That Burning Feeling
It's anger, disappointment and, somehow, desire—our women's football team folds and another, the Menace, forms from the debris
Christie Moses lost a lot of money when her business venture folded. "I'm in debt as far as I can get," she says.
She’s more than broke. She’s disheartened. "Brokenhearted" probably wouldn't be out of line, either.
See, Moses was the founder, owner and second-string quarterback of the New Mexico Burn, the state's first professional women's football team. Her business was wrapped around a dream to play full-contact professional football, and to provide a place for other women in New Mexico to get in on the action, too. The Burn was a team that ran mostly on heart, its efforts never rewarded with a win in the more than two years of its existence. High player turnover didn't help. Neither did the serious numbers mounting in the "injury" column, while the "win" column stayed stuck on 0. “I had to think about my players’ safety,” Moses says.
During the Burn's game against the Houston Energy on Sept. 8, starting quarterback Cathie McKenna was knocked unconscious. Moses herself was taken out of the game after a clean tackle left her with a sprained elbow and shoulder. "We came back from our Houston game a few weeks ago, and we had 17 players. Of those 17 players, we only had four people that could play the line, and they would have been playing both ways. You actually need five people playing the line on offense."
It's been a rough week, Moses says. On Sept. 18, she told the players she was going to fold the team. But some players aren't willing to stop. Like Anneke Blair, who in 2006 was selected for an all-pro team. With other ex-Burn players, she’s elected to try and finish out the season by forming a new team. It’s called the Menace, and players are hoping to pick up where the Burn left off, recruiting players who played for the Burn in its first and second seasons, and raising $3,500 in about a week. The Menace boasted a roster of 31 as of Thursday, Sept. 27. It's going to cost them anywhere from $6,500 to $10,000 to play the rest of the season, according to Blair's preliminary calculations.
As of Friday, Sept. 28, there was no word yet on whether the Women's Professional Football League would allow the Menace to jump into the game schedule. But the Menace secured a field in any case. Los Lunas High School has agreed to let them use its facilities.
The split hasn't been entirely amicable. Accusations brew about what went wrong for the Burn. Moses blames a lack of player commitment. Only 11 players attended the practice before she made her decision. Blair blames an "inexperienced" Burn coaching staff, which included Christie Moses' husband Fred as the offensive coordinator. "They didn't do the things we felt they needed to do to prepare us well, to put us on the field," Blair says. Two of the Burn's coaches are staying on to work with the Menace, and two more have been hired, including head coach Steve Macphee. Their jerseys will be plain black with white numbers of them. It's all they can afford.
"If we don't continue on, this is going to die," says Blair. Albuquerque is a close-knit, sports-oriented community with a good memory, she adds. "Once we've been burned, we shy away from it, as would anybody." Blair underwent surgery this season right before playing, and her family couldn't help but ask why she was going back, especially without a victory in the previous two seasons. "In my mind, we haven't won a game, and we haven't done what we set out to do. That's where we're at."
Moses, watching the determined players join former Burn players with renewed interest and energy, feels frustrated. "Some of the mentality of some of the players is that I took it away from them," she says. "When I made my decision and I told the team, they all of a sudden had all these grand ideas." Maybe a player-run team would be better, she says, because then they'll have to answer to each other. "The fan base and player pool has dwindled here in Albuquerque. I can't make a good business decision and keep continuing. I'm done. The well is dry."
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