Andrea Kremer '76 and Michael Harris '88 Reflect on COVID-19's Impact on Sports

In a Virtual Speaker Series event last February, Andrea Kremer ’76 and Michael Harris ’88 spoke to Friends Select students, employees, and families about COVID-19’s impact on the world of professional sports. The two alumni shared their perspectives from personal experiences in their respective celebrated professions. The virtual event was moderated by Mia Cohen ’21 and Taariq Mbaraka ’21, both former members of The Falcon, the student-run online publication.

A multi-Emmy Award-winning television sports journalist, Andrea remarked on COVID-19’s effect on the ability for journalists to build interpersonal connections with the individuals they interview. With pandemic-initiated and heavily attended Zoom calls, reporters no longer had access to athletes for the in-person, one-on-one conversations that often produced newsworthy stories. Andrea, who calls Thursday Night Football for Amazon Prime Video with Hannah Storm, serves as chief correspondent for the NFL Network and is also a correspondent for HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel. “I think that teams are realizing how much can be done virtually,” she noted. “For my 29th Super Bowl this year, I shot three stories, did my whole pre-game show, and co-hosted We Need To Talk for CBS from my living room. It’s kind of amazing when you have to find enterprising and creative ways to get your job done.”

Michael, who serves as vice president of marketing and new media for the Philadelphia Phillies, shared his thoughts on how the coronavirus outbreak that occurred early in the team’s 2020 season—in which 18 players from the opposing Florida Marlins tested positive for the virus— may have affected athletes’ mental approach to the game. “Ultimately, I think it recalibrated the mindset of many athletes and showed them they are not immune to a global pandemic. As strong and talented as they may be, everybody’s at risk,” he explained. With his business lens and experience overseeing brand and consumer marketing for the Phillies, as well as his focus on social and digital media content, advertising, and branding campaigns, he also expressed the need for leagues to assess fan engagement creatively in a virtual setting during the pandemic. 

In addition to providing career advice to Friends Select students and young alumni, Andrea and Michael expressed their fondness for their alma mater. “Friends Select gave me the foundation to be confident and to stay true to myself,” Michael shared. “Going to Friends Select and the totality of the experience—living in the city and going to school in the city—just made me a more well-rounded person.” 

Andrea added, “The relationships I still have with my classmates are the kind of friendships where you can go for long periods of time without speaking to people and then pick right up, and that to me is always the true indicator of friendship. To this day, the most significant aspects of my Friends Select experience are the relationships that I made.”