The NFL season is still months away, but for one of our very own, it’s never too far from her thoughts.
Since 2008, Syreeta Hubbard, aka Reeta, aka The NFL Chick, has provided her thoughts on the game, the league and, of course, her hometown Baltimore Ravens with her own clever spin. She’s been featured or cited on SI.com, Ebony.com, Spike TV and, of course, here at TSFJ. Her latest endeavor is to create a long-desired Football 101 series for women. Yet, this wouldn’t be full of traditional analysis that could be expected of these kinds of videos. In fact, her hopes are to keep the teaching as relatable as it they are smart.
While forging ahead in fundraising efforts, Reeta talked about the project as well as some of her thoughts on how the caretakers of football have succeeded and fallen short in connecting with their female audience.
TSFJ: What was the inspiration behind the idea?
Reeta: The inspiration came from my own journey of learning football. As a kid, I would ask my grandfather and my dad to teach me the sport, but they were so into the game that they always forgot to explain to me what was going on. So I decided to learn on my own. Luckily for me, I come from a sports family so the terminology was easy to understand. But it’s not the same for everyone else. I want to break down the game in ways that women can understand and relate to, and KEEP with them.
TSFJ: We’ve talked about it on and offline before, but football media as a whole tends to speak to the already converted and they’re largely men. Though you’re in the business, what do you think has been some of the hits and misses in terms of engaging the female audience?
Reeta: I do think the NFL has done things in ways to help women engage. Teams have women’s clubs that explain the game of football. They also have expanded in women’s apparel a great deal. But sadly, not even 1/4 of clubs cater to women. At this point, there’s NO excuse for all 32 clubs to NOT have a women’s club. 45% of the fan base are WOMEN! What else do they need?! It’s time for teams to wise and up see that we have a voice, too. I’m happy with the progress, but it’s still that: a progress.
TSFJ: You mentioned your own journey in learning football, which I imagine wasn’t easy. As you and I and others from a different time, we relied on the broadcast networks that showed the action, maybe some sports talk radio and going outside to play the game ourselves. We know how different times are now, yet despite so much at our avail, there are still challenges for some women to dig deeper into football. From other women, what are the barriers that they’ve come across?
Reeta: I think keeping up with other entities like fantasy football, in addition to learning the sport, could be a huge barrier. Many people think it’s a great learning tool, because it’s personal statistics of individual players. But if you watch the game of football, numbers DO lie sometimes. Box scores don’t tell the whole story. In today’s world, everyone is fascinated with fantasy football. And for the more experienced fan, it can be great, but for someone just learning the game, it can actually complicate things.
“The problem is, there has been a longstanding perception of women by advertisers as flighty, easily distracted by trivial things or generally less serious than men — which is why we get the insulting pink jersey epidemic (‘dress it up in pink, then she’ll buy it’). I’d say it behooves leagues to realize that women are just as knowledgeable about sports as men, and that they do not need to be pandered to in such a ridiculous fashion.”
This comes up time and time again, but from the media perspective, what else would it take to avoid such pandering?
Reeta: It would take leagues actually acknowledging the fact that women, in fact, do know about sports and watch them with some knowledge of the game. Advertisers and apparel brands would like us to believe otherwise, but there’s a vast group of women who understand the game of football, and other sports, very well.
Another thing would be to provide great seminars, events and videos (like one I am in the process of creating) to teach them the basics, so that they DO understand what’s going on when they’re watching. Once a woman understands, she’ll be more willing to spend money on tickets, jerseys, player events, etc. Women love to spend money, so what better way to market their dollar more then to give them the necessary tools in understanding what’s going on?
TSFJ: Specifically to your venture, what exactly can we expect from you? Will it be breaking down game film or demonstrations similar to what we see in pregame shows?
Reeta: What you can expect from me is teaching the fundamentals of football, but with a feminine twist. In order to know what you are watching, you have to understand each position, each group on both sides of the ball. I want to give women the chance to understand football in a way that will stick to them, something relatable to their everyday life. Remember learning “Schoolhouse Rock” as a child (maybe not, because I’m kinda old LOL)? It was fun, and it actually helped people learn. I’m here to give it that same flavor, but with a touch of Reeta.
TSFJ: Let’s throw a hypothetical out there: We know that this venture will take off and encourage even more women to learn about football or brush up on their knowledge. If you had the choice of bringing along current and former players, who would be your ideal teachers of the game? I’m going to go out on a limb and assume your affinity for Phillip Rivers would fill one roster spot.
Reeta: HA! While I would love Philip Rivers to be a part of it, I would like to get guys involved that people are familiar with. I think Richard Sherman would be awesome for something like this. Russell Wilson and/or Andrew Luck would be awesome. Guys who are students of the game that are familiar to even the most casual fan. I’d love to get some referees involved too (okay, just Ed Hochuli … everyone knows Hochuli). Former players like Ray Lewis, Brett Favre or Deion Sanders would be great as well. These are guys that are passionate about football and are good motivators. You want to have people that can attract attention but have a name for themselves. I think all of these guys can do that, in their own personal way. And hopefully, if they read this, they’d love to be along in this journey with me.