During the Super Bowl, my daughter asked me why girls can’t play football.
I put down my beer and formulated my answer carefully, sensing this was a moment to rise to the occasion rather than shoo her away. I dusted off my Second Wave Feminist self and told my child to make herself comfortable, this could take awhile.
For starters, you are looking at a girl who played in a women’s touch football league, I told her. It was two-hand touch, no cumbersome gear or helmets required, more befitting our casual commitment to a some fun and exercise a few hours a week. We were fearless, running patterns and breaking nails. So let’s begin today’s lecture by taking the “can’t” out of that question.
Women can play football, they just can’t be paid to play football. Or so I thought.
I was ready to begin my diatribe on how it has been largely a man’s world for approximately 2000 years when thoughts of “A League of Their Own” flashed through my head – one of my favorite movies of all time despite the fact I hate baseball, a testament to its powerful message rather than exhilarating action. Surely the women in football omission has been addressed by this time in our evolution. I put my diatribe on hold and consulted the internet.
My indispensable friend Google tells me there is indeed a professional women’s football league in the United States. The Women’s Football Alliance is a full-contact American football league comprised of 62 teams across the United States and Mexico. The WFA is the largest and fastest growing league in America, it tells me on its website.
I doubt many New Yorkers have heard of the New York Sharks, despite the fact this woman’s football team has existed for a decade (tryouts were last weekend – no previous football experience necessary). I’m sure its team members will never experience the superhero status of the NFL’s players, although hopefully they more law-abiding than their male counterparts. But the very fact this league exists – and I didn’t have to tell my daughter women can’t play professional football – makes me weep with gratitude for its unsung heroes.
The phrase “you can do anything you set your mind to” rolls off the tongue so much better.
At halftime they replayed an earlier scene where ten-year-old Ava Childs handed the game ball to an official. Ava won this honor by entering an essay contest. Her dream is to be the first female kicker in the NFL. Obviously, Ava already had this conversation with her parents, whose answer must have been a mixture of “never say never” and “dream big”.
Whether or not you want your daughter to become a professional athlete, it’s heartening to know the possibilities are as limitless as our imaginations. You go, girl.