let's go!' And everyone else is like "We have the Patriots!"
At Oregon, that's what everyone lives for. The town shuts down on game day, it's just very different.
What about opportunities to go back? How often do you get to go back?
Not enough. I don't get back nearly as much as I want to and I always love going back. I'll probably plan a weekend in August to go. You get to see how the place that shaped you and where you feel you grew up; it's a part of you. I always feel I come back more whole as cheesy as that sounds, whenever I go home.
Your take on the recruiting struggles in Oregon sports lately?
I think, right now it is probably harder to recruit, because you're competing with the hotbeds (Texas, Cali,Fla) and the SEC. And I think even the coaching changes, just with Scott Frost leaving for UCF. It probably didn't help that Oregon fell out of the top 25 this past season.
What's next? Any plans before you get back to the sideline?
I actually just got back from Texas, covering cliff diving for Fox Sports 1. That was a lot of fun, really intense sport. It's crazy to see what the athletes can do. And I'll just be in Boston for the summer pretty much, doing draft coverage and going to summer league in Salt Lake City and Las Vegas.
Thanks again for doing this and good luck with everything in the future.
Of course. Thanks for having me.