It goes without saying that the Super Bowl is one of America’s largest cultural holidays. Super Bowl LIV features teams from San Francisco (The 49ers) and Kansas City (The Chiefs).
The game will be played in Miami Gardens, Florida and on televisions around the globe. This day is all about the food and the fight. Two teams consisting of larger than life male athletes battle for the ball on the gridiron. At stake, millions of dollars, endorsement deals for more millions, an ostentatious ring, bragging rights and that inevitable announcement of a trip to the Magic Kingdom.
I admit it, I am a fan of the game. I am an adult beginner, but a fan nonetheless. My appreciation of football was born out of a relationship I had with a female professional football player. I kissed a girl, and I liked it. Her team, the Asheville Assault operated under the National Women’s Football League from 2002 – 2004. So, in my 30’s I got to re-do High School. I was a cheerleader dating a football player. She was a good player too. I loved her and she loved football. I’ve always loved sports, playing and watching and it was fun cheering for hot people, doing hard things in uniforms. So there is that. I am a football fan.
Asheville’s team left the league after just 3 seasons of play. Our community just didn’t have the fan base to support women’s football. It was tough to get people to take the team seriously. And by people, I mean the men that control the use of fields, make decisions about sponsorship and operating money and hold the coaching positions.
An additional barrier to the success of the WNFL in those early years came from within the game. The “real” league was hell bent on creating and maintaining distance from these new teams of female athletes. The women were forced to re-brand as The National Women’s Football Association after intense pressure from the NFL.
To be fair, one guy did take an interest in women’s football. In 2009, Mitch Mortaza created The Lingerie League. The teams have names like The Dallas Desire, The Chicago Charm, and The San Diego Seduction. Women’s American football needed a Kobe Bryant, but ended up with a Mitch Mortaza.
Lucky for us, there was a women’s American football team when Katie Sowers wanted to play.
And play she did, for both the Michigan Mayhem and the Kansas City Titans. But, Sowers didn’t want to just play the game, she wanted to coach. She was denied a position as a basketball coach at her alma mater, Gooshen College because she was gay. Nevertheless, she persisted.
Sowers isn’t the first woman of football, but she is the first one to be called coach. Sowers is the Offensive Assistant Coach for Super Bowl LIV contenders the San Francisco 49ers. Female sports reporters and analysts are regulars on the sidelines and in front of cameras. We even got to witness a woman call the shots when the NFL hired Sarah Thomas in 2015. Thomas made Herstory during the playoff game as the first female down judge.
This Super Bowl Sunday, I am “Team Katie.” I will watch and cheer as she fights the good fight against gender stereotypes and homophobia simply by going to work and doing what she does.
Have a great day at work today, Katie. We are home watching. We see you. Regardless of the final score, Katie Sowers, YOU are our MVP of this Super Bowl.
Rachelle Sorensen-Cox was born in Utah 1971, to a poet and an outlaw. She relocated to North Carolina in 1995. When not spilling her guts on paper, Rachelle spends as much time as possible with her daughter Soren & improving her tennis game.