Ravens shift focus to female fans

The bad news for Karen Williams was that she had to miss soccer practice.

The good news was that she still got her kicks in.


The Forest Hill resident skipped out on her coed indoor soccer team to challenge Ravens guard Jason Brown in a little punting contest at M&T; Bank Stadium last night. Williams and Brown stood at the 15-yard line and tried to boot the football between the uprights.

Williams 1, Brown 0.


"This is my first time coming to the stadium and being on the field," Williams said. "I'm so nervous, I'm shaking."

Williams was one of more than 1,500 women who attended A Purple Evening, a women's event hosted by the Ravens that offered women seminars and on-field courses on football fundamentals.

Reaching out to women has been a team and league initiative for several years. The NFL began a Football 101 program in 2002, and the Ravens created a Ravens Women Festival two years ago, said Andi Goodwin, an advertising and research manager for the team.

Research conducted by the franchise found that 52 percent of the Baltimore marketplace is female and that 46 percent of the team's fans are women.

"They know our team, and they know our players, and they know the history of not just our team, but about football in Baltimore," Goodwin said. "So I think they're really appreciative that we have an event for them and that they are not getting lost in the shuffle. Obviously, a lot of the general marketing and advertising that you see for the NFL nationwide is geared to a male audience. They're just appreciative to have something geared towards them."

Michele Schoen of Essex is one of those women. Schoen has been a fan since the team moved to Baltimore in 1996, and she won the football pool at work. ("A lot of the men were mad," she said, giggling.)

Schoen's husband bought tickets for her and her sister Jennifer Sipes, also of Essex, as a surprise birthday gift.

"For our anniversary in August, we got a Ravens mailbox, a Ravens flag and Ravens tags [license plates]," Schoen said, standing at the 25-yard line. "But this is better than a mailbox."


Kathy Keller, like many other female fans, said she has little football knowledge even though she attends weekly football parties in her Finksburg neighborhood.

"They're all yelling things, and I'm sitting there thinking, 'What did they just say?'" said Keller, who was accompanied by her friend, Melissa Shuey. "That's when I said I'm going."

Women such as Keller are the types that last night's event is geared toward, Goodwin said.

"That's the challenge placed on us, to make sure that we have something for everybody, because we have a variety of knowledge levels here," she said.

While team president Dick Cass and equipment manager Ed Carroll taught seminars on the club level, players including cornerback Chris McAlister, quarterback Kyle Boller, long snapper Matt Katula, return specialist Yamon Figurs and Brown participated in drills, signed autographs and posed for pictures.

Danielle Wheeler of Baltimore got a taste of what opposing wide receivers see when McAlister lined up across from her.


"I wasn't nervous," said Wheeler, who ran an in route and caught a pass in front of McAlister. "That felt pretty good."