Io Cyrus remembers waking up at 1 a.m. a few weeks ago for no specific reason. She figured while she was awake, though, she’d check the score of the Arizona Cardinals vs. San Diego Chargers game as they were the late-night marquee matchup on ESPN’s “Monday Night Football.” Her intention was to check the score and head back to bed. However, she ended up watching the rest of the game. She watched mainly because of Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald.
“Why aren’t they targeting him?” Cyrus asked. “Why isn’t he getting the ball?”
Fitzgerald is on Cyrus’ fantasy football team. She’s one of the founding members of the South End Spirits, an all-female owned fantasy football league. They are top-notch professionals — attorneys, comptrollers, investment managers — who live in the South End and are united by friendship and football. They’ve been playing since 2007 and it’s a league complete with waiver wires, salary caps, trades, trash talk and a draft.
“ LeSean “Shady” McCoy went No. 1,” league commissioner Katie Umile said about their draft. “The running backs went pretty much right in a row. And then our league tends to favor the quarterbacks. So Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees all went pretty high.”
Like most leagues, it’s full of creative team names: Finesse & Beauty, Don’t Mess With The Mexicans and Philadelphia Story. They spent a lot of time on their names but even more on their rosters, Kathleen Donahue, owner of Orange Is The New Sack, said.
“I waste too much time at work, like on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday,” Donahue said. “Then I end up working on Saturday to make up for my time.”
The South End Spirits are in their eighth season and they look forward to more. According to the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, 5.4 million women are playing fantasy football this year, which is an increase from last year. Female participants have slowly been rising and Umile is not shocked.
“It’s all geared towards men. Every website — it’s cheerleaders and this and that. All the shows, it’s always male commentators,” Umile said. “There’s three or four fantasy experts that are women. That’s even now.”
Even with more female fantasy experts, some have reconsidered playing this year with the NFL’s recent domestic violence and child abuse scandals involving top fantasy stars Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson.
“I thought twice about continuing with fantasy football this year. It’s just like ‘Do I really want to continue to support this?’” Cyrus said. “I hope the league does the right thing around domestic violence. The issue is getting a lot of visibility. Hopefully they’ll clean up their act a little bit.”
As the NFL season continues, so will the South End Spirits’.
“Everybody truly loves football,” Umile said. “Its given us a great thing to do all fall and winter. And it’s definitely competitive, fun and a great reason to get together when all of our lives seem very busy.”