Football with a twist: Women come to Hub

Jessica Edwards

Mass Mutiny, Boston's all-female professional football team, has been around for the last five years and will be playing its home-opener Saturday at Jamaica Plain's English High School.

So why has no one heard of them?

"They've been stuck up in Lowell, where no one gave them their due," said new owner Dr. Sheri Russell, who moved the team from Lowell after the 2004 season.

With the move, Russell said she hopes to finally develop a strong fan base for the team, which has been lacking since the team's inception, partly due to the team's multiple moves.

However, after four seasons in Lowell, Russell decided it was time to finally "showcase" the women for the "amazing athletes" they are.

"We didn't really have a fan base in Lowell," Russell said, "so we're not quite sure who we'll get [in Boston]."

Russell added that she hopes the fans will be similar to those of the short-lived professional women's soccer team The Boston Breakers -- moms, dads and their kids.

A League of Their Own: Women's Professional Sports is Roundtable Topic

When: Thursday, April 6, 7 p.m.

Where: Campus Recreation Center, corner of Pawtucket and Aiken sts., Lowell
What: Experts on women in professional sports will gather to discuss the status of women's professional sports, asking, where are we today and what does the future hold?

Panelists include:

  • Kristine Botto, New England Riptide softball team
  • Ginger Snow, Massachusetts Mutiny football team
  • Dr. Sheri Russell, Massachusetts Mutiny Football team, Owner
  • Joe Cummings, former GM of WUSA Boston Breakers soccer
  • Peter Mandeau, GM of World Team Tennis, Boston Lobsters

Real girls play tackle

The Mass Mutiny, JP's full-contact women's pro-football team, pulls no punches

LINDA CARUSO can totally kick your butt. An East Boston native with painted toenails, a pierced belly button, and a thick townie accent, Caruso is a veteran linebacker on the Mass Mutiny, a 6-1 pro women's tackle-football team that recently relocated to Jamaica Plain from Lowell. The 30-year-old athlete ranks second on the Mutiny in defensive tackles, with 18 solo and 28 assists. At 5'3" and 150 pounds, she charges opponents with such brute force that a former teammate once likened Caruso's hit to that of a "mini Mack truck."

A former South Bay corrections officer who exudes tough-girl charisma seemingly made for television, Caruso is exactly the sort of pretty face that professional women's full-contact football wants to present to a wider audience. (The New Hampshire resident was picked as one of 16 contestants on The Benefactor, an ABC reality rip-off of The Apprentice that aired last summer, and made it to the final three.) She also embodies the mix of athletic roughness and overt femininity that could make the sport marketable to a wider audience. As someone who wears diamond earrings on the practice field and keeps a bunny sticker slapped on the front of her shoulder pads, and whose fiancé is a former coach's friend, Caruso is saleable to girly-girls, social conservatives, and anyone else wary of women playing football.

And convincing people that women can play football is an integral part of attracting a wider fanbase. Mutiny owner Sheri Russell, a chiropractor and sports-medicine specialist who spent five years as the team's athletic director before buying the franchise last November, moved the Mutiny from Lowell to Boston in hopes of increasing its visibility and acceptance. It'll be no small feat; as football has become ever more entrenched as a national pastime, girls have always been expected to remain on the sidelines, cheering for the boys. "The biggest reason [I bought the team] is that I have a little four-year-old niece," says Russell, affectionately known to many of her players as Doc Sheri. "And the idea that she could be told 'no' to do something, like a sport, is just ridiculous. That's one of the underlying things that I heard with a lot of the athletes. They were just so happy to have the opportunity to do something they couldn't do when they were younger."



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