CCS Profile: NFL Female

My mom is a sports fan. True blue, die-hard sports fan.

Of all things Arizona sports.

Arizona Cardinals, Diamondbacks, Wildcats. Phoenix Suns, Arizona State Sun Devils, Northern Arizona Lumberjacks. I’m sure even Scottsdale Community College Artichokes too. She is a sports fan.

She never identified herself as a female sports fan, so I never did either. Today, however, marketers and sports leagues feel compelled to segregate us as such. Treat us as if we are different when we know sports (or our sport of choice) just as well as most men.

Are we that different that we need to be labeled as a female sports fan? Aside from the obvious, are female sports fans that much different than men?

No. But, that’s just one female’s perspective. My perspective. Contrary to what those marketers and sports leagues say, I don’t speak for all female sports fans. So, I decided to ask some other ladies for their perspective on that and more.

These aren’t just any ladies. These are the ladies from NFL Female.

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NFL Female Beginnings

NFL Female was a site started in 2011 by Liz Panucci. Liz is an NFL and Miami Dolphins fan based in Canada. “Up here everything is hockey,” said Panucci in a 2014 interview with me. “I grew up in the Dan Marino days and he was my hero.” Panucci wasn’t alone in her love for football. She’d watch and play (strategy) games with her brother. “We had this game called Stratomatic Football which is like a board game – it was pre-Madden type of concept. You were the coach and you made all of the calls and it was so much fun. I really learned about the game when I was in my teens.”

Panucci was able to go to a Dolphins game – yes, all the way from Western Canada – about five years ago. She saw other females who loved their Dolphins, the NFL and enjoyed talking about it. That was the impetus for NFL Female.

NFL Female is a site that brings together females of all demographics. It’s a diverse group of ladies. They range in age from their 20’s all the way to their 60’s – students, professors, medical field professionals, stay-at-home moms not to mention from a variety of ethnic backgrounds. They come from across the U.S. Some grew up playing sports:

Marquita Quinones (New York Giants writer): “As far back as I can remember, I was around sports. My mother and my dad’s sister were both on the same track team and both were state champions. The story goes that my mom had hidden her pregnancy and actually went into labor during one of her track meets. This may explain why I had such a love for running. Although I was busy running track, playing on the high school basketball team, cheerleading and occasionally on the softball team, I loved football.”

Kasey McNelly (St. Louis Rams): “I was raised by my grandparents in a very traditional home where sport was a part of every day life. At that time, it didn’t always seem so good. This will show my age, but I grew up on ABC Wide World of Sports. Looking back now, I know that this is a good thing. I am a sports nut now.”

Roxaan Herrera (Philadelphia Eagles): “I didn’t play any sports religiously, but I was a cheerleder through middle school. I played basketball and was in dance all through high school. I started watching basketball since I could remember and football since I was 10 years old. I played it for recess one day and fell in love with the game.”

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COMMON CHALLENGES

Despite their differences, they all share a common bond – their love of NFL football. For some, like Julie Voigt (Indianapolis Colts), supporting an NFL team meant finding her own team, despite family ties. “I was raised in a Chicago area home where my brothers and dad supported the Chicago Bears. Since my family was from Texas, my dad also supported the Dallas Cowboys and Houston Oilers,” said Voigt. “I became a Colts fan when Jim Harbaugh signed as QB for the Colts.”

Each woman’s story on NFL Female is different. The feedback they face as a woman writing about the #1 game in America is different too. “To be honest, I have had a lot of positive feedback from family and friends. Most of my women friends don’t watch football at all. I have male friends that are blown away by my football knowledge,” says Wanda Wiedman (Chicago Bears). Adds founder Panucci, “Most of my family/friends have no clue what I do – I’m just Liz or Mom or Grandma to them.”

Others, like Sonja Greenfield (Detroit Lions), don’t pay much attention to trollish feedback. But, as Greenfield points out, “You get some of those crazy trolls, but whatever – I don’t need to impress them.” Gwen Robinson (Baltimore Ravens) agrees, “I will never read the comments. People are mean and I don’t need strangers putting me down.”

That can be hard to do in today’s social media age. Many of the prominent female journalists and broadcasters have faced negative feedback on social media, especially on Twitter. Some minds don’t want to be changed. The only way to address it for NFL Female is with the positive. Panucci, who is in charge of NFL Female’s social media, says, “Men, especially, love to point out our mistakes on Twitter/Facebook. I simply say, ‘You’re good. Thank you for noticing’.”

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DV AND GOODELL

The ladies love their football. But, they don’t love what happens off of it. How the league has handled the off-field issues, particularly when it comes to domestic violence, is of concern. Ravens’ writer Robinson, “Ray Rice was made the poster boy for domestic violence yet no one has seemed to learn their lesson yet.” Robinson also referred to the recent Ray McDonald incident in this post-Rice video NFL world.

“I think the league is on the right path,” says Robinson. “They have recognized there is a problem with disciplinary actions and they are trying to fill in the blanks.” Adds Bears’ writer Wiedman, “I truly believe players should be evaluated every year on their mental state prior to playing. If they show any signs of mental instability, they need to take time to deal with those issues and submit to counseling. The NFL needs to stop waiting for something to happen and be more proactive!”

The NFL has been reactive when it comes to domestic violence, as Wiedman alludes to. And, that may be what Tennessee Titans writer Sharona refers to, “I see the NFL at a tipping point right now. There is an increasing awareness of the importance of violence against women and obviously some hig profile NFL cases to go along with it. How the league and teams handle this issue in the immediate future could dictate its future.”

One topic that the ladies are not all in agreement about when it comes to the NFL is…Roger Goodell. Says Sharona, “I have mixed feelings about Goodell. I think he is responsive to the NFL’s fan base which is a good thing. I think he genuinely wants the league to do the right thing so long as it doesn’t cut into the bottom line. He also isn’t above doing the owners’ nasty work if he thinks he can get away with it and it won’t become public.”

McKnelly, the Rams writer, says this, “I am not a fan of Roger Goodell. I am going to try to stay positive, but the facts are the facts. He has softened the NFL.” She added, “He is NOT fair in the way that he handles situations. The punishment should fit the crime. I was appalled by the Goodell press conference surrounding the release of the Ray Rice tape.”

Other choice words were used about Goodell (ass-clown was one). One writer says it’s “time for a new leader” and called for a “group of men” to run the league. But, to one degree or another, the NFL is still what Panucci refers to as the “Old Boys Club”.

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OLD BOYS CLUB

There is still a degree of the NFL being the Old Boys Club. How else to explain the lack of foresight when it comes to responding to domestic violence? Old ways of thinking. Old ways of thinking are reactive. Old ways of thinking are pink jerseys connecting with female fans. Old ways of thinking are disregarding a social media outcry over the league’s handling of domestic violence issues.

“As a woman, not an NFL fan, I felt disrespected. I felt belittled and I felt this was a huge step backwards for our country,” says Eagles writer Roxaan. Added Greenfield, “I think they don’t know what to do. They’re not prepared to handle it. It’s always been an issue, I do believe, but because Ray Rice was caught on camera, that’s when it blew up.”

Not everyone at NFL Female agrees. Some ladies view the league as “they’re doing the best they can”. That’s what makes NFL Female unique. Each woman brings her own unique perspective to coverage of the game and the external issues of the league. “No one person/player is greater than the game,” says Panucci. “We are always open minded, seeking first to learn and understand.”

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TRUE AND LOYAL

Learning and understanding. The NFL could take a clue from the ladies at NFL Female. They know the game and its nuances. They could probably teach some men a thing or two about the game. But, they aren’t all the same.

They share their love of the NFL. And, they happen to be women. But, that’s where the similarities end – much to marketers’ dismay. These ladies each have their own opinion on Roger Goodell, the game of football and the league itself. That includes how well the league connects with them.

More should be done or It’s trying but.., some ladies say. Others see themselves as just NFL fans. Colts writer Voigt, “I’ve come across some men who claim to be die-hard fans and not know an ounce of the game. It should all be equal. Unfortunately it’s not and I think the NFL should try harder at connecting with female fans.”

Passionate, knowledgeable, jersey-wearing, fantasy football playing and die-hard toward their team. They’ll talk NFL football with anyone who will listen – at home, at work, in the store, online – you name it, these ladies will talk about it. Sounds just like their fellow male NFL fans. “Accept us as true, loyal fans,” says Panucci.

True and loyal fans — not just female fans — is exactly what the NFL needs now and in the future.

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SAME BUT DIFFERENT

The ladies of NFL Female don’t all think alike. They don’t think like me. 

We share the common bonds of womanhood and an affinity for the NFL. We can discuss football with each other or with our male counterparts. But, beyond that, we each have our own viewpoints, beliefs, likes and dislikes…about football, sports and life.

That’s really the point, isn’t it? A multitude of voices in a single demographic. We’re fans. And, we’re females. We’re alike, yet different. 

Are you listening, NFL? 

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CadChica Sports

RIP Kenny Stabler, RIP Snake

I love the Oakland Raiders.

They are my team – the first team I ever cheered for. I like to joke that I came out of the womb saying RAAAAAAIIIIIIIII-DERS, instead of crying like most babies.

I was born in Oakland but raised in Arizona. There was no NFL team at the time, so I went with the team of my birthplace. Silver-and-black. No other team had silver-and-black. For whatever reason, I found that cool as a kid.

The Raiders became part of my identity. I was a good kid (at least I think so), but the Raiders weren’t. They were rebellious and did things their own way, led by owner Al Davis. They played hard. On and off the field, not that I would have known that when I was a kid. But, they were gritty and tough and they represented everything I thought of Oakland to be.

And Kenny Stabler represented the Raiders.

Stabler’s #12 was the only “jersey” I owned as a kid. I loved Cliff Branch too, but Stabler was “The Snake”. He was one of those quarterbacks that knew when to be elusive and knew when to hang tough in the pocket. His scrambling ability, well, I just thought that was so awesome. I didn’t see anyone else like him in the NFL.

Not that I paid attention, mind you (notable exception: Fran Tarkenton). Stabler was my guy. He was the quarterback on my team. He was special to watch:

 

He should be in the Hall of Fame, but he’s not. Longtime NFL writer, Russell Baxter, had this to say when asked about Stabler as a hall of famer: “I think he is. There was always the thing about him “reading the playbook by the light of the jukebox”. He was a magician. He was something to watch. The two guys I thought were the best were Staubach and Stabler.”

 

Baxter continued, “They (Raiders) were phenomenal teams in a conference where there were two other phenomenal teams: Dolphins, Steelers. There was nothing better in the 70’s than the Raiders-Steelers. It started with the Immaculate Reception and just kept getting better.” Stabler was a key part of that rivalry. Bradshaw gets the notoriety because of the Super Bowl victories and broadcast career, but Stabler was every bit the quarterback and more. 

“He was a model of consistency,” says Baxter. “I know people will go over the numbers. Before the rules changed, 70’s quarterbacks were nothing about the numbers. They were all about controlling the game. Stabler was a great player on a great team that was unfortunately overshadowed by greater teams.”

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I’m sad today knowing Snake is gone. Almost to the point of tears, which isn’t normal for me. But, he was part of my childhood. I saw Stabler as the heart and soul of my Raiders. Whatever the Raiders were about, you saw it in Stabler.

He was the epitome of my team, on and off the field. I didn’t know anything about his partying ways when I was a kid. I probably wouldn’t have cared. I just wanted him to win.

And winning he did.

If you grew up as a Raiders fan, you loved Stabler. There was no one else you wanted as your quarterback. I’m glad I got the chance to see him, albeit never in person. I’m glad he was my quarterback.

RIP Kenny Stabler. RIP Snake.

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TWEETS ON THE SNAKE

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CadChica Sports

Christian Benteke – On the Move?

CadChica’s Note: This is a guest post from Lee Ball. Lee has been writing about football ever since he accompanied his father to watch his first game at the age of 12. Although it was a while until he came up with anything worthy of publishing, Lee now writes for several online football publications. In his spare time, he also enjoys playing golf and travelling Asia.

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Christian Benteke is arguably one of the English Premier League’s best marksmen, having first signed for Aston Villa in 2012 from Belgian side Genk for £7 million and he’s gone on to make a huge impression in Europe’s top league. He went on to score 18 league goals in his debut season eclipsing Dwight Yorke’s previous club record goals tally.

Although his second season wasn’t so prolific as he was blighted by injury, which saw him miss 6 months of the season due to an Achilles tendon injury. That inconsistency followed him into the 2014/2015 season where he struggled to hit any form during the first half of the season. It wasn’t until the departure of ex-manger Paul Lambert, and the appointment of Tim Sherwood that Benteke’s form changed. During Sherwood’s reign, the pacey Belgian hit 12 goals in 15 league games for Villa. It was this form that subsequently saved the Midlands club from relegation, and once again brought Benteke to the attention of Europe’s top clubs.

Now it seems, with the potential transfer of Raheem Sterling to Manchester City edging closer that Liverpool will soon have funds to replace their wantaway England international. With Liverpool desperate to find a 20-goal-a-season replacement for the somewhat irreplaceable Luis Saurez, Liverpool see Benteke as the nearest thing to the enigmatic Uruguayan.

But over the last the last two summers, a big move has eluded Benteke, so why should this transfer window be any different? Although “Tekkers,” as he’s more commonly known by Villa fans, signed a new a new four-year-deal in 2013 after initially handing in a transfer request, his argument would be that he’s given the club two good years.

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Though don’t expect to see Sherwood sanction a move just yet, if Liverpool, or any other club for that matter doesn’t meet Benteke’s buyout clause. The reported £32.5 million buyout clause is a lot of money even if the Merseyside club do receive £50 million from Manchester City for Sterling, they have already outlaid a lot of money this transfer window. And after Rodgers splurged so much money on poor signings last season, don’t hold your breath if this transfer doesn’t get past the notorious Anfield transfer committee.

There’s also the fact that Liverpool’s style may not suit the big Belgian, as football journalist Michael Lintorn even feels that they may have to change formation to accommodate Benteke. With Liverpool potentially having Benteke, Sturridge, Ings, Balotelli, Lallana, Coutinho, Markovic, Firmino and Origi all competing for attacking positions it could cause the Anfield side to drastically rethink their formation for the upcoming season.

With odds shortening on whether Benteke will make the move to Anfield, it’s looking more likely that than ever before. The only real sticking point seems to be if Liverpool will meet the buyout clause in Benteke’s Aston Villa contract.

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CadChica Sports

 

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