Only Girl in the Room: A Memoir By CJ Silas

Book Overview...

Only Girl in the Room: A Memoir By CJ Silas

 To introduce myself: I am C. J. Silas (Carolyn Jo Silas) After growing up in Suburban Los Angeles, I spent more than twenty years in sports radio and television. 

I began at University of Southern California in the Bachelor of Fine Arts Program, then left school for a regular role on the TV series ‘Fame.’ It was back to school two years later to Syracuse University, my choice because it was well known for the many sports broadcasting graduates who’d succeeded in the business. I worked at the local NPR station for all three years I was in college. I also worked for a local sports TV show as a reporter.

While in New York I began my career as a baseball stadium public address announcer for minor league affiliates of the Toronto Blue Jays and the New York Yankees. I became the first ever woman in that position in professional baseball. I finished at Syracuse and immediately got a job at ESPN in Bristol, Connecticut as a Production Assistant. It happened so quickly that I didn’t even have time to go to my college graduation ceremony.

After nearly two years at ESPN, I left for a TV reporting job at a local NBC affiliate in Hastings, Nebraska. I went to Hastings for a TV sports reporting job, but when I arrived I was informed that I would be covering news instead of sports. It was a classic “bait and switch.” Still, I tried to make it work, but left Hastings after some harsh treatment from a harassing News Director.
I went to Los Angeles to help out with the launch of ESPN’s second TV station and Jim Rome’s Show ‘Talk2.’

While back in Los Angeles, I covered the OJ Simpson Trial for a few radio stations around the country and worked as a field producer/runner for ESPN’s West Coast Sunday Night baseball games. After a few months of appearances from the Los Angeles Courthouse during the Simpson trial, I was then hired by a sports station in Seattle as a producer and part-time talk show host. I left Seattle to pursue my first assignment as a solo sports talk show host at a station in Miami. While in Miami I went from a local station to a national internet and terrestrial radio network based in Las Vegas. I left the business all together for a couple years after a tough time in Florida with a co-host who later was in trouble wherever he went.

I moved back to Seattle and worked at a Sushi House owned by some close family friends. It was there that I rebuilt my confidence and went back into radio. I did a morning show on an FM station in Seattle and a weekend sports talk show at the same time.

I left Seattle to get closer to home and work in California doing another music morning show on an FM station on the Central Coast, near Santa Barbara.

I was hired away from that FM morning show to begin a new afternoon talk show on a 24-hour national sports radio network based in Los Angeles. I left that network after a dispute over my position as host and being demoted to co-host. Plus, I had a production staff that wanted nothing to do with me, a female in the epitome of a man’s world.

I returned to the beautiful Central Coast and worked for a new local ESPN affiliate doing the afternoon drive sports show for three years. It was there that I worked with the best partner I ever had!

I left radio three years ago to work on this memoir.

Concurrently, I am volunteering for the local Red Cross as a Public Affairs Officer and will be spending my tenth season as the Cal Poly University Baseball Stadium Announcer.

I wrote this book for a number of reasons. Most important, I’m certain that my experience is relevant. I am living proof that we can have and do anything we’d like as long as we are given the tools, confidence and support to succeed. I’d like people to understand what a woman goes through when she tackles a world that has been previously populated only by men. The Sports Media is a business run by men, covered by men and participated in by men. So far the most comfortable place to put a female is on the sidelines. I wanted more than that. I wanted a chance to have an opinion and connect with radio listeners and/or viewers. On the sidelines the women get twenty or thirty seconds to talk about a halfback’s injury or a coach’s warm-up pep talk. They have no chance to form or give an opinion. I have a lot of opinions: some positive, some negative. But I enjoy the dialogue. I thrive on making people think, feel, get angry, want to argue, want to agree or disagree and formulate their own opinions.

This book will sell because I’ve been in the business a long time. I know people and they know me. It’s a place nobody has gone before. We have seen women get blackballed in this business over and over again.
People want to know what happens when a woman goes into a locker room?

Why is it a tough job?

When is it fun? When is it comfortable or uncomfortable?

How do we as women deal with the awkward moments in the clubhouses around the country?

Who we have come into contact with in our daily job?

I have some terrific experiences with professional athletes to share in this book. I come clean about some of the yucky things that have happened to me over the years. I share the detailed truths of harassment and disrespect in radio stations and newsrooms around the country. I talk about uncomfortable work environments, including blatant sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior.

This book is not about blame, but rather about sharing my experiences: the good, the bad and the ugly. It’s not a book about name-calling or pointing fingers at certain guys in the business. I talk about what I went through without naming the people who made it so difficult. I tell my stories, but I don’t do it to hurt other people’s feelings or careers. I do it to let people inside to see what I have dealt with over the years trying to get ahead in the sports radio business.

I share stories of fun and humor too. I’ve had terrific encounters with John Daly, Bobby Bonds, Marcus Allen, Alonzo Mourning, Charles Barkley, Deacon Jones, Tommy Lasorda, NBA Commissioner David Stern and more.

I tell tales of wonderful interviews and interesting moments with Ken Griffey Jr., the late Bill Walsh, Pat Riley, John Wooden, Nolan Richardson, Gary Sheffield, George Karl, Pete Carroll, Jim Rome, Dan Patrick, Rex Hudler, Bobby Bowden, KC Jones, Jim Leyland, Steve Kerr, Michael Jordan, Hank Stram, Tiki Barber, Joe Buck, Chuck Daly, Rick Neuheisel, John Feinstein, Mack Brown, Charles Haley, Tom Flores, Coach Dale Brown, and more.

I’ve been to and covered The French Open, The World Series, Super Bowls, The MLB All Star Game, Final Fours, NBA Championships, College Bowl games, Spring Training, Midnight Madness and hundreds of regular season events as well. 

The athletes have been nothing but fun and respectful. It’s behind-the-scenes that has been difficult. I’ve spent years doing business with Sports Information Directors, Agents, and Public Relations Staff… all wonderful, respectful and fabulous. My problems happened 99% of the time in the radio stations and newsrooms with co-workers and bosses.

I’ve spent over twenty years interviewing sports personalities. And I’ve spent over twenty years behind the scenes. I’ve got a lot to share and I do it with a sense of humor. If I can’t laugh at it now, it would make for a painful life. I look back on all of trials as learning experiences. Each bad one turns into something wonderful. I use each negative to build and plan for a positive.

I believe this book will be interesting to the reading public because of all of the places I’ve been, people I’ve encountered, experiences I’ve had and stories I tell.

And along the way… I’ve been an eye-witness and/or a participant in some of the most amazing events of the last twenty-five years. I was-

1) A student at Syracuse University Newhouse School of Broadcasting when PanAm Flight 103 went down in Lockerbie Scotland, killing 270 people. Thirty-five of people were Syracuse University students who had been studying abroad as part of a University program. It was the first significant terrorist attack against Americans, and I was a firsthand witness to the University and its family’s terrible tragedy.

2) A softball teammate and friend of Ron Goldman, the “second” victim in the Nicole Brown Simpson murders. Ron was the shortstop; I played second base. After the grief and the anger, came the irony of being assigned to the courthouse as a daily correspondent for much of O.J.’s trial.

3) Living approximately one mile from the epicenter of the 1994 Northridge earthquake and struggled to locate members of my family who were scattered throughout the devastated areas surrounding me. It was my first experience with rescue, with devastation, and with the soothing effects of humor in the face of disaster.

4) A volunteer for two weeks in New Orleans immediately following Hurricane Katrina with the Red Cross. I wrangled for the homeless, the hungry, the terrified, and the hopeless. In this instance, as opposed to the ones above, I wasn’t at the affect of nature or madmen, but I was a willing participant. I had chosen to be there. 

Was it serendipity, bad luck, a cosmic joke that I was in all those places during those critical moments? I don’t know. 

Now it’s the 23 year anniversary of a painful yet exhilarating career…