NAPA, Calif. — Beth Mowins has spent her accomplished career as a play-by-play announcer trying to tell the story, not be it.
That will change Friday night when she becomes just the second woman play-by-play announcer ever for an NFL game. Mowins will handle the Bay Area broadcast of the Oakland Raiders’ exhibition game against the St. Louis Rams, 28 years after Gayle Sirens broke the barrier when she broadcast a late-season game on NBC between Seattle and Kansas City.
That turned out to be the only NFL game Sirens ever broadcast and it took nearly three decades for another woman to get the chance. The game will be broadcast locally in the Bay Area and will be aired later Friday night on a tape-delayed basis on the NFL Network.
“I think most football play-by-play announcers would love to have that opportunity so certainly I’ll try to make the most of it,” said Mowins, who has been calling college football games on ESPN for a decade. “To be able to do it with the Raiders is pretty cool. I’m friends with Gayle Sirens so it’s pretty cool that it has come back full circle and the opportunity is there for me.”
Mowins was at the top of the list of potential broadcasters when Raiders owner Mark Davis decided he wanted a dedicated television crew for preseason games this year instead of simulcasting the radio broadcast.
Vittorio DeBartolo, the vice president, executive producer for the Raiders, was tasked with putting together a team and quickly focused on Mowins. He was intrigued by the trailblazing aspect of the hire for an organization that had hired the first female CEO in league history (Amy Trask), the first black coach in modern history (Art Shell) and the second Hispanic coach in league history (Tom Flores).
Watching tapes of her college broadcasts solidified the decision and Davis was quickly impressed.
“I think people are kind of curious at first,” DeBartolo said. “Most people who don’t know Beth don’t know how qualified she is. Once they read her resume and look at what she’s done, it’s a no-brainer. It was something we could build on and it kind of went in that direction. Luckily, we had the type of owner who doesn’t care who you are.”
Only adding to the attraction was the fact that Mowins went to graduate school in her hometown of Syracuse, New York, where Al Davis went to college, and she had no connections with other NFL teams.
Mowins will work the four preseason games this year with a pair of former Raiders greats in recently inducted Hall of Famer Tim Brown and four-time Super Bowl champion Matt Millen.
Mowins’ career as a national play-by-play football broadcaster began in 2005 when she was hired by ESPN to call Western Athletic Conference games. She followed Pam Ward as the second female play-by-play broadcaster for college football on a national outlet.
The former college basketball player at Lafayette College also broadcasts men’s and women’s basketball games, as well as other college sports at ESPN.
“When I was younger I immediately realized I wasn’t going to be the ex-coach or ex-player but that other guy, I might be able to do what he does,” Mowins said.
So Mowins started doing local broadcasts near Syracuse before working her way to ESPN. While there are plenty of women sideline reporters in professional men’s sports, the broadcast booth has been a different story.
“I understand it’s a little different for a lot of other people, but for me it’s always been my day-to-day,” she said. “I’ve been really lucky over the years to have great guys who believed in me and mentored me and helped me out along the way. I don’t feel like it’s a big deal. Most of the time places I go, I can’t remember a bad experience. Most people are very friendly and professional.”
Mowins said it is a bit awkward to talk about herself when her career has been built on describing the actions of others. But she is able to appreciate the trend-setting aspect of her career when she hears from up-and-coming women in the business.
“When younger people walk up to me and say they want to do what I do, it does feel pretty good to sort of be someone who they can say, ‘Hey, it’s possible if you want it and work hard at it.'”