American football is the most popular sport in the United States. National Football League games are watched by millions upon millions of people every fall season. And yet despite the rampant popularity of the sport, many people have no idea that there was once a Women’s National Football League. Hail Mary, written by Britni de la Cretaz and Lyndsey D’Arcangelo, tells the fascinating story of the rise and fall of the WNFL.
It all started in Cleveland in 1967. Sid Friedman was a talent agent who thought a Women’s National Football League would be a fun gimmick, a publicity stunt, and a way to make a bit of money while having fun. But the women who played the sport saw it differently. Without meaning to, Friedman stumbled upon a group of women who truly loved the sport of football and played it hard, putting their all into the game. In spite of a world that believed women had no place in football, the women of the WNFL took the game seriously, and they loved it.
In Hail Mary, Britni de la Cretaz and Lyndsey D’Arcangelo celebrate the women of the Women’s National Football League, examining their stories and how the rise and fall of the WNFL was informed by second-wave feminism and the passage of Title IX. This is the story of the hard-working players of teams like the Detroit Demons, the Toledo Troopers, and the LA Dandelions. These women entered the world of professional sports, and their efforts to be recognized as legitimate athletes would go on to in form the careers of the many female athletes who came after them.
Britni de la Cretaz and Lyndsey D’Arcangelo are two authors who both care passionately about women and sports. Britni de la Cretaz is a freelance writer and former sports columnist for Longreads and Bitch Media whose work focuses on sports, gender, queerness, and race. Their writing has also appeared in the New York Times, Rolling Stone, espnW, Vogue, The Washington Post, Teen Vogue, The Ringer, Bleacher Report, The Atlantic, and more. They have received several rewards and accolades for their investigative fiction mixed with creative nonfiction style sports writing, including: the Notable Story of 2017 and 2017 Nellie Bly Award for Investigative Journalism from the Transformative Culture Project for the DigBoston article “The Yawkey Way”; Notable Story of 2018 for “The Hidden Queer History of ‘A League of Their Own'”; and Notable Story of 2019 for “They Call Her ‘La Primera,’ Jai Alai’s Last Hope.”
Lyndsey D’Arcangelo is a writer for The Athletic, focusing on women’s college basketball and the WNBA. She has written about female/LGBTQ+ athletes for publications such as The Ringer, Deadspin, espnW/ESPN, Teen Vogue, The Buffalo News, The Huffington Post, NBC OUT, and more. In 2020, D’Arcangelo launched a Q&A series called Courtside, featuring “honest and fun convos with some of the greatest players in WNBA history as well as rookies, vets and All-Stars in the league today.” She received a Notable Mention in the 2018 Best American Sports Writing anthology for her story “My Father, Trump and The Buffalo Bills.”
The authors’ debut nonfiction book focusing on the Women’s National Football League and its impact on women in sports is already garnering acclaim. New York Times bestselling author Shea Sherrano called Hail Mary “educational, entertaining, and uplifting.” Layshia Clarendon, WNBA player for the Minnesota Lynx, praised Hail Mary for bringing women’s sports to the forefront of the conversation: “In this vivid account, they give us a much needed record of the women who helped pave the way so we could all exist today. I’m grateful to know these women who blazed the trail I walked upon.” Oprah Daily called Hail Mary “a glorious and galvanizing chronicle celebrating no-longer-forgotten gridiron greats.” And Dave Zirin, author of A People’s History of Sports in the United States, says Hail Mary introduces readers “to a world 99% of sports fans don’t know existed, and we are richer for it.”
Hail Mary is the untold story of the rise and fall of the Women’s National Football League, told through the female athletes who loved the sport, had the drive to play well, and forever changed the playing field for women in sports. This is a story that few people have heard, but now it’s finally time to stop and take notice.