At 10:15 p.m. eastern on Monday night, Beth Mowins will go live on ESPN and accomplish something 30 years in the making.
Mowins is set to be the first woman since Gayle Sierens in 1987 to call television play-by-play for an NFL game when she calls the Los Angeles Chargers and Denver Broncos with Rex Ryan as part of the network’s Monday Night Football doubleheader. She’ll also be making history on CBS on September 24, when she calls the Indianapolis Colts-Cleveland Browns game with Jay Feely, becoming the first woman to do play-by-play for an NFL game on CBS in the history of that network.
Mowins spoke with Awful Announcing about her upcoming debuts, and how she’s earned this position based on her accomplishments as a broadcaster over the last 20 years, not just because she’s different than what people are accustomed to seeing in an NFL broadcast booth.
“I think I’ve worked hard over the years, and [like] anybody in this business, you want to put yourself in a position to be successful and you want to put yourself in a position to be up for opportunities when they come along,” Mowins told Awful Announcing at CBS’s recent NFL media day. “Over the course of the 20 years that I’ve been in this industry, I’ve been proud of the work I’ve been able to do with all the crews I’ve been on over the years and I hope that will continue.”
Mowins stressed that preparation is so key to being successful as a broadcaster, helping her merit a promotion to the NFL that seems like a long time coming. Mowins and Ryan did a practice game together between the Giants and Browns in Cleveland last month, which helped her not only prepare for Monday’s Chargers-Broncos game with Ryan but also help prepare her game boards when she calls the Browns on CBS in week three.
Mowins said that CBS approached her agents early in the spring and said they were interested in having her call games for the network this season.
“It’s an amazing property and an amazing thing to be able to work on,” she said.
ESPN signed off on her working games at CBS, and Mowins will call between two and four games with Feely as the analyst, according to an NFL on CBS spokesperson.
“The hope is that you approach these games like you do any other game you would work,” Mowins said, “and you’re well prepared and you’re ready to have fun and you’re informative about the games.”
Mowins’ normal fall job is calling college football games on Saturdays for ESPN, which she did on Aug. 31 when she did the play-by-play for Kent State and defending national champion Clemson alongside Anthony Becht. But she did not call a game this past Saturday as she prepares for her NFL debut, and it’s doubtful that she’ll be calling college games on Saturdays during the same weeks that she’s scheduled to call the NFL.
Coincidentally, Becht, Mowins’ regular broadcast partner for ESPN’s college football coverage, was teammates, roommates and workout buddies with Feely when they were with the Arizona Cardinals. Becht and Feely broke into television at about the same time, and have spoken a lot over the years about Mowins’ broadcasting acumen.
Becht told Feely that “she’s incredibly prepared and she’s fun to hang with, and she’s as good as anybody who does that job.”
As it happens during the first few times a woman makes a broadcasting debut in a new or prominent sports property, Mowins is going to face criticism, derision and scrutiny on social media just because she isn’t a man.
Though Mowins said she enjoys having meaningful and substantive conversations on Twitter, “I have no time for negative people and negative attitudes,” she said.
For some, on social media and otherwise, having a woman calling an NFL game brings uncertainty and change.
“Not everybody is comfortable with change,” Mowins said. “So I’m hoping I can go out and if they’ll give me an opportunity that first game with an open mind, hopefully after that first game they won’t care at all.”
“I’ve never cared what people think about me, and I think Beth has the same feeling,” Feely told Awful Announcing. “She’s gonna go out there, she’s gonna do her job the best that she could do it.”
The chairman of CBS Sports, Sean McManus, said that hiring Mowins for the NFL was an easy decision.
“Beth was hired not because she was a woman,” McManus said at CBS’s media day. “Beth was hired because she’s a terrific play-by-play personality and is really going to be a great addition to our team.”
Tracy Wolfson, CBS’s lead sideline reporter for its NFL and college basketball coverage, said that she’s enjoyed watching Mowins call college games and Oakland Raiders preseason games, which Mowins has called for the last couple of seasons.
“She’s one of the best play-by-play personalities in the game,” Wolfson told Awful Announcing. “It takes a really long time to get to a certain level. I think she’s there now, and CBS recognizes that.”
Wolfson said she admires Mowins’ determination to get to this point and that she looks forward to learning from her.
“As a father of three girls who tells his girls all the time that ‘if you have a dream, go after it, don’t let anything stand in your way,’ I think it’s special to be up in the booth [with Mowins] and be a living example for them,” Feely said. He said Mowins will be an example for his kids that you can accomplish your goals based off of your merit, regardless of gender.
Mowins will take her 20 years of game-calling experience to a new and much larger television audience on Monday on ESPN and then to CBS later this month. She’ll be achieving milestones on both those days, but she ultimately hopes that these games, regardless of who calls them, will one day be treated just like any other.
Photo via ESPN