All-Female Football Team Chicago Force Gear up for Playoffs
It's not football season.
Then why are 40 football players suited up in full pads on this Saturday afternoon in June?
AO2â€”CHICAGO FORCE CO-OWNER KIM DUFFY [1009, 26.68] Detroit's a huge rivalry for us. It equates to the Bears Packers rivalry, it's been going on for us for a long time, it's a hugely important game, playoff implications.
That's Kim Duffy, a co-owner of Chicago's least-known professional football team, the Chicago Force. It's an all-women's teamâ€”and a good one. Last year the Force finished second in the national, 48-team, Independent Women's Football League.
But the Force has been struggling lately.
After winning their first four games to start the season, they've bogged down, losing two of their last threeâ€”including one to the hated Detroit Demolition.
Linda Bache, another Force co-owner, played safety for the first six seasons of the team's existence, before retiring last year. Asked about the source of the animus between the two teams, Bache says it was loathing at first sight.
AO3â€”1010, 21:00.00 They were just nasty, arrogant, obnoxious, and honestly … beat Detroit, beat Detroit.
The women do mean business. Though the Force players all have day jobs and actually pay a few hundred dollars to play on the Force, everything else about the team is strictly big league.
They master a complex playbook, and practice it three days a week from January through July.
Quarterback Samantha Grisafe has been playing football since she was five years old. She played with the boys, in peewee, junior high and even her first two years of high school. Now 24, she's in her third season with the Force, and her last. A knee injury kept her out of several games this year and it's time to get on with the acting career she went to college for. Maybe this difficult season has led her to think she should have hung up the cleats last year instead.
AOINSERTâ€”1018 0:09.90 Never …. And it's actually motivating in all aspects of my life, not just for the football team.
The Chicago Force's motivator in chief is head coach John Konecki. His pregame speech before the Detroit game was so impassioned he forbade us to record it.
But before the game, coach Konecki explained the team's battle plan, in concrete terms.
AO4â€”1010, 12:1041 PLAY TO you know we're comin', stop us.
And as the players broke for battle, they sounded emotionally ready to do just that.
AO5â€”1010, 3:30.69, PLAY UNTIL THEY ALL SHOUT AND CUT AFTER ONE PLAYER SCREAMS Yes!
But mentally, Coach Konecki still had a few wrinkles to iron out.
AO6â€”COACH KONECKI: 1010, 8:03: Baker's not here …. where's Bennett?
After the kickoff, the pre-game confusion gave way to the organized frenzy of the game itself.
AO7â€”1012, 4:07.63 RUN TO, … you have to get on that wide set defensive end ….
The Force scored on its first offensive drive and took a 7-0 first-quarter lead. But in the second-quarter, the Force drove deep into Demolition territory, only to be turned back when backup quarterback Albionia Zhubi was sacked, and got up slowly.
AO8â€”1012, 5:46.24 TO she went straight down the line of scrimmage….
Things were more pleasant in the sun-drenched stands. Force games are a friendly atmosphere, because most of the diehard fans are friends or relatives of the players.
Bruce Parrello and his son Nate are loyal Force watchers, even to the point of traveling to some of the team's road games.
AO9â€”1010, 27:14.00 It's just like regular football …. normal people like us. Right!
The quirky Parrellos are well-known by Force faithful for their practice of rhythmically rooting on the team by banging umbrellas on the steel bleachers.
AO10â€”1010, 28:30.00 And they asked us to use the pie tins so we didn't damage the stands. … and they show no signs of weakening.
In the locker room at halftime, Coach Konecki said the team was lucky to be winning the game, and he warned the players that Detroit was only one big play away from tying the game. The team responded by marching down near the goal line on its opening drive. During a timeout, Konecki ran out onto the field and exhorted the offense in the huddle.
AO11â€”1015, 2:32.53 This is a bar fight, this is what we live for. Road grade city.
On the next play the Force scored on a quarterback sneak, by Samantha Grisafe.
AO12â€”1015, 3:22.85 Boom! [and women screaming]
The Force went on to win 26-6. It was a good win, and the Force secured a playoff spot. They're on the road for their first playoff game, against the Seattle Majestics, Saturday night.
And though co-owner Linda Bache wasn't complaining, clearly this game hadn't quite yielded the kind of rivalry lore that the old safety remembers from her last game against Detroit last year.
AO13â€”1010, 25:17 The last play of the game … it was a great way to end their season.
After this game, at the after-party at Paddy O'Splaine's bar, Force wide receiver Martha Dantuma sounded a similar note she talked about her favorite moments from this season.
AOINSERTâ€”1017, 2:28.62, play to, , “so that was kind of, you know, fun.”
And the tradition continues.
For WBEZ, I'm David Murray.