TAMPA, Fla (WISH) — History will be made on Sunday when Sarah Thomas becomes the first woman to referee in a Super Bowl.
Nearly 35 years ago, Tampa native Gayle Sierens made NFL history too. In 1987 Gayle Sierens became the first woman to call play by play for an NFL regular season game when she called the Chiefs vs. Seahawks for NBC.
“I was a little bit of a ‘nervous Nellie’ when I did that game,” Sierens said. “I just wanted it all to be great because I was so afraid of what the legacy for other women if I were awful so that was heavy on my mind. I just wish we could have seen more woman doing play-by-play sooner. I wish that it had been more of an open door sooner but here we are now the airways are filled with female sportscasters.”
Sierens, a die-hard Buccaneers fan, made her way to the NFL national broadcast booth at just 33 years old. Today, she still stands among an elite handful of women to call the action on Sundays.
“It’s a sweet thing for me and my family,” Sierens said. “It’s a wonderful thing for women and women who particularly love sports and want to be a part of that sports environment. I laughingly say though, ‘oh, I really kicked that door down it only took a hundred years later for the next person to do it.’ But you know it is what it is”
Gayle told me she was offered to do more games for the network but was limited due to her position and promotion as a news anchor at a local Tampa TV station. That ride ended five years ago, retiring after 38 years of dedication, anchoring and interviewing the biggest names around the country.
“I had a rock-solid contract that I was working with and they were nice enough to let me do it, and two, I was pregnant. A whole new phrase of my life was about to begin when I did that football game,” Sierens said. “So I say this that probably had I not been pregnant the chances are I might be doing football games still today. Who knows? All I know is that I have three fantastic children and two amazing grandchildren. I have a great life in the town I grew up in so it’s not like I had a bad deal by not doing more games.”
This trailblazer will cheer on her team on Sunday in Tampa, knowing more history up in the booth isn’t far behind.
“I go back to the wonderful Tony Dungy days as you do as well, and these are the times back then and now these are the times that we will look back and talk to our kids and grandkids and their kids and say so back when we were playing in the Super Bowl and so that’s a gift,” Sierens said. “That’s a gift that all of us have as fans.”