Written By: Stephen Guinan
Published By: Hachette Books
Reviewed By: Melissa Minners
Some time ago, I read Hail Mary, a book about the National Women’s Football League, something I never knew existed until I found that book. It annoyed me that I never knew about women’s football. I knew all about women’s baseball, tennis, golf and more and had learned all about Title IX in school. So why hadn’t I learned about women in football? Maybe that’s because there are still some people out there who believe women don’t have a place in such a rough tumble sport. Well, I’m not one of those people, so when I found a book about the winningest team in the now defunct NWFL, I decided I would learn more about them.
It all begins with a memory of the author, Stephen Guinan, seated in a high school cafeteria, innocently talking to another high school student who pronounced proudly that his father was the winningest coach in football. What would at first be a confusing introduction for the author would go on to become a cultivated friendship with the Toledo Troopers waterboy, Guy Stout, son of the team’s coach, Mike Stout. In becoming friends with Guy, Guinan would meet the team’s coach (who would become the head of the NWFL) and the members of the all-women squad who only ever lost one game in their nine-season history.
We then are introduced to the players and their world. Guinan lets us know that these were ordinary women – housewives, secretaries, factory workers, mothers, college students, etc., – who had a love for sports. Some of them had never had the opportunity to take advantage of the Title IX rules as they were passed after they graduated from school. Some only had the opportunity to play tennis or softball, never being given an opportunity to play such a physical sport that was deemed too physical for women to play.
The women who would make up the team known as the Toledo Troopers were tough. They had to be. After all, most people – men and women both – couldn’t believe that anyone would allow a woman to play football, much less tackle football. They didn’t have much in the way of uniforms at first, and what they did have doesn’t even come close to the standards of the sport today. They played through concussions, broken bones, sprained ankles, torn ACLs, etc., all for the love of the sport.
Guinan takes us every step of the way, from the gimmick thought up by a talent agency founder named Sid Friedman, through the takeover of the Troopers and their incorporation status, through the hardships that faced both the coach and the players, through their final tragedy and eventual disbandment. He even goes so far as to let us know what many of the players are doing now. Guinan’s writing is such that I actually cringed with every hit described in every game discussed. I could feel the players’ anguish when they lost players or even on that fated day against the Dolls in which they acquired their only loss. Reading about each and every player on the team the way Guinan described them made me want to meet these pioneers.
The women of the Toledo Troopers are not just pioneers, they are heroes, for they taught others that women can do anything they set their minds to. We Are the Troopers is a well-written and engaging ode to these women who made history on the gridiron and in the hearts of every little girl who wondered to what heights they could soar.