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Beth Mowins will be first woman to call a ‘Monday Night Football’ game

Beth Mowins has handled play-by-play duties at ESPN since 1994.2015 FILE/BEN MARGOT,ASSOCIATED PRESS

Just by receiving the assignment, Beth Mowins joined rare company.

There have been just five primary play-by-play voices in the decorated 47-year history of “Monday Night Football”: Keith Jackson, Frank Gifford, Al Michaels, Mike Tirico, and Sean McDonough.

There have been a half-dozen or so other broadcasters who have filled in on “MNF” or called the second game of a doubleheader, among them Chris Berman, Mike Greenberg, Mike Patrick, and Brad Nessler. And Howard Cosell is a category unto himself. By any measure, it’s an accomplished and exclusive group.

Mowins will join such heady company when, alongside rookie analyst Rex Ryan, she will call the second game of ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” doubleheader Sept. 11 between the Denver Broncos and Los Angeles Chargers.


But even among that distinguished group of voices, she will stand alone as a pioneer. The broadcast will mark the first time a woman has called a nationally televised NFL game.

Mowins will also be the first woman in an NFL booth for a regular-season game since Gayle Sierens handled play-by-play for a 1987 regional broadcast of a Kansas City Chiefs-Seattle Seahawks game.

“For all of us, you want to challenge yourself with bigger events,’’ said Mowins, who grew up in Syracuse and attended the university for graduate school after a record-setting basketball career at Lafayette.

“Growing up on ‘Monday Night Football,’ that was must-see TV in those days, it still is today. It’s an amazing franchise to be a part of, not many people have had a chance to sit in that chair, in front of that microphone. I must have called what seemed like thousands of ‘Monday Night Football’ games sitting in my family room as a kid.

“You’re always hoping, geez, I’d love to call the NFL, I’d love to call the Olympics, I’d love to call women’s championships and all kinds of different sports. You just keep your head down, keep working hard, and hope somebody will notice and give you that chance.”


Mowins, 49, is beyond qualified for the opportunity. She has handled play-by-play at ESPN since 1994, calling NCAA championships in basketball, softball, soccer, and volleyball. And she’s no football novice by any means. She had called college football for ESPN and ABC since 2005 and has experience with NFL broadcasting, having been the voice of Oakland Raiders preseason games the past two years.

“It’s funny, I do still get butterflies and it dates back to my days of playing,’’ she said. “It’s God’s way of letting you know, ‘Hey, this means something, and it’s time to get after it.’ I’ll get them when it’s time to call that game, but I’ll get them as I get ready to call [college] softball games this weekend. I think it’s a healthy thing, I think it’s important, a reminder that you’re still passionate about what you do. Regardless of what the event is, it’s somebody’s big moment and you want to be at your best.

“I talked to Sean McDonough the other day and he said, ‘The adrenaline will definitely be pumping that night, no doubt.’ But that’s in my comfort zone. That’s a reminder like every game I’ve played and every game I’ve called. It’s a lot better than waking up that day without butterflies and without a game to call.”

As prepared as she is for the gig — she’s already called a Florida State spring football game with Ryan as a practice run — she acknowledges that there is a visceral importance to being the first woman to call an “MNF” game.


“I understand it is a big deal for a lot of people and a lot of women and a lot of young kids out there,’’ she said Mowins, who cites Pat Summerall as an early inspiration. “Growing up, I had the dream and wanted to go after it. There’s more wings on my back than a weight on my shoulders, that’s kind of how I look at it.”

She has talked to Sierens, whom she got to know when Sierens’s daughter played volleyball at Penn State.

“She’s been great to talk to about all of this, and I’m sure we’ll talk again,’’ said Mowins. “We both known that it’s important to be encouraged at a really early age in this to certainly be yourself and never hide what makes you unique. So I’ve tried to be myself and make sure people understand it’s a game and we want to have fun and have a conversation just like the one you’re having on your couch, or on your barstool, or in the backyard while you’re watching.”

Mowins has fond recollections of how her family’s sports-watching traditions opened her eyes to the possibility of a broadcasting career.

“Remember when they used to replay Notre Dame football games on Sunday mornings in the ‘70s?’’ Mowins said, “and Lindsey Nelson would say, ‘We jump ahead to further action in the third quarter?’ We’d watch that, then we’d go to church, we’d stop at the Sweetheart market and grocery story right there on Main Street in North Syracuse, grab some donuts and whatever else we needed for dinner, and we’d have to be home to watch ‘The NFL Today’.”


That was the classic lineup of Brent Musberger, Irv Cross, Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder, and Phyllis George, the innovative prototype for what a sports studio program could be.

“And I’d see Phyllis and I’d look at my mom and say, ‘Hey, there’s a woman here on TV and she’s talking about football.’ I’d say, ‘I think I want to do that, can I do that?’ and my mom would say, ‘Yes, you can.’ So I do have that firsthand understanding of how important it is to see someone like you doing it. And that’s great. I can’t wait.”

Chad Finn can be reached at finn@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeChadFinn.