Friday, January 20, 2023

Russ Crawford's "Women's American Football"

Russ Crawford has taught U.S., East Asian, and Sport History at Ohio Northern University since 2005. He earned his PhD from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and has published books and articles on the history of sport, among other topics.

Crawford applied the "Page 99 Test" to his new book, Women's American Football: Breaking Barriers On and Off the Gridiron, and reported the following:
From page 99:
"I kind of had an identity crisis. I didn’t know what to do in the world without sports.” As with many women football players, her road to joining a team started online. She found information about the Dallas Diamonds, and considered moving there, but then married and had children. “When we moved out to Seattle, I needed that competition in my life. I got on Google and saw that there was a Seattle team. I emailed the coach (Scott McCarron) and haven’t looked back since.” Since that beginning, she has become a member of the board that oversees the Majestics, and played on the U.S. National Team. She has also had injury issues. When asked about how her parents had reacted to her new football career, she told me “It surprised pretty much no one in my life. I’ve always been rough and tough, playing with the guys. I am super competitive with everything that I do, whether it is a spelling bee, or if I am drinking a glass of water with someone, I’ll still try to beat them. It didn’t surprise them, they were like, ‘welp, don’t get injured,’ which I have managed to do every season. So…” When I talked with her, she was recovering from a spinal surgery, and at the time of the world championship, she was “only about eleven weeks out of spine surgery when I went for the games. I got a doctor’s clearance, but yeah, that’s a very, very, intense injury. Just after our interview, she injured her knee, but at the Falconz game, she played through the pain.

Like Tolliver, Majestics linebacker Holly Custis has had to return from injury to play. Custis started playing for the Eugene Edge while studying history at the University of Oregon. After the Edge folded, she played three years for the Corvallis Pride and four more for the Portland Fighting Phillies for five years. She had played for the Majestics for the last four seasons when I interviewed her.

Just after returning from the Women’s World Games in Orlando, Custis was running a simple pass pattern in practice when her knee failed. She would face surgery and rehabilitation before she could play again. Custis blogged about the injury on her Relentless21: A Gridiron Mindset site, and the recovery process that followed.

On her injury and rehabilitation, Custis told me “My knee injury has been a huge process, and it’s only been about two years, actually just over two years..."
If a reader opened Women's American Football: Breaking Barriers On and Off the Field to page 99, they would get a decent taste of what the rest of the book is like. On that page, I discuss two players - McKenzie Toliver and Holly Custis, both of whom, at that time, played for the Seattle Majestics of the Independent Women's Football League. Both also had to play through injuries - spine and knee injuries in Toliver's case, and knee injury for Custis. They did so willingly in order to make it onto the gridiron. Custis, as is the case with many players, had played on several teams across the country. Toliver also played with the United States Women's National Team that won a gold medal in 2017.

My book explores the history of the major women's tackle football leagues from the 1970s to the present day, so page 99 is a bit narrow in focus. It does, however, give readers an idea of how I used oral history to flesh out the sparse documentary reports that I was able to locate. It also introduces the reader to the world of tough women that I discovered during my research and writing. They recognize that injuries are a part of football, and something to be overcome. Their reward is getting to play America's favorite game, and do so at a high level.
Visit Russ Crawford's website and follow him on Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue