One of Tracy Wolfson’s first assignments when she was starting out as a production runner at CBS Sports was to pick up Mike and Mickie Krzyzewski from the airport. She spent the weekend that followed with Coach K and his wife, and years later, when she got on-air and went to cover her first Duke game, she went over to Mickie in the stands to see if she remembered her old airport companion. “Oh, my God, I can’t believe it!” Mickie said, marveling at Wolfson’s change-in-station.
Wolfson doesn’t share the story just to puff herself up. Building relationships with interviewees over time is critical to the job of sideline reporter, and Wolfson believes this wayback bond with the Krzyzewskis helped her get something out of Coach K when others couldn’t always manage it. Like when she interviewed the legend following his final game bossing the Blue Devils, a crushing loss to arch enemy North Carolina in the Final Four.
That’s one of quite a few sports-historical moments that Wolfson has witnessed from a few yards away across a career covering NCAA basketball (she was courtside for—and blown away by—that Villanova championship buzzer-beater), SEC football (she was there for Auburn’s Kick Six), and of course the pinnacle: the National Football League. Tracy Wolfson has covered three-and-a-half Super Bowls now—more on that below—and she’ll be in Las Vegas on Sunday when the Kansas City Chiefs battle the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl LVIII. She’s served up plenty of stories along the way, but she still has a few to tell—about Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, and what it’s like to try to interview Bill Belicheck at halftime.
You were out in Buffalo for the Chiefs’ visit—did you get hit with any snowballs like Patrick Mahomes?
Of course! On the Chiefs’ sideline, no doubt. Actually, my sideline producer got hit in the head. The security for the Chiefs were livid. They were calling the NFL. They were yelling at the fans.
We had it two weeks in a row, because we were there for the delayed game as well, with a lot more snow in the stands. The snow fireworks—that was one of the coolest things I witnessed. Lights out, late night game, snow flying.
Was that the most challenging environmental situation you’ve had?
If I did the Kansas City with the -25, that would have been a whole ‘nother world. My coldest game was a Pittsburgh-Miami game. It was a Wild Card game years ago. That was -10 with the windchill, and there’s not much you can do.
Actually, Aaron Rogers is one of the people who’s told me how to prepare my feet. Lesley Visser—veteran, been around the block—she gave me a lot of hints. But [Rodgers], being in Green Bay for so long, told me how to keep your feet warm, and that’s the key. Keep your feet warm and your head warm, but then your face is exposed, and you just try and keep your mouth warm, because otherwise you try and go to speak and you’re like, Murrr! You can’t move. It doesn’t come out right.
Does your mouth actually freeze up?
Yeah, because it’s not like Jim [Nantz] and Tony [Romo], where you’re talking throughout the entire game. You’re talking maybe every 30 minutes if you’re lucky. All of a sudden, you go to talk and your mouth just doesn’t move.
Do you try and lurk near the heaters they have for the teams?
You do, but all the players are around them, and it does mean going into their area, and you’re not allowed in there. But certain teams, you have good relationships, and I sneak in quickly and run out. They have chicken broth and hot chocolate on the sideline. They’re always giving that to you if you want it.