BY JENNIE MCNULTY
On January 20, 2016, history was made. The Buffalo Bills, of the National Football League announced the hire of, Kathryn Smith, making her the first, full time, female coach. Rex Ryan, the Bills head coach who made the hire, said, “Kathryn Smith has done an outstanding job in the seven years that she has worked with our staff. She certainly deserves this promotion based on her knowledge and strong commitment, just to name a few of her outstanding qualities, and I just know she’s going to do a great job serving in the role of Quality Control-Special Teams.”
“Because of her knowledge and strong commitment” — an NFL coach saying that about a woman. Seriously, it gives me chills. Go Bills! I promise to root for you in any game that doesn’t affect the Lions’ standing. Or the Giants’ (my girlfriend’s team — we need to keep the house happy on Sundays). And, I’ll admit, even with all my football experience as a lifelong fan and player, I have no idea what a “Quality Control-Special Teams” coach does. But I know I’ve spent many a Sunday yelling, “Our kicking game sucked today!” So, I’m assuming Kathryn will fix that for the Buffalo Bills.
But, back to the point, a woman is now a coach in the National Football League! To be fair, the Arizona Cardinals’ head coach, Bruce Arians, hired Jen Walter but just for the pre-season. Once the season started, she wasn’t with the team (as was the plan, she didn’t get fired). Kathryn Smith is a full time football coach in the NFL. I keep repeating it because I can’t believe it. We couldn’t even enter the “Punt, Pass and Kick” competition when I was growing up and now, every Sunday there will be a woman coaching on the sidelines of an NFL game. And, don’t forget Sarah Thomas, the first female referee hired this year, will be potentially telling Kathryn’s players they are f*ing up. It’s incredible. It’s wonderful. Thank you, Rex Ryan.
Rex Ryan is a colorful character — look him up if you don’t know about him. His players love him. He’s got a crazy and engaging personality. You wanna like the guy. In fact, google “Rex Ryan and toes” seriously, just do it. The dude’s crazy, fun but crazy. He also just hired his twin brother, Rob, to be an assistant head coach for defense. Again, what’s that job??? Whatever, it doesn’t matter. Rex can make up whatever titles he wants, if they win, he’ll keep his job. So I hope they win (again, with the aforementioned Lions/Giants exemptions). Because this guy just helped women make one big, freakin’ step forward in the world of sports.
I guess, I’ve always kinda liked the Bills. I was a fan of O.J. Simpson, you know, before he became THAT O.J. I still have his football cards. Although, I was not a fan on Thanksgiving Day, 1976, in Detroit, when he set what was then a single game rushing record of 273 yards/game. But, hey, the Lions still won the game. I know. I was there. I remember the giant screen at the stadium proclaiming that on our “Thanksgiving Day Menu” we’d be serving “Juice.” Perhaps, they should have thought that one through as it worked out to be somewhat prophetic — with 273 yards rushing, we certainly had “Juice” shoved down our throats. But we won the game. It was a happy Thanksgiving dinner for the McNulty clan — at a lovely restaurant — just like it should be. We all have our own Thanksgiving traditions you know.
Ahhh, and that’s why ya gotta love football. It’s exciting moments last forever in our minds. And now, women are a part of creating those memories. As a lifelong fan, I have a million stories I could tell about exciting Lions games — good and bad — as does every NFL fan. Football has become a huge part of our lives. So, anytime something that’s become a huge part of the nation’s collective consciousness makes steps towards including women where they hadn’t been previously, it’s a very cool thing. And here’s an interesting stat for you football geeks: among the top 25 yards/game performances, only O.J.’s 273 against us came in a losing effort. If you’re ever on Jeopardy and that fact is the answer for which you must provide the question … you’re welcome.
So, thank you Rex. Thank you Bruce. Thanks to everyone who helps to make our world more inclusive. Now we just need to get Rex and Bruce voting memberships to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. I bet “Concussion” would have scored a few more Oscar nods.