EAGAN, Minn. – History will be made on Sunday.
Beth Mowins will become the first woman to call a regular-season Vikings game on broadcast TV when she joins analyst Jay Feely for NFL on CBS.
(Note: Hannah Storm and Andrea Kremer called the 2018 Vikings-Rams game on Amazon Prime.)
Breaking barriers is nothing new for Mowins, a native of Syracuse, New York, who knew from a young age she wanted to work as a play-by-play announcer.
Mowins' NFL career took off in 2015 when she became the play-by-play voice for Oakland (later Las Vegas) Raiders preseason TV broadcasts.
In September 2017, Mowins became the first woman to call a nationally televised NFL game when ESPN selected her as the play-by-play announcer for the Week 1 game between the Chargers and Broncos that was part of the season-opening Monday Night Football doubleheader.
Later that same year, she became the first female play-by-play announcer for College Basketball on CBS, the NBA on CBS and the NFL on CBS in its 58-year history when she called the Week 3 Browns-Colts matchup with Feely.
We caught up with Mowins ahead of Sunday's game to get her thoughts on the Vikings 2020 campaign, others in the industry she looks up to and her advice to young women hoping to follow the trailblazer's path.
Q: The Vikings have had ups and downs this season and are trying to get to .500 and stay in the playoff hunt. What are some things you're watching for from Minnesota on Sunday?
A: "I think when you look at the schedule and how things turned so dramatically after the bye week, when you pick up the stat sheet, certainly the play of Kirk Cousins has been huge. I think for him to continue doing what he's doing – take care of the football, make the right decisions, come up big in the fourth quarter of games – that's going to be something they have to continue to do. I think a healthy Dalvin Cook, proving that he's one of the best running backs in the NFL, is going to be critical for him to maintain what he does. And then I'm really excited to see Adam Thielen back in the lineup alongside Justin Jefferson. They really have seemed to develop a terrific chemistry with one another and with Kirk, and now it's going to be really hard for opponents to double-team those guys. I've also noticed Kyle Rudolph getting some more [targets] recently. So they have weapons for Kirk to go to offensively, and I think they're going to have to continue to do that, because when you look at the schedule, you've got both Drew Brees – possibly, if he comes back in time – and certainly Tom Brady and the Bucs still left on the schedule. … And I think the dramatic improvement on the defensive side – I think the numbers show that in the 1-5 start, they were giving up 32 points a game, and now a 4-1 record since, they're giving up just 22 points a game. That's a huge 10-point swing to the positive. And the improved defensive play certainly is going to have to continue against the likes of Brady and [Matthew] Stafford and possibly Brees."
Q: You mentioned a number of offensive players who have shown up this season; is there a name or two on defense who have impressed you so far?
A: "Well, I definitely think it starts, of course, with [Eric] Kendricks and Harrison Smith. Those are sort of the two building blocks, the foundation. I think probably a real pleasant surprise [has been] sort of a breakout season for Eric Wilson and the continued good play of Anthony Harris. I would say those are two guys who stand out. Pro Football Focus had Anthony rated really high last year, and that seems to be continuing. It's huge for Smith and Harris to continue to play well if the Vikings have to move forward with the two rookie cornerbacks (Cam Dantzler and Jeff Gladney). And then just watching Vikings games, just the depth that they have shown on that front line. I think with [Danielle] Hunter's injury and then [Yannick] Ngakoue coming and going, they seem to be running in eight, nine guys a game and getting the job done up front. Hopefully [D.J.] Wonnum is OK and they can continue to – they should have a chance, I would think, especially against Jacksonville – turn up the pressure on Mike Glennon."
Q: This NFL season looks drastically different because of the COVID-19 pandemic; what has been the biggest challenge for you in that sense?
A: "One of the things that I'm excited about with the NFL on CBS is the opportunity to be live and in-person, even though the fans aren't there. It's such a different experience when you're in the booth, when you're in the stadium, and when you have the ability to, you know, from our vantage point it's so critical to find that balance between watching the monitor and what's happening, but also being able to watch the field live. And to be able to see things that aren't necessarily on camera and work with our producer and our director and our camera guys to help sort of steer the conversation and to pick up things off-camera that we can go back on replay and really help explain why things happen the way they do. That's probably the biggest thing. And then just like the players and the coaches, we kind of have to bring our own juice and bring our own energy to games and get as excited about it as if there was a crowd there."
Q: You did an interview recently with "Voice of the Vikings" Paul Allen; who are some play-by-play personalities whose style or careers you especially respect?
A: "Oh, gosh. You know, I came up through the ranks at Syracuse and the Newhouse School of Communications there, which we all like to brag is the best in the business when it comes to cranking out play-by-play guys. So I don't have to look very far to see the Bob Costas-es and the Mike Tiricos and the Sean McDonoughs of the world, Dave Pasch and Dave O'Brien and so many other good ones that have come up through the ranks. I grew up, Pat Summerall to me, for years and years, was the voice of the NFL. And then obviously with the current group of CBS folks, Ian Eagle and Andrew Catalon are both Syracuse guys, as well, who are working games this week. And Jim Nantz, really, has set the bar awfully high and is someone that I really look up to and admire the way that he calls a game."
Q: You will be the first female to provide play-by-play for a TV network in Vikings history – what does it mean to you to be able to break these barriers?
A: "It's really rewarding and humbling at the same time to be able to pursue a career that you love and to be able to remember that little girl who dreamed about doing this and now being able to let it play out, and to be a part of the NFL on CBS and to call games in a place like Minnesota. When I was coming of age back in the late '70s, early '80s, [I was] watching the Purple People Eaters and Fran Tarkenton and Chuck Foreman, so it means a lot to be in a place that has such a rich tradition and history. And to be able to couple that with the excitement and the feel you get walking into [U.S. Bank Stadium] – the newness of it and the promise of the future. I was actually there for [Super Bowl LII], so it's going to be real exciting for me to be able to go back there and call a game with Jay Feely."
Q: When you called your first NFL regular-season game in 2017, Chargers-Broncos for ESPN, what were your emotions like during that experience?
A: "Oh gosh, it was really emotional. It was really exciting. To be honest with you, the build-up to the game from my perspective – my day-to-day has always been calling games and doing the research and preparing my game boards – so all of that was very much similar to any other game that I've done. You want to have everything ready to go and be prepared for anything so that when you get there, you can just relax and finish up your last-minute preparations and have a lot of fun with it. So that was the way that I approached it. There obviously was a lot more going on around the game with interviews and such, but I really didn't spend a whole lot of time thinking about that until after it was over, and [I was] just feeling really good about the job our entire crew did and hoping that wouldn't be the last time – and fortunately it wasn't. So that was a great experience."
Q: That same year you called the Colts-Browns, your first game on CBS, also with Jay Feely as the analyst. What makes the two of you a good team in the booth?
A: "One of things I really like about Jay is that he's just as enthusiastic and all-in as I am, and he really loves the preparation and really aspires to be the best that he can be at it, and to have a lot of fun with it. So I think we play off each other pretty well when it comes to that and building a good chemistry together. I really enjoy working with him."
Q: Who were some women trailblazers that you looked up to as you were coming up in your career?
A: "I certainly used to watch Phyllis George on TheNFL Todayshow. She was really the first person that I saw who sort of lit the spark for me. I've always known I wanted to do this, and it really was reinforced and triggered by seeing her on TV. And then Gayle Sierens, who was the very first woman to call a game back in , I remember her getting that opportunity, and that was something that showed me that I could do it, as well. I had already decided that was the route I wanted to try to go, play-by-play. Those two were probably the two that stand out the most from when I was growing up. And then certainly so many amazing women around the NFL, from Andrea Kremer and Michele Tafoya, to other women, some of my contemporaries that I've had a chance to work with: Doris Burke and what she's doing in the NBA, and Jessica Mendoza and what she's been able to do in the MLB from the analyst side of things. And certainly people like Holly Rowe, who set the bar so high on the sideline and from the reporting aspect of it. Having the chance to work with people like that and to learn from people like that has been instrumental in my growth."
Q: When you decided you wanted to pursue this career, who told you that you couldn't? Who or what told you that you could?
A: "Well, when I first started watching Phyllis George on The NFL Today show, I literally asked my mother if I could do that, be a woman on TV and talk about sports, and she said, 'Yes, you can.' So that really is all I needed. If anybody ever told me that I couldn't do something, I would correct them and say, 'Well, you know, my mom told me that I could.' I love the phrase that the NFL came up with a few years ago, 'Who's in your huddle?' I've been very fortunate to have both men and women who have been in my huddle that have been so supportive and so encouraging. It starts with my family, and then my whole Syracuse extended family, and a lot of the people that I've been around, including coaches and players. I think it's a real advantage that I was a D-I college basketball player, so I have an understanding and appreciation of what all these athletes go through, to a certain extent. I've been in those locker rooms, you have the ball in your hands when you're trying to make big plays, and you're trying to deal with team chemistry and all that, dealing with the relationships with your coaches. So I think that's been a huge plus, to really be a part of that world my whole life."
Q: It can be difficult being a woman in a career-field that historically has been male-dominated; how do you navigate the broad spectrum of voices and feedback you receive?
A: "I think it's very important to continue to try to get better and improve, and continue to look for ways to take constructive criticism and make it work for you. It's such a dicey world out there on social media – you can't avoid the negativity, but at the same point, you can't get bogged down in it, and I don't really let the negative vibe get to me. You keep moving forward and keep plugging away and listen to those voices that are in your huddle as opposed to those voices out there who don't necessarily care about you at all."
Q: What is a message that you give to young girls who aspire to follow in your footsteps?
A: "Dream big. If your dreams don't scare you a little bit, they're not big enough. And my favorite Mark Twain quote: 'Why wouldn't you go out on a limb? That's where the fruit is.' You've got to chase after it. You've got to chase aggressive. It's OK to be ambitious; I think a lot of young girls have a problem with that. But it's OK to want things and to work hard to get them. And just have a lot of fun with it, really. We get to talk about sports for a living, and there's nothing better in the world to do for a career than that."
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