Feel the Sting

OK, here's a quick history lesson for all of you not in the know. Women playing football is not a recent development. In 1926, the Frankford Yellow Jackets used women's football teams as a novelty halftime act. In 1965, a talent agent named Sid Friedman started a semipro women's tackle football league known as the Women's Professional Football League. In the early 1970s, Patricia Barzi Palinkas played on the all-male Orlando Panthers. The WPFL eventually folded, and in the late 1970s, the National Women's Football League was formed, and it expanded to three divisions: Eastern, Southern, and Western. In the '80s, women's football even made it overseas, with teams in Germany and Australia.

Fast-forward to 1999, when Terry Sullivan and Carter Turner started the Women's Professional Football League and launched the Lake Michigan Minx and the Minnesota Vixens as franchises. This led to the formation of the Florida Stingrays as well. Yes, South Florida has a women's football team, as do Tampa, Orlando, Jacksonville, and Pensacola. But let's back up a bit. Cue Elizabeth Bartolo, a former CEO for Ella Cosmetics and former co-owner, along with her husband, of the minor-league Florida Titans. "Four years ago, I didn't know a thing about football," Bartolo says. "But I'm a huge business buff, so I had to learn in order to manage. Now, I think I'm one of the only women I know who asks her husband when the NFL draft is."

Tryouts were held for the new endeavor: a women's tackle football team called the Florida Stingrays. Top athletes in college rugby, softball, and basketball showed up for the open call, and soon a team was put together. The majority of the team has played on other football teams, and many were involved in the Miami Fury, including Stingrays co-owner Angela Belden. But some players had no experience at all. Most notable of the Stingrays may be quarterback Anita Marks, who is also an on-air personality for Fox Sports Radio's "Morning Bull Pen" on WINZ-AM (940). "Women are just natural multitaskers," Bartolo says of the various interests of both the women on the team and the fans. "You're not going to see a line of men around the corner for our games. Our fans are young women, mothers, and children. There's a completely different fan base than for the NFL. But then again, we're not trying to be like the NFL. We're just trying to give female sports fans an alternative, and I think we'll be successful. Will we ever be like the WNBA? It's hard to tell. Would we like to be an associate league to the NFL? Absolutely."

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Audra Schroeder
Contact: Audra Schroeder