Column: Females and Football

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Justin Vanfulpen & Andrea Wallace -

When it comes to women and football, the first that comes to men's mind is the cheerleaders, who out there on the field, they feel, look best with their pom-poms. However, that was the old guard of the way football was, now we see football reporters that are women. On-air reporters of all the major television stations that cover the NFL. Each station has at least one, if not more, women reporters, for on field game reporting.

When you go into a locker room filled with hot and sweaty male athletes, you will sometimes find a female reporter there as well. Women are becoming more and more popular in NFL public and media relations departments. Also, the number of female football fans is growing. These women are just not the types that just sit on the couch with their boyfriends or husbands each Sunday afternoon, cheering on "their man's" favorite NFL team, but they really know the game and the teams playing -- perhaps even better then their husbands or boyfriends.

True, the number of female football fans still isn't anywhere near the same vicinity to that of men, but as each season initiates, you see more and more serious women football fans at training camp, and at the games... not to mention the fanatics that are still on the couch with their husbands or boyfriends.

The Detroit Lions, for instance, have many women involved with their operations. Jennifer Manzo is the Vice President of Sales, Beth Gay is the Director of Player Development, Risa Balayem is the Publication Coordinator and a Media Relations assistant and Deanna Caldwell is also a Media Relations assistant. To accompany these women, there are 22 other women that work for the Lions is some other support role that helps make the team run smoothly behind the scenes.

Other efforts to encourage even more women to play, watch, attend and experience the game of football include a full line of licensed merchandise just for women and popular participation programs. Some other fact and figures that the NFL is not just a male sport are:

• The NFL was the first pro league to develop a full line of women's apparel in 1997.

• 46 percent of all NFL licensed merchandise is purchased by women. (NFL Properties)

• More than 30 million women watch the NFL on an average weekend. (Nielsen)

• 58 percent of females said they followed the NFL in 2000 (ESPN Sports Poll, Dec '99 - Nov '00), up from 42 percent in 1999, 39 percent in 1997 and 32 percent in 1993. (Harris Poll-Oct. 1999)

• The NFL is the favorite sport of women to watch on TV! (NFL-22.1%; MLB-13.6%; NBA-12.6%; Figure skating-6.5%; College Football-4.3%). (ESPN/CHILTON POLL)

• 43 percent of the NFL's fan base is female. (Source: ESPN Chilton Jan. 99 - Dec. 99 Base: Females, Age 12+)

• Game-day attendance is 60/40 male/female. More than 375,000 women attend NFL games on an average weekend (NFL)

• More than 12,000 women were expected to participate in NFL Football 101 classes provided by NFL teams across the country in 2000. Women learned the basics from players and coaches.

• 779 girls participated on their high school football teams in 2000 — 2½ times the number who played in 1994 (295) (National Federation of State High School Associations)

• For the first time, in 1996, a girls-only division was available for participants, 8-15, in the Gatorade Punt, Pass & Kick competition. 125,000 of the 500,000 participants were girls. More than 150,000 girls participated in the 1997 competition. In 1998, 700,000 girls participated. More than one million girls were involved in 1999 and 2000.

• More than 100,000 girls participate in NFL Flag Football competitions.

This is on the national scale, but it also appeals to the Detroit Lions fan base as well.

There are many female fans that go to training camp and the games and cheer for the Detroit Lions. One of the most knowledgeable Detroit Lions fans that I have found is Andrea Wallace, a college student in the South Haven area; and she knew more than what player is the best looking, even though she does think Johnnie Morton is a good looking guy, but what woman doesn’t?

She can tell where most, if not all the players, went to college and other facts about them, which most male fans don’t even know. Like what music videos Johnnie Morton has appeared in, and when I asked Morton about those videos, he was shocked that anyone knew that.

I got a chance to sit down a talk to Andrea about what her thoughts were for the upcoming season, and she informed me that she thinks that Charlie Batch may possibly get a slight injury, but he'll recuperate in a few weeks. Johnnie Morton will have an outstanding season, she also predicts that Herman Moore will be just fine and could have a record number of touchdowns since they will use him in the red zone a lot this season. Andrea doesn’t think too highly of Scotty Anderson and says he will wish he was still at Grambling. She is also an optimist, thinking possibly that the Lions will be 12-4 or 13-3 this season because of a fairly easy schedule.

But sorry guys ... she is taken ... and let me tell you, her boyfriend is a very lucky guy in more ways then one, two, or even three ways.   ;-)

So, the NFL and the Detroit Lions are not a male dominated sport anymore. Women are taking on a larger role in the big scheme of things, both as fans and in each teams organization.

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