This week I had the pleasure of interviewing Liz Panucci, the founder and editor of the popular website NFLFemale.com. The site has grown into a broad social network that features female fans representing all 32 NFL teams. Read on to find out how Panucci fell in love with the NFL as a Canadian teenager and when she got the inspiration for NFLFemale.com.
Q: As someone who didn’t get into sports until much later in life, I’m always curious how people got into sports. How did you become a sports fan and get interested in the NFL in particular?
A: Being the only girl in the family, my mother had me in dance classes. It was discovered quite quickly that another activity would be best. From then on I was allowed to play sports. This included: soccer, track & field, volleyball (my favorite), basketball, golf and any other activity that came along.
My love for the NFL started when I was a teenager, playing Strat-o-matic Football (a board game forerunner to today’s EA Madden) with my brother. We spent many fun hours coaching our teams. The game came down to strategy, both offense and defense, and a simple roll of the dice.
Q: In 2011, you launched NFLFemale, a website for female NFL fans to discuss the game. What was the inspiration?
A: I was truly inspired by a trip to Miami, Florida for my first live NFL game in 2010. I had been a fan of the Miami Dolphins since the ‘80s, during their dominant years with Dan Marino. I saw how many other women were there enjoying the game and I thought, “We have to get these women heard and belonging somewhere”.
Q: What was the biggest challenge you faced when first setting up NFLFemale?
A: That’s easy - technically! Once the new site, NFLFemale.com was live, I had to maintain it. There was a huge learning curve.
As for contributors and reporters, they came to us in a natural progression. How could a female sports fan stay away from a sisterhood of women who love the same? Fortunately, we’ve had only positive responses on social media from others who interact with us.
Q: What do you think sets NFLFemale apart from other sports sites?
A: NFLFemale supports female NFL fans, of all teams. We encourage these women to follow their dreams in sports reporting, on all media platforms. Many women never thought this was possible and are excited to see where it takes them.
Q: Why do you think it’s important for women to a have the NFLFemale social network?
A: Women feel comfortable chatting at NFLFemale with other knowledgeable women, about sports. There is nothing to prove. The conversations (and laughter) come naturally.
Q: What is your earliest memory of sports?
A: My earliest memory is of NHL hockey. Living in Canada, everyone watched hockey on Saturday nights.
Q: What is a storyline you’re looking forward to following this year?
A: #NFLGoodGuys #GiveBack. There are so many players doing good in the NFL in their “down” time. They give back to their respective community and local kids with football camps.
Q: What is a rule that you would want to change in the NFL today?
A: What I really think is wonderful, is how the players are being exposed to numerous new job skills during the offseason. They should begin a mandatory program to help players succeed after they retire from the NFL.
Q: If you could have a dinner with any athlete living or dead who would it be and why?
A: Dan Marino. Because of him I learned to enjoy the game of football. I thank him for that.