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Shannon O'Toole. Wedded to the Game: The Real Lives of NFL Women.

Shannon O'Toole. Wedded to the Game: The Real Lives of NFL Women. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2006. 196 pp.

During the last few years, this reviewer has dedicated much of his research and publications to an examination of the lives, careers, and historical role of Mexican American/Chicano high school football coaches, primarily those who toiled in the Rio Grande Valley of extreme southern Texas. The project (which is still on-going) has yielded many important kernels of historical information concerning the impact of these coaches/teachers and the game of football on the personal and communal lives of the Lone Star State's largest minority group. Although the experiences of the coaches, who have graciously shared their stories as part of this endeavor, differ in many ways, there is one topic on which these men are in 100 percent agreement: the significant role played by their wives or girlfriends in helping to make their careers possible. Quite simply, these men acknowledge, without the emotional (and often, financial) support provided by these dedicated women, many would not have been able to pursue their gridiron coaching dreams.

Although the coaches readily admit the significant role of these women, there is but a small body of literature (both by academicians and coaches' wives themselves) that is beginning to shed light upon this very neglected aspect of American sporting (at all levels) life. Shannon O'Toole's work, Wedded to the Game: The Real Lives of NFL Women, is a welcome addition to this particular corpus of research.

O'Toole, who holds an MA in sociology and is married to former NFL player and Oakland Raiders assistant coach John Morton, has produced (through the use of questionnaires and in-depth interviews with approximately thirty women) an enlightening work that covers a broad range of topics: from questions about dating "jocks," dealing with groupies, family finances, relations among NFL wives/girlfriends of coaches and players, raising "NFL children," learning to adjust to life after professional football, and issues of sexual and physical abuse.

The book is well written and offers readers important insight into the varied roles of the women of the NFL. Of particular significance is O'Toole's ability to capture and present the broad range of life experiences of these women. Contrary to the popular stereotype, which envisions NFL wives and girlfriends as "drip[ping] in jewels and brandish[ing] fur coats," (purportedly bought by their husbands or boyfriends) all of the women interviewed by O'Toole come across as smart, diligent, dedicated to their partners and families, capable and independent. Of particular interest are the sections of the work where O'Toole examines the lives and careers of two specific women. Regarding the story of Dr. Chandra Hollier (wife of former Miami Dolphins and New York Jets linebacker Dwight Hollier), it is very enlightening and inspiring to read about how this woman completed medical school, all the while assisting her husband's pursuit of an NFL career.

One minor quibble with the work is that the author could have provided a bit more explanation regarding her selection of interviewees for her study. She briefly mentions that she sent out 150 questionnaires, received responses from 75 women, and conducted in-depth interviews with roughly thirty of them. Unfortunately, O'Toole's criteria for getting from her initial 75 respondents to the final thirty in-depth discussions are not made clear as it should be.

In sum, O'Toole's work is an effective sociological overview of the lives of the mostly forgotten members of the NFL "team." As this study demonstrates, without the diligent sacrifices of the women who share their lives, many NFL players and coaches would not have been able to achieve their gridiron dreams. Hopefully, Wedded to the Game will inspire academicians to delve further into the social significance and role of coaches' (at all levels) life partners.
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Author:Iber, Jorge
Publication:Aethlon: The Journal of Sport Literature
Article Type:Book review
Date:Sep 22, 2006
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