Women account for over 45 percent of the NFL’s more than 150 million American fans, making them one of the game’s most valued players. In 2014, women and the businesses that rely on them helped the NFL reach a new high of $9.5 billion in revenue. According to Nielsen demographic data, women made up 46% of the 2014 Super Bowl viewing audience, which was greater than the Oscars, Grammys, and Emmys combined. Chariell Baisden, an Atlanta Falcons superfan, chatted with me about her devotion and her experiences as a female fan.
How Did You Become Interested In Sports, Specifically Football?
Well, I’m not a sports fanatic, but I do enjoy football. Growing up, I had a lot of football-loving family members who took the time to teach me the game. When I saw my uncles and cousins getting so excited about football season, I thought to myself, “What’s the big deal?” I learnt the game of football in the late 1990s, during the Dirty Birds era, and it was the perfect time to learn since the Falcons were dominating. I believe that once you grasp the game, you will fall in love with it.
As A Superfan, How Would You Describe Yourself?
It arises from my being an Atlanta native and simply noticing the city’s enthusiasm when the team is performing well. Anything that may bring the city together is something I can appreciate. When I go to Falcons games and sit in the Dome, I might be sitting next to anyone, but all we can concentrate about is what’s happening on the field and rooting for the team together. To me, the city’s solidarity, which can be seen via Falcons supporters, is incredibly amazing. It’s even better when you have a solid team and believe that this is the year to make some wonderful things happen. Some years and seasons are absolutely garbage, and you don’t even want to think about or discuss them.
What Have Been Some Of Your Favourite Fan Encounters?
There was a time when I didn’t live in Atlanta. I was attending Howard University and would find a way to see the games when they were broadcast nationally, stream them, or watch them at a bar, but I always made it home for the first and last home games of the season, as well as the New Orleans games every year. Because those games are always such major games with such historic moments, each year brings something fresh and memorable. New Orleans Saints games have always provided me with some of my favourite memories. It’s always a fantastic time, whether the Saints are in Atlanta or the Falcons are in New Orleans.
What Was Your First Memory Of Going To A Game In New Orleans?
I went to my first New Orleans game when I was 16 years old. It’s customary for me to have family there, so it’s like a big family gathering. It was exciting to visit the Mercedes-Benz Superdome for the first time as an adult. We were having a terrific time when the Falcons fans took over Bourbon Street. We were all dressed in red and black from head to toe as we walked through New Orleans and the various Wards talking trash.
What Are Your Thoughts On Atlanta Being Dubbed A “Fair Weather Fan City”?
Atlanta has a lot of die-hard fans; it’s just that we haven’t had a lot of success, and we’re still looking for that title. To say Atlanta has “bandwagon” or “fair weather” supporters is a gross exaggeration. Every football season, I see a lot of us out there, and we go all out. Because we haven’t won a championship, I believe our presence isn’t as strong outside of Atlanta as it is for other fan bases like the Dallas Cowboys.
What Are Your Thoughts On The Season So Far?
When I first saw the schedule, I assumed we’d finish 7-9 at worst and 10-6 at best, but given how they’ve been playing, I’d be astonished if they didn’t reach the playoffs. They’re performing admirably, and Ryan and Shanahan are finally gelling as a team. This offensive approach they’re using right now is one of the greatest in the league, and the statistics back it up. There won’t be many teams that can beat us if we can get defence to click as attack does.
How Do You Feel About The New Stadium?
The GA Dome will be missed. I’ve been a fan for about 15 years, and the GA Dome has always felt like home to me. When I think of home, I think of football, and I think of the excitement of those home games. The GA Dome is constantly on my mind. It’ll be a challenging transition for me. I don’t believe the dome is ancient enough to be fully demolished. I understand the commercial aspect of trying to bring the Superbowl to the city, but the NFL does not award Superbowls to older stadiums. We should’ve stayed at the Dome for a couple more years. It would have been lovely to have the championship banners hung in the Dome, but we’ll have to make do with the current banners.
What’s It Like To Be A Female Fan?
It’s difficult to be a woman and a football fan in general. No one appears to take your fandom seriously, and I frequently have to justify why I’m a fan, which is never a question posed to a man. There are a number of us in the city that are female Falcons supporters. When I go to sporting events or tailgates, I see just as many women as guys.
What Can Women Do To Get More Interested In Football?
There has to be some aspect of the game that you enjoy. If you’re doing it for the advantage of someone else, I don’t think you’ll become a die-hard fan of football or a team. Many women desire to support a team or sport because they believe it will help them bond with their male partner. It has to become personal to you at some time. You must have an emotional investment in a team or a sport.