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Veteran sportscaster CJ Silas penned No Girls Allowed, an unflinching look into gender discrimination in sports media. Pictured is Silas during a live broadcast with CBS Sportsline in San Diego, during the 1998 Superbowl.
PHOTO COURTESY OF CJ SILAS
CJ Silas interviews sports reporter Ahmad Rashad in 2004. While the men she worked with tended to make work miserable, she writes, listeners appreciated her unique take on sports talk.
PHOTO COURTESY OF CJ SILAS
CJ Silas (left), pictured on the set at ESPN in 1992, writes of this photo, “With one of my closest friends and biggest supports, Shireen Saski, or as I like to call her, ‘me.’”
PHOTO COURTESY OF CJ SILAS
Former ‘Sports Bite’ host can still be heard locally as she’s Cal Poly’s PA announcer for baseball
By: Joshua D. Scroggin
Author recounts battling her way into sports radio’s ‘boys’ club’
By: Patrick S. Pemberton
Sports radio host C.J. Silas celebrates 2 SLO County milestones — and shares her dream job
By: Nick Wilson
By Joshua D. Scroggin
When C.J. Silas was 6 years old, her grandmother took her to her first Los Angeles Dodgers baseball game, where she received an introduction to her all-time favorite player, barrier-breaker Jackie Robinson.
Having smashed through some ceilings of her own throughout a 20-year broadcasting career, Silas, 44, is still attending baseball games. Only these days, she’s the one giving the introductions.
One of few women to have hosted a nationally syndicated network sports talk radio show, Silas left her last stop, San Luis Obispo station ESPN 1280, in 2008 to work on a book of memoirs and her marriage.
She’s stayed active in the community by volunteering and working for the local Red Cross and by skating for Central Coast Roller Derby.
Though off the air since she stopped appearing on 1280’s “Sports Bite,” Silas can still be heard as the public address announcer for the Cal Poly baseball team, which returns home to face Long Beach State tonight after a two-week Big West Conference road trip.
Recently divorced and happily employed full time by the Red Cross, an organization she first got involved with during a break from radio to help vounteer in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Silas said she would not be opposed to a future return to sports talk.
She was disappointed that Robinson, who broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball, did not live to see Barack Obama become the first black president of the United States.
In her book, which she continues to shop to publishers, Silas draws parallels to Robinson and herself, a woman who worked hard to become a known commodity in the male-dominated world of sports talk.
“I want to be alive when that first woman becomes the Howard Stern, Jim Rome on radio,” Silas said. “I don’t have to be that woman. Of course, I would love to be that woman who makes it and has my own network for 10 years and I pick my producers and I get to schedule everything and people really believe in what I do.”
A Syracuse communications graduate, Silas began her broadcasting career as a production assistant and field producer for ESPN and ESPN2 in the early 1990s. She moved on to various radio hosting and sideline reporting jobs in the late 1990s before landing her biggest break — a two-year stint as the co-host of Fox Sports Radio’s “Afternoon Drive” beginning in 2004.
While many women continue to rise to fame in sports media as sideline reporters and news readers, Silas joined a select group to have hosted their own national sports opinion show, a collection that also includes Nanci Donnellan, best known by her title of “The Fabulous Sports Babe.”
To a lot of people, women sports hosts “are a breath of fresh air,” said Mike Chellsen, the general manager and owner of ESPN 1280. “It also opens it up to more female listeners. A lot more women would listen to sports radio, not that they can’t with male hosts, but I think it opens up the door and tells them, ‘Hey, it’s all right.’
“Even before Suzy Kolber and Erin Andrews, C.J. was a real pioneer in that way.”
Prior to former KSBY sports broadcaster Dave Alles joining the “Sports Bite,” Silas co-hosted with former Cal Poly basketball player Mike Wozniak.
Silas severed with Fox in 2005, then was brought on by Chellsen to co-star on the “Sports Bite.” Life in San Luis Obispo also freed her up to host “A.M. Gameday” on ESPN Radio’s national slate, where she also did vacation fill-ins in a role that also ended in 2008.
She said Wozniak remains her favorite co-host in a group that includes such names as Chris Myers, Chris Rose, Bryan Cox and others. As Fox Sports Radio paired her with a revolving door of partners during her tenure, the show began to be known as “The Drive with C.J. Silas.”
“I just didn’t want to turn into a sidekick,” Silas said. “I don’t mind being the second in a co-host host role. It’s less work, you don’t have to worry about turning things on and off and producers screaming, but I didn’t want to turn into a sidekick because I’d worked so hard in my life to be a strong, knowledgeable, entertaining, confident, emotional, opinionated woman that made people feel and think.
“Because that’s always what I wanted to do.”
Published: Friday, Apr. 30, 2010
Updated: 11:45 pm Thursday, Apr. 29, 2010
By Patrick S. Pemberton | email@example.com
Patrick S. Pemberton The Tribune
A sports nut since she was six years old, CJ Silas dreamed of a career that would allow her to talk about sports.
But sports radio — the best forum for talking sports — is a fraternal club, she said, in which women are routinely objectified, undermined and discouraged from joining.
“The only female that does national talk is Amy Lawrence — and she does it on a fill-in basis,” Silas said. “There’s not a woman with her own show. There hasn’t been, except for me, and I never did it very long.”
Not long at one station, anyway. For over 20 years, Silas talked sports in a variety of markets across the country, culminating with national gigs at ESPN Radio Network and Fox Sports Radio. Yet, her career, as she writes in her book “No Girls Allowed: The Jock and Jill Mentality of Sports Broadcasting,” (Max Q Enterprises , $28.95) was marked by struggles to be accepted — struggles she compares to Jackie Robinson’s when he broke baseball’s color barrier in the 1940’s.
“It’s a book about someone like Jackie — doing what you want to do no matter how much people don’t want you to do it,” she said.
During Silas’s career, she interviewed many larger than life sports figures, including Charles Barkley, Pete Sampras, Alonzo Mourning, Tommy Lasorda and John Wooden. And her life has featured some interesting asides — like the fact that she was on the cast of TV’s “Fame,” turned doubleplays with softball teammate Ron Goldman before covering his accused murderer’s trial, and dropped everything to volunteer to help Hurricane Katrina victims in New Orleans. But the book focuses — as the title suggests— on the challenges that confront any woman who wants to venture into sports radio.
Silas’s love of sports began when she was a child, growing up in Los Angeles.
“I felt most confident when I had a ball in my hand or a glove,” she said at a coffee shop near her Shell Beach home. “And when I was old enough to realize that I probably wasn’t going to play professional sports, I knew I liked to talk — so why not talk about sports?”
After graduating from Syracuse, she pursued that dream. But while there were a few women doing TV sports — mostly as sideline reporters — Silas couldn’t find female peers interested in making a living in sports broadcasting.
“I was constantly the only female in the room, at press conferences, on sidelines, in the press box, or courtside at basketball games,” she wrote of her time covering sports as a student at Syracuse.
Later, while working at radio stations, she wrote, coworkers frequently made sexual comments about women — both on air and off — often rating them. When she was on air, she added, male coworkers attempted to humiliate her, playing clips of tennis player Monica Seles’s grunting or the sound of crickets chirping in the background whenever she spoke. And she was frequently ignored at meetings, even when she was the host or co-host of a show.
“It wears on you when you have to battle every day to keep your emotions in check,” she wrote.
Silas’s decision to not name offenders or many of the stations where she worked takes some of the power out of her story — and makes it difficult to follow her career, which had many stops. But she says she wanted to avoid legal trouble — and that she didn’t want the book to be viewed as retaliation.
“If I put their names in it, then I’m resentful, and I’m whiny and I’m complaining,” she said. “If I don’t, I’m just telling my story.”
Silas also declined to delve into behind-the-scenes stories about celebrity athletes and their lifestyles.
“It’s not a tell-all,” Silas said, noting that she purposely avoided relationships with professional athletes. “It’s not going to be tabloid journalism. I think my stories are going to market themselves. And if they don’t, they don’t — but I didn’t want to lower myself.”
After working radio in places like Nebraska, Miami and Seattle and stints with Fox and CBS SportsLine, Silas wound up in San Luis Obispo, working as an on-air personality at Sunny Country, 102.5 FM, before pursuing a bigger opportunity at an all-sports network in Los Angeles.
Yet, it didn’t take long before she wasn’t welcome there, either.
“I went for this big opportunity, where I was making six figures, and my fourth day in, I already find out they don’t want me,” she said.
When that job fell through, she worked with local ESPN affiliate 1280 AM. Using her contacts, she interviewed guests like Dan Patrick, Steve Kerr and Mike Tarico. But while she enjoyed that job, she couldn’t resist pursuing an opportunity as a fill-in host at the ESPN Radio Network — another move that offered false promise.
By 2008, she was out of radio, working full-time with Red Cross — until she was laid off, with other co-workers, last spring.
Today, she’s focusing on marketing her book, sending copies to newspapers, TV shows and radio stations. In an ideal world, Silas acknowledges, she’d love for someone to hear her promote her book on a radio show and offer her another gig. But she wrote the book, she said, to teach others about the profession from a woman’s point of view.
“I would love this to bring me back,” she said. “But I didn’t do it to get back on radio.”
CJ Silas interviews former NFL quarterback Joe Theisman at the American Century Celebrity Golf Tourn
A familiar Central Coast voice behind the sports radio, public address and play-by-play microphone is celebrating big milestones this year. This season, C.J. Silas marks 20 years at Cal Poly as the baseball program’s public address announcer and 10 years as host of “The C.J. Silas Show” on ESPN Radio 1280. As if that weren’t enough, Silas recently finished her 10th year as Allan Hancock College’s football play-by-play announcer, where she also is the public address announcer at baseball and softball games. Read more at: https://www.sanluisobispo.com/sports/article257900673.html#storylink=cpy