Television Without Pity
Throw Like a Girl: <i>My Boys</i>, <i>Friday Night Lights</i> and <i>Sports Night</i>‘s Fiercest Females

"Do women even like sports?" may just be as outdated and lame as the already answered, yet repeatedly asked question, "Are women funny?" (The answer is a resounding "yes," by the way, in case you've been living under the world's dumbest rock.) But while funny women are standing tall in the television landscape (New Girl, The Mindy Project, Parks and Recreation, just to name a few) where's the love for all the sports gals out there? (And, yes, sometimes they are one and the same).

Yes, we have the new season of football under way, the World Series right around the corner and the 17th viewing of SportsCenter today alone, but do you really mean to tell me that the only tomboy we have right now on scripted television is Maggie Lawson's single mom/Little League coach Terry on Back in the Game? For the record, Lawson's Terry -- a former star on the diamond herself -- isn't a bad character (despite the resentment for baseball sometimes that stems from resentment from her baseball-loving father), per se, but the show itself is a dud.

Since the men of The League and Eastbound & Down more or less dominate those sports-fueled shows, let's look back at the shows and characters that proved women can love sports as much as their male counterparts, if not more so. (And, really, because we all deserve better than stuff like Basketball Wives). Thanks to shows like My Boys, Friday Night Lights, and Sports Night viewers at long last had female characters who turned the lame insult "throw like a girl" into something positive.

P.J. Franklin (Jordana Spiro) on My Boys
Truth be told, I still really miss My Boys. The TBS show started off as lighthearted sitcom fluff and then joined the comedy big leagues…only to be canceled as soon as it started to hit its stride. Thankfully, all four seasons of the series are available on Netflix. The show -- which revolved around P.J., a Chicago sports columnist and her sports-loving guy pals (one owned a sports memorabilia shop, another was a rival sports columnist) -- was packed to the brim with sports analogies (sometimes to a fault), but the show always felt authentic. Everything from P.J.'s deep love, appreciation, and near-encyclopedic knowledge of baseball to her ability to swill beer and down wings with her "boys," made for a female character that was about as rare to find on television as a unicorn. (Even rarer, they made her a fully-realized human being who dealt with her fair share of romantic setbacks and professional roadblocks in addition to being a cool chick who could hang with the guys and report on spring training). But P.J. didn't just write about sports, she was always willing to take to the field (sometimes, literally), get in the dirt and play a game, too.

Dana Whitaker (Felicity Huffman) on Sports Night
Sports Night had an even shorter shelf life than My Boys (damn you, laugh track), but went even more in-depth from the side of sports journalism, as well as the business end of things. Set in the studio of a fictional SportsCenter-like show, Sports Night's executive producer Dana not only had a deep understanding of the world of sports (she'd have to, considering it's her job and all) but she truly loved covering it. Dana, like P.J. dealt with her share of relationship and career woes, but she could still make picks on NFL draft day and tell it like it is in a male-dominated field ("In ten minutes, three and a half million people will tune in to watch the two of you on television. Many of them will be women.") All two (sigh) seasons of Sports Night are available on Netflix.

Jess Merriweather (Jurnee Smollett) on Friday Night Lights
Now, you could argue that Lyla was the most athletic (she was a Panthers cheerleader, after all) or that Mrs. Coach, Tami Taylor was the most immersed in the world of high school football (you would be right, as Tami Taylor is a perfect being who not only supported her husband, but appreciated the game and the impact it had on her and her family's life) on Friday Night Lights, but no one loved football as much as East Dillon student Jess. A go-getter with an unparalleled love and understanding of the game who wanted to follow in Coach Eric Taylor's footsteps, Jess (also a cheerleader and a girlfriend of two Lions players, but don't you dare call her a rally girl) eventually became the team's equipment manager. Jess was willing to do all the grunt work that came along with being part of the Lions (even doing the guy's unfathomably bad-smelling laundry after a game), so it was no surprise that Coach Taylor put in a good word to the football coach at her next school. We may never know if Jess becomes a football coach (especially with that FNL movie in limbo) but we definitely know that, next to Coach Taylor (and let's be honest, Buddy Garrity), no one loved football as much as Jess. Friday Night Lights, the greatest sports show of all time, is available on Netflix as well.

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