Mar 9, 2020
Hollywood cinematographer and documentary filmmaker Olivia Kuan (Brick House) joins to discuss the revealing story of the Houston "Herricanes" of the pioneering National Women’s Football League (1974-88) – and their overlooked role in the historically rich and surprisingly resilient world of women’s pro football.
The modern women’s pro game started innocently enough in 1967, when Cleveland talent agent Sid Friedman launched a barnstorming “Women’s Professional Football League” in which a team (later nine) of women toured the country playing men’s clubs in exhibitions and charity events – sometimes even as NFL and CFL game halftime entertainment.
Led by the breakaway Toledo Troopers, the decidedly (and competitively) legit NWFL began play in 1974 with six teams; by 1976, the league had ballooned to 14 franchises from coast-to-coast, including three in football-mad Texas – led by the “Herricanes” of Houston.
Though devoid of sustainable budgets, major media coverage or appreciable crowds, the Herricanes (and the league itself) featured a passionate breed of player – drawn to an unprecedented opportunity to play real men’s-style tackle football for pay – buttressed by emerging progressive era of Title IX, the Equal Rights Amendment and rampant sports league entrepreneurialism.
Most were ecstatic simply to play “for the love of the game” – a common theme that emerges quickly in Kuan’s early research and principal production for Brick House, beginning with the Herricanes’ starting safety – her own mother Basia.
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