Last month, just before the Chicago Bears faced off against the Tennessee Titans, two dozen women sat around high-top tables sipping mimosas and munching on bacon and eggs at Rockit Burger Bar. Why? To prepare for a crash course on football, taught by 36-year-old Monica Murphy-Vargas, founder of SportsDivas Inc., a company created to educate sports-illiterate women on America’s most popular pastimes.
SportsDivas was born out of personal necessity. In 2002, Murphy-Vargas, originally from Ohio, moved to Connecticut to take a sales position at ESPN. It was a job that required a deep understanding of the sports scene. Just a casual fan (“I grew up going to Cleveland Indians and Browns games with my dad”), Murphy felt in over her head—but short of watching every major game or reading multiple sports sections online, she didn’t know where to start.
“If you pick up the Tribune and start reading about the Bears, they assume you know their record,” Murphy-Vargas says. “They are speaking to a very educated, avid fan. They don’t give any background info to bring [you] into the story.”
“I remember thinking, There’s got to be an easier way to learn this,” Murphy-Vargas recalls. “I had to learn quickly and I didn’t want to ask a lot of questions.” She could never find a manual or a site that broke down sports fundamentals in a way she liked. “You [had] to figure it out on your own.” And so she did.
In 2007, she moved to Chicago for a sports sales management position at Comcast and realized that many of the women on her staff were in the same place she used to be. “But as soon as you broke down the fundamentals and explained the game to them, they got interested.” So after toying with the idea for a few years, Murphy-Vargas finally quit her job and launched SportsDivas in April. The website, written expressly for the novice, features game previews, recaps and analysis provided by a volunteer staff of 13 female writers (all ardent sports fans).
Her Chicago-based events (she hopes to expand) provide an opportunity to educate would-be fans face-to-face, over pub grub and drinks, for a $25 ticket. Last July, she taught 40 women how to play fantasy football at the Anthem and filled two leagues by the end of the night. At her November 4 Bears game-day brunch, Murphy-Vargas spent an hour teaching the fundamentals of football and the NFL.
It’s not just novices who show up. Jennifer Evers, 41, was already a football fan but decided to attend one of Murphy-Vargas’s events after meeting her at a networking mixer. “I grew up watching football, but I learned stuff today I never knew.” Liz Stanton, 35, has a favorite Bears player (Charles “Peanut” Tillman), but admits she didn’t know what position he played, other than defense. “I’m here to learn the things I may not take the time to research.”
When asked why she chose to focus particularly on women (after all, sports illiterates come in both genders), Murphy-Vargas says, “The majority of women aren’t taught the fundamentals of sports at a young age like men are, and it is generally assumed that women are simply not interested or know very little about sports. I wanted to break through those stereotypes and teach women about sports through an educational and entertaining outlet.” She adds, somewhat cheekily, “There are a lot of women out there who do understand sports. Some of them are writing for me or reading my site.”
SportsDivas’ next Bears game-day brunch is Sunday 2. For more information, visit sportsdivasinc.com.