The night before 32 NFL teams logged on to make their draft selections, 32 reporters who cover the sport did the same as part of the Women in Football: Draft Special. Spearheaded by the NFL Network's Cynthia Frelund, with help from Shara Senderoff, the show clocked in at just under three hours on Twitch and featured a vast array of voices from across the spectrum.
"They were so generous with their time," Frelund told The Big Lead. "I was hopeful to get to 10 or 15 but wanted to set the goal high at 32. In the end there were other people who wanted to be a part of it but had conflicts. I'm blown away."
Much like tonight's coverage will feature collaboration from varying outlets, this special brought in talent from ESPN, NFL Network and more, including: Andrea Kremer, Kim Jones, Lindsay Rhodes, MJ Acosta, Madelyn Burke, Taylor Bisciotti, Alex Flanagan, Linda Cohn, Amy Trask, Lindsey Thiry, Dianna Russini, Colleen Wolfe, Kimmi Chex, Kimberley Martin, Judy Battista, Hayley Elwood, Aditi Kinkhabwala, Tori Petry, Lisa Kerney, Keiana Martin, Anita Marks, Olivia Landis, Jane Slater, Stacey Dales, MIchelle Beisner-Buck, Melanie Collins, Charlotte Wilder, Kay Adams, Melissa Stark, Mina Kimes, Sam Ponder, Lakisha Jackson, and Erica Tamposi.
In addition to the booking, Frelund and Senderoff envisioned and implemented the graphics. The former admits it was a bit like diving into the deep end and trial by fire.
"I have a profound new respect for my producers, directors and everyone who understands technology," she said.
"To wrangle that many people, figure out all the logistics, and run it in her living room is impressive," Flanagan, who called Frelund the smartest person in the room, said. [The turnout] speaks to what people think about her."
One silver lining in the omnipresent dark clouds of our current situation is that it has afforded creative people more opportunities to be creative. A draft program like this is something different in what is a crowded, but often homogeneous, crop of content. Platforms like Twitch can supplement the sports diet and allow fans to curate their own programming, which can often include perspective not found on flagship networks.
"People are more receptive to streaming things than they were even three months ago," Frelund said.
Those who cover it have been both freed up to participate in off-the-beaten path avenues and seen the value in doing so as it provides a unique chance to connect and reach different eyeballs.
Said Frelund: "This is a good outlet for all the good work they've done all season long."
That said, this passion project required a not-insignificant time commitment from the participants. Flanagan explained why it was important for her to lend services.
"We talk a lot about elevating women and supporting each other, so it's important to take the opportunities, do actionable things to support causes," she said. "The people who were a part of it love talking football and sharing their knowledge. Women are sometimes used as an accessory in sports television. This is just another step toward proving and showing theres a lot of depth for female voices."
With one in the books, Frelund is already looking to a future in which she can do it again. In addition to entertaining and restoring a little normalcy, the endeavor did and can continue to afford tangible support system that elevates others in an increasingly uncertain time.
"I sincerely hope it's a series," she said. "There's so many voices, male and female, that make people happy and excited. To me, this was a chance to showcase all these people I've been working with and it's really the right time for it. It isn't often that the networks allow us all to work together on one platform. It's great to have those conversations behind the scenes out in front of people too."