The Rise and Fall of the National Women’s Football League
Written by Britni de la Cretaz and Lindsey D’Arcangelo
Published by Perseus Books
Reviewed By Melissa Minners
Women love sports just as much as men, but we don’t see enough women in organized sports leagues. Thanks to a little movie called A League of Their Own, we learned that there was a Women’s Baseball League. The WNBA is the well-loved Women’s National Basketball Association, though they don’t receive enough recognition. We have the Women’s Soccer League whose USA team constantly dominates in the Olympics. However, has anyone ever heard of the National Women’s Football League?
In Hail Mary The Rise and Fall of the National Women’s Football League, Britni de la Cretaz and Lindsey D’Arcangelo take a look at an idea, started in 1967 as a gimmick by a businessman that took off into something he never could have imagined. It turned out that Sid Friedman never realized that women might truly want to play the real game. Title IX had just been passed but women really didn’t have much choice as to the types of sports they could play in…until that businessman took a chance on his gimmick that turned into something real.
In this book, the authors seek to tell their readers about the beginnings of the league, its attraction to women and its eventual downfall. It wouldn’t be easy as there isn’t much written about the National Women’s Football League. Thus, the authors conducted interviews with the players and coaches, providing readers insight into what it was like to be part of a hard-hitting game thought to be beyond the capabilities of that “frail” species known as woman. They offered the readers quotes from news articles that both praised the league and mocked it. And in the end, they offered us a well-rounded look into what it was like to play on the team and why it would eventually fold thanks to lack of financial support.
What I found most interesting was the dedication of the women that played. These women would play with numerous injuries, often traveling long distances by bus to arrive at their games and get paid next to, if not nothing, for their troubles. All for the love of the game. I also loved learning that these women came from all walks of life. Too often, women who play tough sports are thought to be lesbians looking for a rough and tumble good time, but the women of the National Women’s Football League were housewives, working women, college kids, married, single, gay, straight, you name it – all they wanted was to play in a sport that had been denied them so long.
I wonder what could have been had the National Women’s Football League received the funding it needed. If it had the backing of the National Football League, would it have gone as far as the WNBA thanks to backing from the NBA? The WNBA, though successful, still doesn’t get as much advertising play or promotion as the NBA, but they have survived and very few teams have folded due to financial pressures. I was happy to learn that some of the former players are trying to get a new league going again. Maybe this book will help gain them some momentum.
Hail Mary is an awesome analysis of the rise and fall of the NWFL, but it also serves as a dedicated place for the former players and coaches to tell their stories, so they won’t be forgotten. It was a fast, easy and informative read that I would recommend to all young women interested in sports. It just goes to show that a woman can do anything if she sets her mind to it!