With the backdrop of palm trees on a warm Arizona evening, ESPN broadcaster Beth Mowins lent her commanding and courageous voice to the AWSM 2018 conference’s opening reception in Scottsdale, sharing stories about her prolific career and delivering valuable advice.
Mowins has called everything from dog shows to the NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship, college football and the Women’s College World Series. Last season, Mowins called ESPN’s season-opening Monday Night Football game between the Los Angeles Chargers and the Denver Broncos, making her the first female broadcaster to call a nationally televised NFL game.
Former NBC Sports broadcaster Gayle Sierens, the last woman to call an NFL game during a regional telecast in 1987, sent Mowins a bouquet of flowers to wish her luck before her MNF broadcast. To Mowins, Sierens exemplified a theme of the convention: how trailblazers support those who succeed them.
“The goal this weekend is to not be the trailblazer that gets way out in front of everybody and turns around and says, ‘Hey, look at me! Look what I did,’” Mowins said. “Our goal has to be better than that. Our goal has to be to go out and be unafraid to blaze a trail and turn around to everybody else and say, ‘Hey, come check this out. And look how much farther we can go.’”
Mowins recalled watching Phyllis George on “The NFL Today” with her mother.
“I just said, ‘Hey Ma, there’s a woman on TV and she’s talking about football … Can I do that?’ And my mom simply said, ‘Yes, you can.’” Mowins then addressed those in the audience who had not yet received this encouragement: “Yes, you can. You can dream about it, you can figure out a path to get there, and you can achieve the kind of success you want.”
While preparing for her MNF broadcast, Mowins described meeting a young fan named Avery whose ambitions reminded her “that you want to go to work with the skillset of a professional, but the mindset of that little dreamer.”
“[Avery] has on a T-shirt that says ESPN: Next Female Broadcaster. She has a microphone with a homemade ESPN mic flag on it, and she’s holding up a sign that says, ‘Beth, I’m ready for my ESPN internship,’” Mowins said. “I had prepared as much as I could for that moment. I needed to remember to be that little girl that I once was.”
As for handling negativity on social media, Mowins likened surrendering power to critical voices there to a sideline reporter relinquishing his or her microphone.
“You lose thatmic, you lose control.” Mowins said. “And what I say about social media is those people out there are trying to grab your mic. Everybody has a voice, right? But not everybody should have a microphone. We’re the trained professionals.”
Mowins recalled relishing a moment of silence in her hotel room in Denver as she looked out onto Mile High Stadium on the morning of the Broncos’ last regular-season game. Upon realizing that interest had finally faded in the story of a woman doing NFL play-by-play, Mowins smiled.
“My phone wasn’t ringing. Nobody wanted to talk to me,” Mowins said. “In that silence was the sound of progress. I didn’t have to talk about me talking about sports … I just got to talk to about sports. And that’s the sound of progress.”
And it’s happening all around us.