“It’s just different when there’s a lady in the room, isn’t it?” mused Cris Collinsworth during this week’s Sunday Night Football broadcast, as the camera panned to Lions team owner Martha Ford. “It’s just so different when there’s a lady in a football setting.”
He didn’t elaborate on exactly what made things so different when there was a “lady” around, thankfully for both those watching and the NBC public relations team. But that sentiment—that women working in the NFL make things “different”—was echoed in a press release today from Amazon, who decided to make history in service of promoting their own Thursday Night Football broadcast via Amazon Prime: veteran sportscasters and journalists Hannah Storm and Andrea Kremer will share the booth to become the first all-woman NFL broadcast team.
“With decades of experience as storytellers, we will be bringing a different voice and viewpoint to covering the game of football,” Kremer said in a statement that touted the experience of both women alongside the novelty of the dynamic.
Amazon Prime viewers can still stream Thursday Night Football games with commentary from Joe Buck and Troy Aikman, who will call the broadcast for FOX and NFL Network. The Prime-only stream with Storm and Kremer’s commentary is part of the channel’s initiative to “enable customers around the world to customize their viewing experience,” the press release explains, along with Spanish-language and U.K. English broadcasts.
While it’s understandable that Amazon would not be able to change the cast of the FOX and NFL Network broadcasts, promoting the Storm-Kremer team as compelling for being different rather than simply being good reinforces some unsavory conclusions. The implication of that list of streaming options—whether it was intended that way or not—is that when it comes to football, women speak another language.
Many NFL fans would agree with that exact statement, if the response to Beth Mowins’ call on the first game of the Week 1 Monday Night Football doubleheader this season was any indication. Her name was trending on Twitter as hordes of (mostly) men declared they would rather listen to the Spanish-language broadcast on ESPN Deportes (which, presumably, they couldn’t understand) than hear Mowins call the game, regardless of her years of experience and deft play-by-play commentary.
Storm and Kremer clearly have the sports TV bona fides to succeed on Thursday Night Football, even if they haven’t spent extensive time doing in-game commentary like Mowins. And the bottom line is that if they’re qualified to call games for Amazon Prime, what’s holding them and other veteran women sportscasters back from handling standard TV broadcasts? Women like Storm, Kremer and Mowins deserve to be permanent staples of NFL games—not only as fans or even as sideline reporters, as is now an accepted role for women in the industry, but as authoritative analysts and commentators.
Maybe if Mowins had a weekly gig in an NFL booth, casting Storm and Kremer in this role would look more like the exciting, history-making moment it is. I, at least, am thrilled by the prospect of hearing their commentary—sure, because they’re women, but also because they’re exceptional journalists and analysts. But all those convinced that women calling men’s sports is simply unnatural need only flip the audio to feel comfortable again; when listening to women is presented as a choice rather than the standard, too many will continue to opt out.