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November 11, 1973 - Image 3

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
Michigan Daily, 1973-11-11

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

magazine editors:
tony schwartz
marty porter
contributing editor:
laura herman

sundaiy

inside:

magcazrne

books - page 4
week in review -page 5
one string sam -page 6

Number 8 Page Three-
FEA

November 11, 1973
TURES

They
ofit: T
of won
By CHARLES STEIN
THE WEED-COVERED p r a c t i c e
football field tucked inconspicu-
ously between US 23 and a run-down
section of Toledo is hardly a fitting
Y place for the world champions to do,
their training.
The yard-markers are barely visi-
ble and there is garbage strewn
carelessly about the field's edges.
The noise coming from the midget
football team that shares the turf
is a further reminder that the bush
leagues are never far away.
If this second-class status irks
him, barrel-chested Coach Bill Sout
doesn't let it show. Clad in baggy
shorts and a green windbreaker,
Stout looks like any one of a thous-
and coaches around the country. A
whistle, trademark of the profession,
dangles from the extension of his
shoulders that passes for a neck.
"Where are you supposed to be on
that play, Jefferson?" he barks, shat-
tering the silence of the late after-
noon.
"HOW ARE we going to beat Dallas
if you don't know where to go
on a 33?"
"But coach," protests the offen-
der.
"Never mind, take a lap."
As the squads heads toward the
far corner of the field, Stout's angry
glare melts slowly into a smile of
justifiable pride.
His Toledo Troopers have won 14
straight gimes in the last three sea-
sons, often crushing opponents by
more than 40 points.

lay for the love

he

wild

world

men's

foo tball

has been limited largely
color TVs and beer for
football fans.

to providing
the family's

To BE A woman football player in
male America is to be a freak-
something to laugh at like a lady
wrestler or roller derby star.
It was just this sort of comic figure
Cleveland theatrical promoter Sid
Friedman had in mind when he gave
birth to the women's Professional
Football League seven years ago.
Starting with clubs in New York,
Philadelphia and Cleveland, Fried-
man managed to generate enough in-
terest in his novel show biz venture
to allow an expansion of the league
several years later.
From the outset, the new Toledo
franchise didn't fit the Friedman
mold.
"The girls decided they were gen-
uinely serious about football," says
Nancy "Eric" Erickson, the squad's
only Ann Arbor member. "We didn't
want to be clowns. We wanted to be
football players."
THE TEAM'S attitude and eventual
success on the playing field led
them into frequent and often stormy
conflicts with Friedman.
According to team PR man, Frank
Wallace, the league owner wanted the
Troopers to throw several games.
Beating opponents by overwhelming
margins was apparently bad for busi-
ness.
Money also proved to be a bone of
contention between Friedman and the
Troopers. Though the league is called

':11":........ . . . .

practices they are subjected to all
the grueling drills and abusive com-
sistants can dish out.
The presence of Stout and his male
colleagues seems anomolous in light
of the team's recent bout with Fried-
man, but the women respect the
coaches and their relationship is not
all that paternalistic given the type
of discipline football demands.
What makes women submit to that
discipline?
"Its just love," says Eric as she
pulls on her jersey in readiness for
another day of practice. "Either that
or I've got rocks in my head."
At 35 Eric is no stranger to the
world of sports. As a 15 year-old back
in 1952 she played professional base-
ball for the now-defunct Kalamazoo
Lassies. The league was organized
during WWII when there weren't
enough men around to satisfy the na-
tion's love for baseball.
"It disbanded around the end of
the Korean War," she recalls a bit
glumly.
SINCE THAT TIME Eric has played
softball, picked up a phys. ed. de-
gree from the University and fixed a
lot of shoes in her job at the college
shoe repair. But she never played
any football.
"Football, remarks Eric," was a
game we could never play. I took part
in all the sports girls were supposed
to, and even a few that they weren't,
but football-no way."
An ad in the paper, the Troopers
sole method of recruiting, gave Eric
her "chance of a lifetime." The
c o a c h e s were initially skeptical
about letting a 35 year-old rookie
play a game designed for youngsters
-especially when that rookie stood
a mere 5' 5", 130 pounds.
"Those first couple weeks were ab-
solutely brutal," Eric recalls pain-
fully. "I'd drive two hours a day for
the chance to get black and blue
marks all over my body. I was be-
ginning to think it just wasn't worth
it after all."
But Eric came back. And the To-
ledo Troopers are glad she did. After
a rough training camp she earned a
spot as starting middle - line backer
and a leadership role among her
teammates.
O HEAR HER speak about those
teammates is bit like listening to
a lecture from Vince Lombardi. Eric
firmly believes that a Toledo Troop-
er uniform has changed the lives of
a number of frustrated young wo-
men.
Sheila, for example, wanted to be
a cheerleader more than anything
else. Unfortunately in the world we
call the real one, 200 pounders don't
often qualify.
As a Trooper, however, she has
found a home - leading cheers, lift-
ing spirits and simply feeling like
she belongs.
Terry a 16 year-old Chicano, came
to the Troopers with a prison record
and, as she puts it, "a chip on her
shoulder the size of a football.
"She ran a lot of punishment laps
when she first came," remembers
Eric, "but she's changed remarkably
over the season. Now she knows
what its like to be a member of a
team.
"1NE NEED ONLY watch the Troop-

/
i

c
i{
/ r'6i
says Eric, "we can probably kee
them coming back. The trick is ge
ting them out in the first place."
G r o w i ng disenchantment wit
Friedman among the ranks of w
men's football also augurs well fc
the Toledo future. Several other fra
chises are reported ready to stri
out on the independent route pi
followed by the Detroit club.
WITH A SERIES of nearby ind
pendents, problems of schedu
A -_

To be a woman football play-
er in male America is to be a
freak - something to laugh at
like a lady wrestler or roller der-
by star. "The girls decided they

h
'-
or
n-
ke
.o-

were genuinely
football," says-

serious about

Nancy

"Eric"

Erickson, "We didn't want to be-
come clowns. We wanted to be
football players."

e-
zI-

Cindy Thomas

x,:.:::.ar~rY::} 4":4}}"Y.:':,::}:":: a ...........A........... .''}}}. r.:.... . . ..{'. .

The defense has yielded a paltry 1 /2
points a game while the team's ace
running back scored a mind-boggling
34 touchdowns last season alone. For
their efforts, the Troopers were
crowned champions of the world for
the 1972 season.
YET IN THREE years of football, it
is likely that not a single Troop-
er has taken home over $100. Joe Na-
math makes more in the time it takes
him to tie his shoes.
The Troopers can blame their mis-
fortune on the cruel twist of history
that relegated men to the football
fields, and women to the kitchens.
For the Toledo Troopers, all 24 of
them-are women.
Twenty-four women who block,
pass, tackle and generally play the
game of football the way God intend-
ed it to be plaved.

professional, the term is largely a
publicity gimmick.
For the privilege of pounding out
each others brains, the women are
guaranteed only traveling expenses
and medical insurance.
WHEN SOME of that "guaranteed"
insurance failed to materialize
last season, the Troopers decided the
time had come to part company with
the czar of women's football.
As compensation for the unpaid
insurance, the Troopers kept all the
equipment Friedman had allotted
them. In retaliation, he has since
barred them from competing with all
league teams.
The move has made scheduling
games well near impossible. Only in-
dependent teams in Dallas, Detroit
and Los Angeles are available for
competition.

time. 17 year-old blacks have struck
up improbable friendships with 32
year-old white housewives, without
the slightest hint of tension or social
stigma.
Not surprisingly, the experience
has also had its effect on off-the field
relations.
Laura, an affable offensive line-
band have had their problems as a
result of her new football career.
"I wake him up at night with el-
bows in the chest," she quips with an
impish grin. "I try to explain it's
only because I'm dreaming of throw-
ing a great block."
IN THE COURSE of building these
friendships, the Troopers have
put together a football team as re-
freshing and unorthodox as the wo-

Linda Jefferson who holds all of the
clubs rushing records. As exciting an
open field runner as one is likely to
see, Jefferson runs the 100 yard dash
in 11 seconds - a statistic that
should convince skeptics that wo-
men's football is for real.
The Green Machine defense, as the
Troopers call it, is equally impressive.
Employing a series of different for-
mations, the Troopers sack opposing
quarterbacks and pick off enemy
passes with reckless abandon.
And as the 12/2 point a game aver-
age of their opponents would indi-
cate, the Green Machine bends but
rarely breaks.
The team is in a sense a throwback
to the golden days of football, before
computerized offenses and boring
zone defense transformed the nnrt

ing and long distance travel would
be virtually eliminated.
According to Eric, expansion may
also be on the agenda for Ann Arbor.
which is high on the list of prospec-
tive sites.
"You need a city where there's al-
ready a large base of women ath-
letes and a liberal enough attitude
to accept the sport," - Eric relates.
"You can't set up a team in Podunk
where the dignified ladies will look
down their noses at women football
players."
Speaking about her own future,
Eric fully expects to be back at mid-
dle-line backer for the Troopers next
season. She, of course, wouldn't mind
sharing in some of that future wealth,
but at 35, doesn't really expect to be
in uniform when that day comes.
"Sure it would be nice," she says
breaking into a broad grin. "But's
let's face it, who really cares about
money anyhow?"
"WHO CARES ABOUT money?" Not
the sort of comment you'd ex-
pect to hear from a professional
fonthau nlaver. hut it must be apnar-

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