Sunday, September 26, 2010

WIN Series Presents Women of ESPN - Jamie Little

Fearless and Confident

Jamie Little


I had the pleasure of speaking to Jamie Little via Skype, and I have to say that I was extremely impressed by her.

Born and raised by a hardworking single mother, Jamie was raised with a sense of strength and self-confidence. Jamie is definitely her mother’s daughter.

Her mother began as a seamstress and did very well for Jamie and herself. Over a period of time, and by breaking down walls, she became a lead dancer in a show. From her mother, Jamie learned that limitations are things we put on ourselves and that she could do anything she put her mind to. She learned these important life lessons very early.

Jamie remembers watching intently from above Harrah’s showroom as her mother, who was the star, would dance. Jamie would watch her mother in amazement, as she performed. The audience was full, applauding after each number, for her mother. When she speaks of her mother, you can hear the respect and admiration she feels for her. In Jamie’s eyes, her mother was and still is her hero.

Over a 20-minute period, I spoke with Jamie about her life, her passions and her career. After you read this interview, I know you too will be impressed by her. She is beautiful, intelligent and extreme in all that she does.


Career and education
Jamie Little was born South Lake Tahoe, Nev., in April 1978 and lived there with mom until she was 13 years old. It was then for a job opportunity (for mom) that they moved to Las Vegas. She graduated from Green Valley High in Henderson, Nev., in 1996. She went on to receive her Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism from San Diego State University in December 2001.

Jamie has been a sports reporter/journalist for ESPN and ABC since 1998, reporting at many events. In 2000, Jamie made her broadcasting debut as a reporter on NBC’s "The Gravity Games." In 2002-2003 she was employed by the SPEED Channel, covering various sporting events and championship series such as Offshore Boat Racing, Karts and Supercross. She also worked as a sideline reporter for TNT in 2002 for Slamball.

Jamie has a passion for extreme sports, which began when she was 13 years old. She became interested in dirt biking through a friend and hasn’t stopped since. Taking part in many types of extreme sports, the idea of being a sports correspondent seemed to be the natural progression of things.

Fearless in her drive to succeed, she hasn’t allowed others to place "limits" on her, nor has her mother. From riding dirt bikes to driving racecars, from boxing to working out, Jamie loves to be physically active.


A Chat with ESPN’s Jamie Little:


You dreamed of being a star at age 7. What inspired that confidence?
“I think it was being raised by a single mom who didn’t let anything stop her. She made everything happen and raised me as such a strong woman. She was a working woman and she was a showgirl. Dancing in the Cabaret shows in Lake Tahoe, she was a star in her own right. She got it on her own. She wasn’t a dancer her whole life, she had to learn to do it. She became a dancer when I was 6 years old.

When I was in second grade at parent-teacher night and we had drawn pictures of what we wanted to do when we grew up, I drew a picture of being a showgirl and I said when I grow up I want to be a star. My mom about died. Of course all the other kids wanted to be fireman and policeman and here’s me being this showgirl on a stage. It all started then. She didn’t realize with me being so young what a big impression she was making on me. I knew then I wanted to be in the lights. It's ironic how I found my way into the business. My real father was a drummer and has been all of his life. So I found my way there as well, just on a different path.”

Was your mom your inspiration growing up?

“Absolutely. She is still my number 1 hero and my number 1 fan to this day. She is my ultimate, she is my everything.”

You have a love for extreme sports from what I’ve read. Is that putting it mildly?
"Yes I’ve definitely loved action sports. I think I was 18 when the first X-Games happened. From there it just grew. I just loved the sports. My first network job was for NBC in 2000 covering as a co-host for NBC’s version of the X-Games. I was already dabbling in TV but that was a big deal for me. I was 23 at the time and I got to be on network TV. That’s really when I got to know everything about action sports. In 2002 I went to Rich Feinberg at ESPN, who is my current boss now, and tried to sell myself to him for 20 minutes. He knew who I was from racing and the things I’ve done up to then. I just told him ‘I know action sports, I promise I won’t let you down. I really want to be a part of the ESPN. Just give me a shot with the X-Games. He finally gave in and alright, we’ll give you a shot. We’ll put with the Summer X-Games and see how you do. That was 2002 and the rest is history.”

You don’t just report on them, you actually participate in them, right?
“Yes I definitely participate (laughs) in my fair share. That’s for sure. I’ve never raced Motocross professionally but I have raced mini-bike type races in front of people on little super tracks. I’ve gone skydiving, love dirt-bikes, I’m an adrenaline junkie. I absolutely love racing cars; if I wasn’t a reporter on it, I’d probably be a racecar driver. Actually I know I would be. I definitely have that bug for adrenaline. I think it shows in my work. I absolutely love it..”

What was your most memorable experience as far as a sports activity?
“I’d have to say it was probably back in 2007 when I went skydiving, my first year covering NASCAR. I wanted to do a feature with Bryan Vickers. He was going skydiving with the Red Bull Flight Crew, I think that’s what they call them. Of course through action sports I got to know alot of them. They are all so great and so crazy. So I thought, let's do it! So I went along, we brought the camera crew to Florida, right before the Daytona race. I went up there with Bryan Vickers and I tandem jumped and he went solo. We had only been in the training that morning, and we went out and did it. He knocked my socks off! It was scary enough going tandem, but him going solo … man it was just an awesome experience.”

How did your mom feel about having a "fearless" daughter?
"I stressed her out (laughs) her whole life. It's really funny because my mom is this girly girl and I have always been this tomboy. I remember one day when she came home from work. I was 14 and had gone to my first Supercross race with a bunch of my guy friends and got the autographs of all the riders. It was my first time meeting Jeremy McGrath. I just thought it was the coolest thing. When I got home, I took down all my horse posters and put up all my Motocross posters to the ceiling and my mom came home and just about died. “She said, “What the heck is this?” She couldn’t understand how I could love such a boy sport. But now she gets it. She understands that I love it and it's paid off.”

Is your job with ESPN a dream job or would that be driving?
“I’m doing my dream job. This career will last a lot longer than if I raced and I can make more money NOT racing as I'm not good enough."

What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a sports journalist?
“I’d absolutely say go for it! Don’t let anyone or thing stop you. Don’t accept any excuses such as "that’s what men do" or "it's too hard and too physical" out there in the world covering sports. If you love it, go for it! I do always tell the young women who ask that they need to find a sport that they are passionate about. I don’t care if it's snowboarding, or Motocross, or if it's NASCAR. Find one that you really love and go from there. Just study your butt off. Go to school and get your degrees in journalism, not broadcasting. You need to learn how to speak and write in order to be good on TV. If you love it and are passionate about it, it doesn’t seem like that much work. It's so much fun climbing the ranks and paying your dues isn’t as bad as it could be if you get stuck doing a sport your not passionate about.”

Have you interviewed any legends, anyone who stands out?
“Absolutely, Parnelli Jones. I got to interview him at my first Indy 500. I actually got him to cry. That was pretty amazing. His son PJ was making his first start in the 500. It was also my first time interviewing AJ Foyt. That man is the biggest legend that is living right now in racing, in my opinion. I’ve interviewed him many times over my years as a sportscaster covering the Indy cars. Honestly, everytime I interview Jeff Gordon, I know I’m interviewing a legend. One day I’m gonna look back and know that I was there when Jeff was still very competitive.”

What is your opinion on NASCARS ‘have at it boys’ policy?
I think it's great! The way I see it is that drivers at this level in NASCAR, whether it's trucks, NNS, or the Sprint Cup Series, they’re the best in the world. These guys aren’t stupid. They know how to police themselves. If they have an issue with one another, the know they’ve got to settle it. They are at the racetrack together four days a week all year long. They can’t escape one another. I think they are very capable of policing themselves. Dealing with an issue on the track or off, and I commend NASCAR for letting them do that. I think it's smarter and I think it makes the racing more exciting. We’re seeing more skuttlebutts on the track and more bumping and banging. It's more fun. It's a great idea and there is nothing wrong with it. I don’t like when sanctioning bodies try to tell their drivers or riders how to compete with one another. I don’t like that at all. I think "boys have it" is what the sport was founded on and that’s how it should be.”

Do you see anyone blowing #48 out of the #1 position?
“I think the drivers are a lot more equal this year. The competition level is the best I’ve seen it at right now. The #48 isn’t dominating like they were. There have been races where Chad Knaus really thinks they have the car to win and all the sudden the door gets closed on them. This is something they haven’t felt in the last few seasons. So there are a lot more drivers to watch for. As far as a favorite … get that a lot. I don’t necessarily have a favorite driver. But when it comes to being a reporter on the sport, there are drivers that make our lives easier and make it more enjoyable for the fans watching. Carl Edwards is one of those guys. He’s always accessible. Whether he's upset, or something bad just happened, he always makes himself available to talk about it. He’s always a gentlemen. He’s always our in-race reporter when we’ve asked. Now he’s even an analyst for us on Sports Center. He makes our job easier and he gives great content. Juan Pablo Montoya is a more challenging one as is Kyle Busch and Tony Stewart. They make it much more challenging. They make us work very hard and choose our words wisely, choose our timing wisely. Good or bad, they give us content. They are extra challenging, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.”

Anyone you see as far as women coming up into Cup?
“Obviously Danica. She’s got the best chance of any woman out there right now. That’s for multiple reasons. We’ve had four women in the IndyCar series, and there is a lot of potential over there. I love how they’ve been open … the sanctioning bodies, the team owners. That’s key. That’s how Danica has gotten where she is. Because Bobby Rahal took a chance with her. He put her in great equipment and gave her a shot. That’s what we need the owners to do on the Cup side and the NNS. My hats off to Dale Jr. and his sister for giving Danica a shot. Yeah, she brought great money and sponsors, but so do a lot of other drivers. They are giving her a chance because they know she is talented. They are willing to give her the time that it will take to adjust to that level of racing. So there are a lot of women out there. I’m great friends with Lyn St. James and I co-host her racing luncheon every year. We see so many girls and women coming up through the ranks that are just awesome. In the late model series right now, the NASCAR East or West Series, women are doing great. I think in the next few years we’re going to see more women trying to qualify for races. Even contending.”

Do you consider yourself a “Foodie”? (reference to her being on Iron Chef America)
“That’s funny that you say that. I am a foodie, a little bit. I love to cook. My mom’s a great cook. I call her a gourmet chef. I’ve learned through her. I love to cook and the opportunity arose through them coming and requesting personalities from ESPN. ESPN suggested me and I loved the opportunity. It was so much fun and I learned a lot. Just being able to do something outside the world of racing to show fans and other people who might not know about racing. It introduces them to it and maybe makes them want to watch it. I also got to do "Hell's Kitchen." It was very interesting and very different from "Iron Chef." We were just patrons of the restaurant. We sat right next to the kitchen so we could hear Chef Ramsey yelling and see him running around the kitchen with his pencil behind his ear. Screaming at the chefs and we were just cracking up. The food was good and it was fun. That was actually thanks to Bryan Vickers. He got the deal and invited a bunch of friends. I took my fiance and a group of people from racing were at the table and we had such a great time.”

What do you do to unwind, if you ever do?
“I do unwind. I love to ride my jetski. I take my boat out and ride the wake board. I work out and love to do Yoga. Love to travel even though that's my job. I spend a lot of time with family when I can. I go back to Vegas. I love to spend time with my fiance and my new puppy now."


New Puppy? What do you have?
“We rescued a Boston terrier. His name is Ike.”

Speaking of you and your fiance, have you set a date?
“Yes were getting married on Dec. 11 in Torrey Pines, San Diego.”

Do you find yourself running from the garages with the baby boom?
“We were standing on pit road at Pocono speaking to Matt Kenseth and his wife Katie walked up with their baby and I’m talking to them, playing with the baby. Then up walks Jamie McMurray and his wife with her baby bump and then her comes Krissie Newman with her baby bump ... I’m just like “Oh my gosh.” Don’t drink the water. It's really cute though. I love talking to these fathers, especially the first-time dads. They are so cute about it. Jimmie Johnson, for instance. I saw him at Indy, the first time I’d seen him since the baby was born. He’s in his car ready to pull out to the first practice session. He calls me over to the window and he said, "My baby is the coolest thing. I have a camera set up and I can see her on my phone anytime I want. I would tell Chad to bring my phone right now. I will show you after practice." He was just so thrilled to talk about it."

Jamie continued, “I talked to Ryan Newman and said what’s this with the babies, you too? Is it in the water?" He replied, "It's too many rain delays."

Photos furnished by ESPN and Jamie Little and are not for duplication. Skirts and Scuffs and Lindi Bess have expressed consent for use.

The views expressed in this post are those of the author and not necessarily those of the site or its administrators.

I’d like to thank Jamie Little for opening up to me and allowing the followers of Skirts and Scuffs into her life.

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