Meet the first woman to call NFL game in 30 years

(CNN photo)

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — In 1987, Gayle Sierens became the first woman ever to call the NFL on TV — a regionally televised Chiefs-Seahawks game in the last week of the season. She never called another.

In Syracuse, New York, the father of Beth Mowins noticed Sierens’ picture in the newspaper and clipped it out for his daughter, who had grown up broadcasting neighborhood kickball games into a toy microphone.

“I was already a budding sportscaster back then,” Mowins recalled. “What she was able to do so many years ago … to see what she had done, and sort of plant the seed in my mind of somebody else has already done this: I can do it, too.”

On Monday night, she will. Mowins will call the Denver Broncos and San Diego Chargers in the second game of ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” doubleheader — the first woman in 30 years take the microphone in an NFL game, and the first for a national broadcast.

Two weeks later, she’ll call the Browns and Colts for CBS. But the adrenaline will especially be flowing on Monday night.

“The iconic open to the show and the iconic music, the first time you hear that, you get kind of goosebumps, even if you’re just sitting at home watching,” Mowins said. “I just gotta make sure that once the adrenaline starts flowing we channel that toward positive things.”

Mowins realized she wanted to be a sportscaster after watching “The NFL Today” on CBS as a kid. She began calling high school games when she was a teenager.

“I also knew pretty early on just from watching a lot of sports on TV that I wasn’t going to be the coach or I wasn’t going to be the guy that played in the NFL or in Major League Baseball,” Mowins said. “But that other guy, the play-by-play guy, maybe that I was a role that I could do.”

She’s already familiar to viewers. Mowins has been the voice of the Women’s College World Series for more than 20 years. She’s called college football for ESPN since 2005, and men’s and women’s college basketball. She’s done Oakland Raiders preseason games since 2015.

“She is a total pro,” said “Monday Night Football” producer Jay Rothman. “She is rock solid, she’s a great coach, she’s a great fan of the game. I can go on and on. Her knowledge is deep, and she loves it.”

CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus said he sees it as the beginning of a partnership, with Mowins calling other games in future seasons.

“Beth was hired not because she’s a woman but because she’s a teriffic play-by-play personality,” he said. “I’ve listened to her for years, and she’s excellent.”

“She really gets the most out of her analyst, she’s very unselfish on the air, gives them time to get their thoughts out, and that, to me, is a sign of a really successful broadcaster.”

Women in similar roles have faced severe criticism. When Jessica Mendoza joined ESPN’s “Sunday Night Baseball,” a Fox Sports Radio host called her “the worst baseball announcer who has ever announced the game of baseball.” The network deleted a tweet suggesting she’d be fired if she were a man.

Mowins said she’s not concerned about backlash.

“I don’t approach it like that,” she said. “I do understand people are probably watching a little more closely because you are a woman, but I’m much more interested in just going out and trying to prove myself.”

When Sierens got the NBC assignment, she had transitioned to local news after covering sports for nine years. Her bosses allowed her to call the game as long as it wouldn’t be seen in the Tampa Bay area.

“They had just spent all this money on promotions to try to get people to forget that I was the sports chick and see me as their news anchor,” Sierens said.

Sierens said she got positive reviews about her coverage, even though she was a “nervous wreck.” She decided not to pursue additional games because of the news job and because she was starting a family.

“It wasn’t a guarantee that it was gonna work,” Sierens said. “With a baby on the way, I was thinking more in my family life mode than I was thinking about my sports career, which by all accounts I had already put behind me.”

She said the only thing that gives her pause is that if she had continued she might have cleared the way for more women. She’s excited that Mowins’ turn in the booth will do just that.

“Beth’s going to be a regular … which is going to open doors for a lot of other women in ways that my — almost ‘event,’ you could call it, more than anything — did not do,” Sierens said.

The two met when Sierens’ daughter was playing in a college volleyball game that Mowins was broadcasting. She’s known for a while now that Mowins is a “rockstar.”

“She doesn’t need one bit of advice from me,” Sierens said.

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