NFL

All Access: Romo is leader by example

Pam Oliver interviews Cowboys QB Tony Romo.
Pam Oliver interviews Cowboys QB Tony Romo.
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Pam Oliver

Since joining the NFL on FOX team in 1995, Pam Oliver has established herself as one of the premier sports reporters on network television. She contributes feature stories and sideline reports for "FOX NFL Sunday" and reports from the NFL on FOX's top game.

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Preparing for FOX’s top game this week, featuring the 2-1 Cowboys hosting the surprising 3-0 Lions, I had all my ducks firmly in a row.

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I’d already watched Dallas’ Monday night game and had typed up my notes on it. Check.

Tuesday morning, I viewed the Lions’ crazy come-from-behind overtime win against the Vikings. Check.

Then it was on to reading articles from the previous day, knowing I had to go back several weeks to get a true sense of each team, given it would be our first time announcing either one of them this season. But that’s something I’d do after dinner and after some play time with my three hounds and before Tuesday’s really BIG event. Yes, my day had been planned very carefully. I’ve got a date with a DVR, while the hubby holed up in his man cave. Hell-o "Parenthood!’"

Then the phone rings. It’s a little after 7 p.m. and I notice it’s the FOX NFL Sunday Pregame Show producer and he's blurting things out. All I really hear is this: Need. Dallas. Romo. Terry. Lead and Tag. Yeah. Speak soon. Pammy.

Huh? What?

I’ve been summoned to pinch hit for my friend and NFL Hall-of-Famer Terry Bradshaw, who’s probably ripped off a thumb and forefinger ropin’ something or why else couldn’t he go to sit-down interview with Dallas quarterback Tony Romo? They’re practically next door neighbors. Turns out Terry’s got the cooties.

I was a mere three hours away from watching the latest episode of the haps in the lives of the Bravermans and now I’m rummaging through a Spanx drawer, scrambling to get myself ready for a 1:30 p.m. shoot the next day in Dallas, where Terry happens to live. Or is that Hawaii?

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Parenthood’s Sarah Braverman will have to let her daughter Amber move on with her life, Max will learn that his new mainstream school rocks and Julia will find out that you can’t just go around plotting to buy the latte girl’s unborn baby "cause you hear she’s giving it up for adoption." They’ll have to figure it out for themselves, without the benefit of my viewership this week.

Anyway, the 1:30 interview turns into a 1 p.m. interview, which finally becomes a 12:50 interview, which Romo shows up for exactly on time. He’s solo, unhandled by an anxious PR person who wants to make sure everything is just so. I find out later that we sat him in a chair from the television studio that had to be jimmy-rigged. The thing could have gone down at any minute, putting the quarterback with his broken rib and freshly healed punctured lung at risk of tumbling into a heap. If that happened, I personally would have blamed Bob, the audio guy.

I’m mindful of his fractured rib and so is he … so we do a sideways hug when we greet like two little kids who don’t really understand the concept or point of a hug; get in, get out quick, release. He’s smiling and laughing and is in good spirits. I become obsessed that he’s obsessed that he’s not breathing well, because someone took a sledge hammer to his ribcage a couple of weeks ago.

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Then, I asked the stupidest thing: "How are you feeling?"

I should have been asking myself, what are you thinking for asking that stupid question?

“It’s just part of playing. I keep getting better each week that goes by and this week will be no different,” Romo says.

That’s what I get.

We have a much better Q&A segment about leadership and how he’s learned to be one. The trouble I’ve seen Romo run into as a would-be leader is with his no-account followers. Some veteran players figured Romo had no resume to school them on anything. I remember that one particularly ugly playoff loss in Minnesota a few years back and Romo ventured down to say a quick word to the defense before it took the field about Brett Favre’s body language. The group told him to vamoose and I’ve cleaned it up considerably. It was very awkward.

"It’s just like high school. If you’re a freshman or a sophomore, it’s hard to tell the seniors who’ve been through two, three, playoff games what to do," Romo said. "So you have to wait your turn in some capacity, in that once you get your skins on the wall, once you have the experience of being in games, once you’ve had some success, that’s when all that stuff comes together. It just takes time."

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And a younger cast of players, like the Cowboys are slowly assembling.

Romo doesn’t let our time go by without slamming on Bradshaw a little bit. Come to think of it, Terry did keep going on about a donkey or a camel on the pre-game show last week. Maybe there was some sort of mishap that explains why he couldn’t show up for the Romo shoot.

I told Romo that he’s been around lots of guys and that knowing football the way he does, he’d also know that some guys just won’t play unless their manicure is just right.

"Well, we can’t all be Terry Bradshaw," Romo said.

Nice one, Romo.

Tagged: Cowboys, Tony Romo

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