She does, however, speak for herself. A lot.
Your Militia Cheerleader is not happy. The past two weeks have been rough for the family of the Militia family; two former players lost close family members, and I lost my stepdad to cancer. Coping with the emotional and logistical fallout of having a parent die takes up an awful lot of time and energy, so I have not been in the football mindset for a few weeks now. I just started to come out of this fog and get excited about the game against DC on Saturday, and then someone sent me a link to this.
In addition to being utterly classless, it’s fundamentally disrespectful. It’s tantamount to saying “Hey, we think a Boston vs. DC football game is not, by itself, entertaining enough to draw a crowd – so we’re gonna fall back on trite cliches about girlfights in hopes of gaining a larger audience.” It brought back up one of the lowest moments in modern women’s football history – and the sole reason, I believe, that Boston didn’t win last year’s national championship. THAT’S what we’re gonna revisit and promote? Really?
This ad embarrasses me. It makes me embarrassed on behalf of the Militia organization. When the Militia went to DC a few weeks ago, I spent a fair amount of time wondering what the first meeting after the brawl would look like. You know what it looked like? The DC Divas players presented the Boston Militia players with little blue and yellow ribbons to wear in support of Boston after the Marathon bombs. The DC players wore them as well. That small gesture meant a lot to me – and, I would imagine, to many of the Boston players as well. It acknowledged that there were things way bigger than baggage between two football organizations.
One of my favorite things in the world is when a player from one team – doesn’t matter what sport – helps a player from the opposing team stand up. Seriously, it’s like my faith in humanity is boosted way up when I see that happen. The thing with DC and the ribbons made me feel like that.
And what does the Militia management do in return? DERP DIDJA SEE THAT BRAWL DERP. Honestly, this was the only good thing to come out of that bullshit, and it was definitely not good enough to warrant bringing that game back to the spotlight.
So yeah, some of my bad mood is probably carryover from what’s happened in my family. But there is also a fair amount of legitimate disgust that would definitely exist even if the other stuff in the past few weeks hadn’t happened. And here’s something that’s really bothering me about that ad: did Militia management not KNOW that it was stupid and degrading? Or did they just not CARE? Frankly, both options suck.
That friend was right. Tiamfook (RB, #28) quickly became one of the leading scorers on the team, able not just to maneuver around defenders but power through them as well. In fact, it seems that the greatest challenge she faces in her football career is getting people to get her last name right. (I’ve seen Tian Foon in writing; Emory Hunt from Football Gameplan guy calls her Tiamfork and at least twice during last Saturday’s game, Toin Coss Announcer Guy pronounced it “Zelee”.) In exchange for spelling it correctly, she was kind enough to answer some questions for us before this week’s away game against DC.
Some people refer to teams like the Militia as women’s pro football, since there is no “higher” level. Some call it semi-pro, as players are not paid (and, in fact, have to pay in order to play). And others don’t like either of those terms. When you explain what you play to people who haven’t heard about it before, what do you call it?
When I talk about women’s football, I refer to it as semi-pro. In my mind, professional athletes are compensated for their time, putting their bodies at risk, representing their cities, and entertaining their fans. As you stated, not only are we not paid, we are asked to either find a sponsor or pay a “player fee” out of pocket. I must admit that this is one of the questions that I am asked most often and unfortunately one of the very few things I am embarrassed to talk about.
Game day is made up of a bunch of smaller pieces: whatever one does in the morning before meeting up with the rest of the team, pre-game rituals, warmup, taking the field, early game, halftime, late game, post-game rituals, afterparty, whatever else is in there that I don’t know about because I don’t play football. What is your favorite part of game day?
Game day rituals for me start long before the actual day of the game. I am normally not great about drinking water, but on game weeks, I turn hydration into a part time job (my teammates joke that I should get an endorsement deal from Vita Coco because I’m always seen drinking coconut water). There is also tons of time spent watching film and doing visualizations. I don’t just run through the plays in mind, I’m actually thinking about how I want to position my body, where the defenders will be and how I will handle them. My favorite part of game day is when I step on the field for my very first play. Practice is over, hydrating is over, warm-up and stretching are over, coaches are muted, it’s just me and my teammates against the other “guys”.
Which is more fun: running with the ball when you guys have totally fooled the defense and there’s no one in front of you at all, or running with the ball straight over, around and through a bunch of defenders?
No contest…I much prefer to run over a defender. There is no greater feeling than running over a person that is trying to tackle you.
What is something that’s made you feel supported as a Militia player?
There are several examples but one incident immediately comes to mind. In the summer of 2011, I can remember coming out of a long, hot, tiring practice. As I dragged my aching body to my car, I could hear an SUV coming down the road along side me honking his horn. I turned to look as it slowly drove past me, there were two little girls hanging out of there window, while their dad drove. They were all screaming GO MILITIA! The dad yelled, “good luck this weekend. we will be there!” That brought the biggest smile to my face and knowing that there are little girls out there who look up to us definitely motivates me to work even harder.
What is something you’d like see happen that would make you feel more supported?
There are several things that need to happen to get this sport on the map but there are unfortunately only a small group of people, with limited resources trying to get it there. As we talked about earlier, to really call this a professional sport, you need to pay the players. To do this takes a ton of sponsors, many more than the teams have now. However sponsors want exposure and to get that, the sport needs to be televised. To be televised, the sport needs to be appealing to the masses (I know the non-ignorant, true lovers of football will most definitely be entertained by the skill of the players and intensity of the games despite the fact that we play with our CLOTHES ON). I will however say that it is obvious that some games are more entertaining to watch than others. There are over 50 teams in the league, and most of those teams would not be able to have a competitive game with the Militia. I think to really make a difference in the sport, the top teams will need to play each other on a regular basis and those games will need to marketed to the media. The other teams should be placed into a developmental league, just like what is currently done for men’s pro basketball and baseball. So in summary…create a league with just the big dogs, put those games on TV, recruit sponsors, and PAY THE PLAYERS!Just this week you received your Masters Degree from Northeastern University. From the photo of the diploma I saw on Facebook, it looks like your degree is in Exploratory Affairs for Drags, Violencia and Medieval Oysters. What exactly do you plan on doing with this degree?
Ha! I received an MS in Regulatory Affairs for Drugs, Biologics, and Medical Devices. I actually currently work as a Manager of Regulatory Affairs for Novartis Pharmaceutical Corporation (the second largest pharmaceutical company in the world). As a regulatory affairs manager, I represent my company when we interact with global health authorities and I also work with our internal project teams to ensure that drugs that we develop are both safe and effective.
Thanks, Tiamfork! Can’t wait to see what you do next.
So anything I had wanted to say seemed largely irrelevant in the face of the trauma and the drama of last week. My feelings on the matter are too raw and complex for me to really write about them here at this point, so I want to link to a few things that say some of what I can’t yet:
Powerful piece written by former Militia player, Smash (#88/WR).
Y’know, like this. Shout out to former Militia player Beast (#91/DL), who was all about it.
So there is that. I also wanted to say thanks to all of the teams and individuals around the country who sent messages of support to the Boston Militia, to Backseat Coach, to me and to our city. This is an article I have been reading and re-reading and processing differently every time I read it, but I do love this paragraph:
Dear Dzhokhar, you failed because Boston was neither bowed nor afraid. You set off a bomb, and the city gave blood for victims. You escaped initial capture and the city opened its doors to strangers. You were at large and making more bombs, and we gathered in prayer at Garvey Park and the cathedral. You went on a rampage, and people stayed home in an orderly fashion and opened their homes to the police during the search. Dear Dzhokhar, you failed, because light cast out the darkness, and the man who knew that his boat just didn’t look right wasn’t afraid to call it in.
For my children, your children and the child who was lost on that Monday, I pray that light will continue to cast out the darkness. Be safe, all.
When she reaches the semi-circle of players, she will lead a loud, celebratory count-off of the number of games the team has won that season. She is, literally, a ring-leader. She is JC, D-line, #54.
[NB: Below are JC's interview questions followed by her answers, which are then followed by some commentary by me in italics.]
You’ve been playing tackle football for quite some time. When did you start? How do you think women’s football has changed since then?
I’ve been playing football for 13 years. I started with the New England Storm, then played with the Boston Warriors/Rampage and now I play for the Militia. The changes from when I started playing include the number of different leagues, the total teams involved and the exposure that the sport gets.In addition to playing football, you also coach a girls’ basketball team, and have been involved in multiple other sports. What have you played, and in what ways do you think girls benefit from playing sports?
I was the assistant basketball coach at Simmons College for one season, and I recently concluded a season as assistant basketball coach at the Winsor School in Boston. I played basketball for four years at Emmanuel College, and in high school I played basketball and softball. (I tried volleyball but was not feeling the tiny shorts.)
I believe that playing sports can help give girls a sense of empowerment, self-confidence, commitment and respect.
MC: It’s likely that the theme of girls playing sports may come up frequently in my writing this season; as I adjust to being the parent of two young boys, I have been giving a lot of thought to kids’ emotional development and what we as adults can do to help both boys and girls grow up safe and healthy (both physically and emotionally). JC’s answer above is a great starting point for what I’d like to examine further.
Tell us one of your favorite moments from any of the games you’ve played.
One of my favorite moments was scoring a touchdown off a fumble recovery. And coming close to another TD last season, if [player's name redacted] didn’t let some 300-pound girl outrun her. (OK, she wasn’t 300 pounds. But [player's name redacted] did miss the block.)What is something that’s made you feel supported as a Militia player?
Well, I’m more of the emotional leader of my team. I feel the love and support when my Militia teammates allow for me to do my thing before and after the game – I’m like the Ray Lewis for my team.
MC: Conversation at our house yesterday:
Militia Cheerleader: Hey, JC says she’s the Ray Lewis of the Boston Militia.
Backseat Coach: What, she cries all the time?
MC: I don’t think that’s what she meant.
BSC: Well, I think she’s WAY tougher than Ray Lewis.
MC: No shit.
What is something you’d like see happen that would make you feel more supported?
I would like to see bigger crowds at the games (standing-room-only type of shit), and media coverage on a consistent basis.
MC: This (poor promotion and poor media coverage) will also be a theme on this blog this season. Spoiler: I plan to blame the WFA, mainstream media, team management and ingrained misogyny.
Tiny Coach’s second birthday is coming up towards the end of April. What should Backseat Coach and I get him?
An “AWWWWW shhhhhhhh” t-shirt!!!!
MC: BRING IT ON.
So on the night of the Boston/Chicago semifinal, I went with Backseat Coach back to our hotel room after the game and proceeded to stay up until 3 am writing a long, cathartic, six-page single-spaced essay about everything that had happened in the Militia’s world in the last few weeks. And then the next morning I checked Facebook and saw this status update from one of the players:
Boston Militia all day – this L is based on politics. Charge it to the game.
And I thought, who the hell needs my 5,000-word Unabomber diatribe when she just summed it all up in two sentences? So I sat on this for a while. Then the WFA final got closer, and I wanted to post something about why Backseat Coach and I were not there (we had planned from the beginning of the season to go, regardless of who was playing). Part of it is that I’m utterly exhausted and have been really sick over the past two weeks (Dear whoever said the nausea ends after the first trimester: Excuse me, but your pants are on fire). But part of it absolutely is that I’m so angry and frustrated by the string of bizarre events that capped off the Militia’s 2012 season that I can’t bring myself to celebrate this league right now. I do not, at the moment, have any pride in the WFA. And I can’t bring myself to spend a thousand-plus dollars and get sick on an airplane while trying to hold a 15-month-old on my lap to get to something produced by an organization for whom I have nothing but contempt right now, for multiple reasons. I just can’t do it.
So I wanted to try to explain more about that, but I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how to edit down the huge thing I wrote after the Chicago game. So here’s the majority of it (minus a few bits that really were superfluous). It’s long and it’s loud and it’s from my heart, because that’s really the only way I know how to write.
Hey! If you’re looking for the links to coverage of tonight’s games, they’re right here.
It’s a bird. It’s a bug. I hope it’s not a bug.
Dear Chicago: What the hell is in the tree outside our hotel room that sounds like a discordant fire alarm? Is it a bird? A bug? A lot of bugs? We have no idea. But it’s really weird. Giant locusts? Are we too far north for cicadas? Man, it’s creepy.
You know you’ve been to a lot of away games when you have conversations like this.
- Do you want to go to breakfast or do you want to go to the hotel first?
- Let’s go to the hotel; there’s breakfast right across from there.
- There is?
- Yeah, don’t you remember? Right across there street there’s a Denny’s.
- Oh yeah, there is. IN AUSTIN.
- Oh. Right.
In case you were wondering…
…who drives a neon blue Ford Mustang rental car: why yes, yes, that would be us. I actually think it’s the car they give you when they think you may have come to Chicago specifically to commit a crime of some sort. Ain’t too many of these babies out on the road. Also, oddly enough, Ford Mustangs were apparently not designed with short pregnant women in mind. That shit is low to the ground, is all I’m saying. It would have to be a pretty decent crime to make it worthwhile for me to get in and out of that car just for that.
Yay, this article. Boo, my standards.
This is a pretty good article, for a mainstream media article. Or, as I put it to Backseat Coach: “Hey, you should read this. There’s no part of it that made me want to bang my head against a wall.” I said that, and then I thought about how wicked sad it was that THAT’S where I’ve set the bar for mainstream media these days. But honestly, can you blame me?
Gathering troops to hit Party City for any last-minute ridiculous gameday needs. Jen of the Force, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry in advance for the cowbells, friend. But a cheerleader’s gotta do what a cheerleader’s gotta do. Militia, go do what you do. I’ll be cheering.
So this afternoon, the whole elaborate farce that Backseat Coach and I have been perpetrating for four years came crashing down. Do you know how hard it was to try to get people to believe that there was a straight guy who was legitimately interested in women’s football for other than lascivious reasons? I mean really. It was just exhausting. Which is why it was almost a relief when someone accidentally outed us on Facebook this afternoon while trying to provide a link to Backseat Coach’s Twitter feed:
Yes, it’s true. My boyfriend and the father of my children is, in fact, Heidi Klum. Now you know.
OK, fine, that’s not really Heidi Klum. But I don’t know that many blonde women and I just watched the season premiere of Project Runway last night so that’s what you get.
And fine, that’s not really my boyfriend. And that’s totally not at all his Twitter avatar icon thing, so I really don’t know why it showed up there. But I DO know that it made me snort lemonade up into my nose when I saw it, which is the classic journalism litmus test for whether or not something deserves to be publicized.
National Conference Championship: Boston Militia @ Chicago Force
Saturday, July 21st
7 pm local • 8 pm EST
Video: Live stream on the Chicago Force website. It will be available as free video-on-demand from their site after the game as well.
Audio: WJOB 1230 (online, and there’s even a mobile app! Awesome.)
Twitter: Play-by-play from @backseatcoach and the regular Force twitter feed. If the play-by-play is too much for you, quarterly/scoring updates will be available via the Boston Militia Twitter feed and the Force gameday Twitter feed.
American Conference Championship: Dallas Diamonds @ San Diego Surge
Saturday, July 21st
5:30 pm local • 8:30 pm EST • 7:30 pm if for some reason you’re in Chicago
Audio broadcast here
and apparently a second one here; the Diamonds will be updating their Facebook page and probably also Twitter. The Surge usually post scoring updates on their Facebook page as well.
Backseat Coach and I intend to be at the Chicago game. Tiny Coach decided to make things interesting by getting incredibly sick over the weekend (if I had less of a thing about privacy I’d post videos of what a 14-month-old playing peekaboo looks like before and after he’s given codeine) but he’s doing a lot better now and we expect to be able to travel as planned on Saturday. (We are assuming that one can carry a cowbell, a giant bling skull & crossbones necklace and about half a dozen pomegranates in one’s carry-on; we’ll keep you posted on the accuracy of this assumption.)
Since Sunday, I have been working on a whole marathon post about the media coverage of last Saturday’s events and every time I thought I was almost done, something worse would come out. At some point I decided that that wasn’t the post I wanted to make; that’s not what I want to say. Anyone with any sense already knows how much it sucks that THIS is what finally catapulted women’s football onto the national scene (albeit briefly), and anyone with the most basic ability to read knows that the comments on those articles are nothing less than an embarrassment to humanity.
So here is what I do want to say. I hope that you can hear it.
I don’t believe that violence defines you, and I believe that you can prove that it doesn’t.
I believe that the men who leave degrading, angry, repulsive comments on stories about you do so because they are fundamentally afraid of what it would mean if you really are as strong and powerful as you look.
I also believe that they are pathetic, cowardly assholes.
I don’t want any of you to get hurt, for any reason, ever. On the field or off.
I want to reclaim this sport from this low point. I have so much passion for it and the amazing women involved – in teams all across the country – and this isn’t what I want to have to focus on.
I need this sport to grow in strength and numbers, because I recently found out that I’ll be having another little boy later this year and since I don’t want either of my sons to ever actually play football, I want them to believe that it’s just a sport for women. So if you all could get on that, that would be awesome.
With true admiration and respect from the top row of the stands,
You can check out the fully updated bracket here, but here’s the punchline:
Boston Militia (8-0) @ Chicago Force (8-0)
Dallas Diamonds (8-0) @ San Diego Surge (8-0)
Once I have game time & broadcast details I’ll post those too, of course. Off to check out flights to Chi-town (which I still don’t know how to pronounce).