Golf fans have gotten used to seeing CBS Sports reporter Amanda Balionis conducting post-round interviews with players during the network’s PGA Tour coverage, but this week, she’s adding yet another big-ticket event to her already impressive roster: the Super Bowl.
Balionis has been in Atlanta all week, reporting on the run-up to the game as the Super Bowl’s first social media correspondent.
I caught up with Balionis to discuss what she’ll be doing during Sunday’s broadcast, how covering football compares to golf, and which team she thinks will take home the Lombardi Trophy.
Is this your first Super Bowl?
It is. It’s my first one.
What do you think of the match-up?
It’s going to be awesome, right? Because you have one of the most storied quarterbacks in Tom Brady, versus Jared Goff, a guy who’s trying to establish himself, really, in L.A., and the NFL in general. It’s two different teams and two very different stories. But they’re both so compelling that I think it’s going to be a really fascinating matchup.
What’s it like moving back and forth between the golf and football beats?
All week last week I really battled with, “Okay, I need to be reading every golf article I can possibly read.” And then every time I started, I was like, “No, no, no. I need to be reading every football article I can possibly read.” It was really challenging to focus for me. It’s the first time that I had a quick turnaround like this, with two very high-profile events back to back. But it’s been great. I love being challenged and I love doing new things.
Give us the details on what you’re doing this week.
The job for me this week has me bouncing back and forth between really fun lifestyle pieces and also some hard-hitting reporting on the Patriots. So it’s been a full 360 experience.
You also have a new title!
Yes. I’m the first-ever social media correspondent for CBS for the whole week. And then on top of that, I’m also doing features and media availability interviews for all of our pregame shows throughout the week as well. So, for instance, we went to the aquarium yesterday, and we had so much fun with the sea lions and the seals. And they gave us their Super Bowl picks, so I was very much in my element there. And then from there, went to the Patriots’ hotel for their media availability. And then I was reporting on their first practice of the week here in Atlanta. So that’s kind of what my whole week looks like, doing stuff like that.
And how about on Sunday?
On Sunday I will be on the field doing a behind-the-scenes look on our social media platform. So people can see, “Hey, what’s Tracy Wolfson doing on the sidelines? What’s Evan Washburn doing?” And as a sideline reporter, I think a lot of times it’s talked about, and we can tell people how hard it is. But how could a viewer ever really understand what’s going on until someone gives them a behind-the-scenes look at how many miles these guys are walking, back and forth? And how they get their injury reports. It never stops for them. There’s just so much that goes into it, so I probably can’t even do it justice, but that’s what I’ll be doing on Sunday: trying to provide an alternate angle on a different platform of things that hopefully people are interested in and maybe don’t know about.
You’ve said before that you look to Jim Nantz for advice. What has he told you about this week?
You can be pulled in a lot of different directions on a week like this. There are parties every night. There are people in the industry that you don’t usually get to see that want to meet up. And Jim gave me great advice. Like, “Hey, when you really need to buckle down and get your information down, lock yourself in the room, order room service and don’t come up for air until you’re confident.” And it seems like such an easy thing, but it was really kind of nice to have that permission to say, “You know what? Maybe I know it’s not right for me to go to parties every single night.” It’s sometimes hard to say no to those invitations. But it’s okay to say no and do what you have to do to be the best version of yourself for the viewers at home.
How does covering football — and especially the Super Bowl — compare to covering golf?
It could not be any more different. I mean, even just down to the logistics of golf, I’m at the same spot or two spots the entire week. And you have time to prepare, do the research, get your questions ready. It’s a very organized process. With football, it’s not so organized. On any given play a player can go down and be injured. At any given time something just crazy can happen, and you’re constantly having to pivot. I would say golf, for the most part, you know what’s going to happen, what’s coming. And really the only time you have to pivot is when maybe a player gives you an answer that you weren’t expecting, and you need to build off that answer. But in football, it feels like, “All right. I’m going to prepare and get all the information I can possibly get,” but that might all be thrown out the window at any given time, depending on what happens the minute we step on the field. So it’s different, but they’re both so much fun.
What are you most excited about as we approach Sunday?
I’m pumped to be on the sidelines and to watch Tracy and Evan work. They’re two of the best in the whole business when it comes to that position. And so I’ve really been trying to take this entire week as a learning experience. Who can I listen to? Who can I learn from? Who can I ask questions to? Now, I’m not gonna be asking them any questions on Sunday. I’m going to be watching like a creep in the background most of the time. [Laughs] But honestly, just being able to watch how they do their jobs so well. And just to have the experience to be on that football field, that was always a bucket-list item to me.
Are you allowed to give us a winner’s prediction?
Probably not. [Laughs] Everyone keeps asking me and I’m like, “I’m just rooting for a really great game.” Well, a great game, and a great halftime performance.