What if Jenn Sterger had worn something else that day? What if, back in September 2005, she’d decided to sweat it out in a pair of relaxed fit jeans and an FSU shirt she’d tie-dyed with Coors Light spills and KFC crumbs? Instead she went to a Florida State-Miami game in a bikini the size of a Walgreens receipt, aimed several ‘Whooooo!’ sounds toward a sideline camera, and — before that weekend was over — had become one of the most improbable celebrities this side of Susan Boyle’s unibrow.
Now, almost exactly five years later, Sterger is again collecting unexpected publicity after a pair of voicemails and several photographs she allegedly received from Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre were sold to Deadspin.com. The messages were from 2008, when Sterger and Favre were both with the New York Jets; in them he — again, allegedly — called to invite her to his hotel room before texting her some naked shots of his, uh, pocket passer.
To Sterger’s credit, she didn’t take Favre up on his invitation to his room, to run a coed naked bootleg or add to the Rorschach of stains on the upholstery. She didn’t even give her digits to Favre; they were passed on by a Jets staffer. She didn’t ask for Favre’s penis to add her to its Friends and Family plan, filling her inbox with its grainy self-portraits and she absolutely didn’t deserve some of the names she’s been called in the press. You know, things like “reporter” or “journalist” or “sportswriter.”
Yes, Sterger — formerly of Maxim, Playboy and middle school gym lockers — is a current co-host on The Daily Line, the Versus Network’s version of Sportscenter. She wrote a recurring column for Sports Illustrated. And, of course, she spent a season loitering on the sidelines for the Jets, serving as their Game Day Host. She hasn’t exactly earned any of those positions based on her experience. Instead, she’s become the first person since Winnie the Pooh to turn wearing undersized t-shirts into a career.
Am I jealous? Absolutely. I know I’m never going to be in Playboy; if guys want to see a pair of AA’s, they can just buy a package of batteries. It’s the other opportunities she’s had and the fact that she found the Warp Zone to the kind of jobs I’d hoped to have, skipping to a featured column and the NFL sidelines without submitting writing samples, collecting enough rejection letters to resurface I-85 or giving away thousands of words for free in the hopes of catching one editor’s attention.
All Sterger had to do was ‘whooooo!’ during one post-commercial closeup. “1,500 red-blooded American men just signed up to go to Florida State next year,” Brent Musburger quipped after wiping the steam off his Lenscrafters. Sterger’s teeny bikini and Costco-sized chest became the talk of football message boards, eventually spilling over into more-mainstream websites.
She quickly found herself in the middle pages of Maxim and later appeared in Playboy, wearing nothing but a well-practiced pout and more oil than a plate of stir-fried vegetables. Somehow that led to a job with Sports Illustrated, where she wrote a twice-monthly column while sharing a masthead with Frank Deford and Rick Reilly. Her first SI piece was largely about how many Facebook friend requests she’d received since the day she peeled the price tags off her implants and headed to Doak-Campbell Stadium. "I get letters from admirers in Great Britain, Iraq, and even China. When I'm out with friends, people take pictures with me like I'm a character at a theme park," she wrote in an article accompanied by a picture of her bursting out of an outfit she must have purchased at Build-A-Bear.
In 2008, she was hired by the New York Jets. “They had me do celebrity interviews and they also had me there as a celebrity guest as a Playboy model, as an SI columnist,” she said in an interview with blogger Bob Mantz. “They got a very good response to me. They thought I would be a great face ... so they gave me a shot.”
Before moving to Hoboken, she had never met Favre. As she told Mantz, “I have not interviewed Brett yet and I would love to. I think he is one of the most outstanding guys in the NFL.” I’m no John Stossel, but I’d guess her attitude changed shortly after he (allegedly) kicked off his Wranglers and picked up his cameraphone.
Because of Sterger’s mach-something rise to celebrity, she sometimes approaches her career with a sense of entitlement. She has it but hasn’t earned it, like Tommy Callahan swapping college for an executive spot at Callahan Auto Parts. “People compare me and say, well, she’s no Erin Andrews,” Sterger once said on The Killer B's ESPN (Tampa) radio show. “I’m like, well, who’s No. 1 on the computer? Suck it.”
No one compares Sterger to Andrews, not unless they were making a list of women who may have pulled a high heel out of the soft sideline grass. Or maybe they just named women, or people with a pair of working corneas or carbon-based life forms. Andrews was a telecommunications major at the University of Florida who started with FSN Florida and the Sunshine Network, spending several years earning the ESPN logo on her microphone; Sterger's most sincere attempt at professionalism was having her implants removed.
Ironically, the piece of sideline candy Sterger’s approach most resembles is the one she’s most recently condemned: Ines Sainz.
Sainz was the TV Azteca reporter who was allegedly harassed in the Jets’ locker room last month, a place where they must keep a stash of “allegedly”s on the shelf with the athletic tape and replacement cleats. She has also parlayed her physical appearance and commitment to spandex into a television career, although she’s more aware of her role than Sterger.
“Maybe more will come of this Ines situation, but right now, I see it as a one-woman show,” Sterger told a Miami radio station. “And as much as she doesn’t want to say she’s looking for publicity, her actions prior to all of this happening, they say otherwise.”
I don’t know, Jenn. If the bikini fits, you may as well wear it ... again.