Sure, we Canadians bellyache a lot about the American sports media not giving us a fair shake — at least when it comes to our basketball team. But if there’s anything we can take solace in, it’s that we’ve got a mole on the inside. Meet Rachel Bonnetta, a Toronto native who’s currently crushing it over at FOX Sports 1 as the host of Lock It In, the network’s first-ever sports gambling show. (The U.S. Supreme Court decided to allow states to legalize sports gambling last year.) Not only is she doing us proud stateside, keeping Americans informed about betting on the biggest sports events of the day, she’s moving the needle for females working in sports broadcasting as a whole. (And as Canadian exports to FOX Sports go, she’s doing a heck of a better job than Jay and Dan did. Sorry boys.)
We caught up with Rachel between tapings to chat about gambling, Batman, Toronto, and working in a bro-dominated field.
So, how long have you been at this hosting thing?
I started way back when I won a contest for the Toronto FC, funny enough. It was to be the host at BMO Field. I got to interview all the players and put out digital videos, and from there I also started working at YTV. You know what YTV is? So I was juggling being, like, a sports host and on the off days I was talking about Sponge Bob. And the videos I was putting out with Toronto FC were noticed by Major League Soccer in New York City, and they emailed me saying, “Would you ever consider moving to New York City?” I was like, “Oh my God!” I had this little slip of paper that my mom has kept since I was a kid, and it was a contract I wrote to myself saying, “I, Rachel Bonnetta, will move to New York City by the time I’m 21.” I was 23, so two years off, but still. So I started working for MLS and six months in, I got an offer to move to LA to work for FOX Sports. Then a couple months ago they asked if I’d be down to host Lock It In. Things happened very quickly.
Do you enjoy the busyness of your job?
I do because I go crazy when I’m not busy. I’m, like, at home talking to my dog, not doing anything valuable with my time. And it’s exciting, right? This is the first live television show that I’ve ever worked on, so the hustle and bustle is a part of the adrenaline. You really gotta work your butt off and I think especially being a female on a show with three men, I have to know my stuff. There’s no space to screw up. So, I have to watch, not that that’s an issue because I’m a sports fan, but you have to watch every single game that’s on at all times — any NFL game, baseball, basketball, soccer. It’s a full-time job, and when I say full-time, I mean, literally all hours of the day you are on and you are paying attention and you are working. It’s great, I can’t get enough.
You mentioned being a female in such a male-dominated environment. You must be inspiring so many young women who want to get into the field. What advice would you have for them?
My advice would be, you know, I grew up with three boys, so they always kind of challenged me, they never let me win at anything. I always had to have my own arguments — they were really hard on me. And it made me have the tough skin that I have now. I’m so lucky I get to work with all of these great men at FOX, but it’s not a secret that there’s a lot more men that work in the sports industry than women. I would just say that it’s tough, but just almost fake it till you make it. Just be yourself and be strong because, hopefully, it eventually won’t matter if you’re male or female; you’ll get treated equally in any kind of job that you have, sports aside.
I know it’s such a stupid thing to say, but I think the stereotypical woman in sports before was a sideline reporter and a traditional host, not that those aren’t fantastic positions. You know, Jenny Taft, she’s one of my very good friends; she’s such a talented sideline reporter and I could never do sideline. I’m not good enough for it. But I think the thing I have going for me is I’ve always been myself and that’s why I’ve always gotten job. I think everyone else going for those jobs was trying to be the “traditional woman talking about sports,” looking pretty, yada, yada, yada. Nowadays, people are looking for the difference maker. Half the time I’m going into a room filled with men who know a lot about sports and it’s like ,”Ok, how am I going to get my voice heard?” Maybe it’s a little shaky at first, but you gotta have it heard. Everyone’s got this personality that can come out. You let that free, baby! You let that fly.
Wow, that’s so inspirational. Thank you! You were talking about your co-hosts and how you guys kinda tease each other. How are you guys off set? Do you know them as friends or…?
It’s crazy because we just met a couple of weeks before the show started. One thing I was worried about, because I am the only one in studio — Sal is in LA, Clay’s in Nashville, and Todd is in Vegas — was like, how is this really gonna work? How are we gonna have chemistry when we’re on a Skype call? Even a Skype call with your loved ones can be awkward sometimes, but honestly that’s been the easiest thing for us to handle. We were all just super quick and super fine with each other and I just felt like Sal has been so great and Clay has gotten along with them. We’ve connected really, really fast and I think spilled over into the show.
“It is really ridiculous, the amount of sports that I am intaking right now.”
That’s so good. Have you always been into sports and gambling? How did you get into it?
I definitely have always been into sports. I think as gambling has become legalized in the different states, I had an interest in it way back then, and obviously my knowledge on it is up to par now. I’ve always like going to the sports bars in Vegas, and being like, wow this is insane! Like I said, I grew up with three boys who had me sitting in the soccer net as a kid, taking these shots. Also, being from Canada, you’re watching hockey on the way out of the womb, so sports have always been a part of my life. I played varsity volleyball, I played for Seneca College, and the fact that I get to work at FOX Sports and get paid to watch the ball on the weekends is pretty remarkable. I’m sure a lot of people on this planet are jealous of that. It’s been a lifelong love.
After a very long and busy day, what do you to unwind?
Isn’t it so sad that I probably just sit on my phone for an hour?! I am truly a millennial. This is like a full-time, Monday-to-Sunday, 24/7 job, so I love being able to come home and there’s sports on, and I’m watching baseball tonight, and football on Thursday, football last night. It is really ridiculous, the amount of sports that I am intaking right now. Otherwise, I live pretty close to the beach, so I love taking my dog for walks there, and going to the dog park and hanging out with friends. I’m usually Facetiming at least one person every night because I still have a lot of people back in Toronto that I’m very close to. Honestly, it’s so boring. I probably just go home and watch more sports. I’m a Twitter hound as well; sitting on my couch, eating something unhealthy most likely, and tweeting about sports that I’m watching. I have no life, as you can tell.
No, no! It’s so good. What’s your favorite thing to snack on while watching sports?
Probably chicken wings. I love chicken wings. I am going to have an early heart attack, one-thousand percent. There’s nothing better than chicken wings and a cold beer while you are watching football on a Sunday. I’m gonna start drooling even thinking about it.
I saw the Batman v Superman promo video you did for FOX. I thought that was so good!
The one thing I love about FOX is they really give you so much creative freedom. When I first came to FOX, they weren’t necessarily doing a whole lot of sketches on the digital side, and also when people think about comedy sketches and sports it’s like, wait, what? But I just kept on pitching ideas and they were like, hey, if you feel strongly about it, let’s make it. So I am super grateful. That’s me going to my boss being like, “Hey, I have an idea: can I dress up as Batman and Superman and argue myself?” And they were like, “Yeah, it’s okay, sounds cool.”
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Absolutely! Are you more of a Superman or Batman fan?
I’m Batman all the freaking way. I remember when The Dark Knight came out, me and my girlfriend dressed up as Batman and we were the only ones in the theater. We got there that early, that’s how big of losers we were. And we ran around the theater; I don’t even know how old I was, I’m hoping I was a teenager when this happened cause it sounds pretty juvenile, but we just ran around the theater, dressed as Batman. That was ridiculous.
How do you like the new Batman? Are you a fan?
Like the Ben Affleck Batman? I’m not into that at all. I don’t think I watched any Batman movies or Justice League or anything since Dark Knight. Christopher Nolan’s Batman series is amazing. That was the best! But the old-school Batman movies, like the Tim Burton ones, I might even say those are better than Christopher Nolan’s versions. I think I may. They’re my favorite out of all of them for sure.
You can’t argue with Tim Burton.
You can’t argue with Tim Burton, no.
What was your favorite spot in Toronto to just hang out or eat? And how about in LA now?
Honestly, I feel like for Toronto, restaurants are always popping up and leaving. I used to be at Grace O’Malley’s all the time, more than I want to admit. I used to love that place, and then I went back a year later after moving to New York and it was dead. Is it still a thing?
I have never heard of it, to be honest. I’m sorry.
Oh my God. When I was in college everyone was going there! Anyway, my absolute favorite thing to do in Toronto is still going to a Blue Jays game in the middle of summer and sitting in the sun, probably getting a sunburn, maybe getting a caesar before the game. It’s so much fun. And then my favorite thing to do in LA… on Saturdays, we’ll spend a day at the beach playing an obscene amount of beach volleyball till the point that I can’t feel my legs after. But also, going to sports events, going to the Dodgers. And there’s a lot of great hikes here. I’ve definitely become more outdoorsy; even though LA is synonymous with being stuck in traffic, there are a lot of great places where you can drive to and totally get out of the city. I don’t feel that was a thing you could do in Toronto; there’s no mountains to climb and stuff. It’s just so easy to be active here. There’s no freaking seasons, so you’re not held up in your apartment by a snow storm outside.
What breed is your dog, if you don’t mind me asking?
That’s very personal information; I do mind you asking. No, he’s a miniature dachshund mixed with chihuahua; he’s like eight pounds. He’s so small, he’s so funny, he’s got such a ridiculous personality. And he’s got this crazy tail that is just hard to describe, but he is the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. And I’m not being biased when I say that.