+
Heroes

These 7 women prove tackle football isn’t just for men.

They're students, nurses, project managers, foster care workers, lab managers, moms ... and professional badasses.

Miranda Munson is a deputy sheriff in Oklahoma. She’s also an international league football player.

The 36-year-old specializes in criminal investigations, focusing mainly on crimes that take place in Tulsa’s biggest jail, the David L. Moss Criminal Justice Center, which she describes as "a city within itself."

To unwind from her day job, she needs hobbies: the St. Louis Cardinals, her friends and family, her Belgian Malinois, and Baxy — an old partner from when she was on the K-9 unit.


And then she has football.

Munson and Erica Alford, an offensive guard. Photo via Miranda Munson, used with permission.

Munson is a football player for the Tulsa Threat — Oklahoma's only all-women tackle football team.

Yes, it’s tackle football. No, these women do not play in their lingerie.

Munson is among the more than two dozen women ages 18 to 40 on the Tulsa Threat, which has recently joined the Independent Women’s Football League.

Photo via Tulsa Threat, used with permission.

These women are students, registered nurses, project managers, foster care workers, lab managers, occupational therapist assistants, machinists, soldiers, moms, and accounting specialists.

Photo via Tulsa Threat, used with permission.

On the side, they — like hundreds of women across the nation — play their hearts out at the highest level of football women can play, all while virtually no one watches. This means the women often need to buy their own pads and cleats, pay their own way for travel games, and pitch in to help rent high school football fields for weekend games.

Photo via Tulsa Threat, used with permission.

Despite the challenges, women like Munson continue to play for a number of reasons — including the example they set for the next generation.

"It’s cool to show some of the young girls that there’s something for them to play when they’re older," Munson said. "And when you put those pads on, you feel like you have a responsibility to those young girls watching."

Photo via Tulsa Threat, used with permission.

Although they still have small followings, the fan base seems committed. According to the National Federation of State High School Associations, the number of young girls participating in high school tackle football saw about a 17% increase from 2007 to 2011, with 1,561 girls participating. While that growth rate seems to have stalled (the NFSHSA shows about the same number of female football players last year), it’s hard not to see women’s tackle football getting bigger and more popular in the coming years based on growth to date.

But at this point, there’s no real prospect to make a career out of it. So what’s the motivation?

This is why these seven women play football. (Hint: It’s not the money.)

1. Miranda Munson, Tulsa Threat (IWFL)

Photo via Miranda Munson, used with permission.

"I started because I had friends who played, and I grew up playing soccer. I missed playing on a team, and I wanted to learn something new and challenging. They practice for hours at a time, multiple days a week. They get sore, pull muscles, tear tendons, bleed, and break bones for this game and often still have to work and live their lives.

I have the utmost respect for not only my teammates, but any woman who puts pads and a helmet on and walks out on that field to do their part to further this sport. We also get to change the way little boys and girls see women's athletics. It's a wonderful feeling and worth the risk."

2. Callie Brownson, D.C. Divas (Women's Football Alliance)

Photo via Callie Brownson, used with permission.

"I will admit, in my first couple years, I played for myself and to fulfill my needs. But as I grew up and grew in the sport, I realized the doors that we could open for women and little girls. If I have a daughter someday, I don't want her to feel like in order to be a woman in sports, education, or in her career she has to exploit herself physically, but rather be judged by the person or athlete she truly is. Playing women's football has created that trail to blaze, where we have the opportunity to tweak society's views of a 'powerful female.' This is not a feminist movement or a 'men think they're better than women' movement — but rather an opportunity to seek equality."

Brownson, 26, is from Mount Vernon, Virginia, and has played six seasons with the D.C. Divas and one season with Team USA in Finland (which won a gold medal).

3. Mia Brickhouse, Boston Renegades (WFA)

Photo by Nadine Jehnich, used with permission.

"I’ve played tackle football for 13 years. I started playing when I was in law school at Villanova, as an outlet. I continue to play to set an example for those small girls like Sam Gordon, who may one day get the chance to play in high school and college. These days I’m co-owning because I know how tough it is to provide opportunities for women. I'm lending my professional experience to help out my passion."

Brickhouse, 36, is an attorney and former athletic administrator for the Big East Conference. She is currently the COO of Boston Women’s Football, LLC, and co-owner of the Boston Renegades.

4. Stephanie Jackson, Acadiana Zydeco (WFA)

Photo via Stephanie Jackson, used with permission.

"I play football because this is what I’ve been sent to Earth to do. It is my gift, and I love doing it. I love the contact, the camaraderie, the lessons to be taught. I love everything about the game of football. How a new ball feels, the smell of autumn, which means it’s football season, the sheer fact that football is the most complete team sport on the planet. I love it all.

These days, I play for the Acadiana Zydeco in Louisiana, and my goal is to bring women’s football to the world. One day, we will pack stadiums and people will pay good money to see us play. That day will come. It is inevitable, and I will be right in the midst of it all."

Jackson, 27, is from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and is working on a masters in business administration at Louisiana State University. She currently works as a personal trainer.

5. Brittany Bushman, Dallas Elite (WFA)

Photo via Brittany Bushman, used with permission.

"Football is by far my favorite sport, but throughout my career, I have experienced pushback and adversity. For obvious reasons: I am female.

Constantly hearing those typical sayings: 'Girls don’t play football; it’s a man’s sport,' 'Girls are not physically capable of playing football,' 'Girls should be on the sideline in a skirt.' The criticisms go on and on.

But my women’s tackle football experience has been one of the most influential and remarkable endeavors of my life. Today, I’m surrounded by 50 empowered women, willing to sacrifice time, money, family, and jobs for the sport they love. We are making history, changing minds, and giving hope to a younger generation!"



Bushman currently plays for the Dallas Elite. She is a four-time All-American and was a member of Team USA in 2013. She is also an eighth-grade science teacher and an assistant coach for the varsity basketball team.

6. Ursula Johns, Arkansas Wildcats (WFA)

Photo via Ursula Johns (right), used with permission.

"It makes me feel great. Those five words have so much meaning behind them. Playing a game of football, no matter if I win or lose, makes me feel like I just hit a grand slam with the bases loaded. It makes me feel like there's three seconds on the clock and they just passed me the basketball. It makes me feel like I won the 100-meter dash by 0.001 seconds — the feeling is indescribable. I love to play because it gives me the feeling of being a part of something that's so much bigger than myself.

However, it does make me sad and a little bit discouraged that countless others and myself go out 10 Saturdays out of the year and play like there's no tomorrow only to hope and pray that someone watches."

Johns, 27, from Shelby, Mississippi, is a biological science aid for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. She lives two and a half hours away from where the Wildcats play but has said would never miss a game.

7. Jessica Collins, Tennessee Legacy (U.S. Women's Football League)

Photo via Jessica Collins, used with permission.

"You would never know how much fun it is getting hit or hitting somebody else until you get out there and play. There’s just something about putting on the pads, uniforms, and cleats that gets you excited. Another reason why I play is to show the boys that I can beat them playing their game. It gives me great satisfaction to beat them and gloat a little bit afterwards.

One of the biggest obstacles in women’s football is getting fans and getting our game out in public. Most people don't know that there are women teams around the country, even overseas.

I also play because I want to inspire younger girls that you can do anything you put your mind to. Don't let gender roles get in your way. Just be yourself and do what you feel in your heart. Don't let anybody tell you can't."



Collins, 26, is a detention officer and also a referee. This has been her third season with the Legacy. She also travels two and half hours from Mississippi to play in home games and go to practice.

Will the leagues catch on? It’s hard to say. But the effort matters.

Photo via Tulsa Threat, used with permission.

In our modern world of Abby Wambachs and Ronda Rouseys, surely women’s professional tackle football playing on ESPN isn’t so difficult to imagine?

Let’s hope these women can inspire a movement, or at least open people’s minds to the idea.

Photo courtesy of Girls at Work

True

Girls are bombarded with messages from a very young age telling them that they can’t, that is too big, this is too heavy, those are too much.

Keep ReadingShow less
Pop Culture

Artist uses AI to create ultra realistic portraits of celebrities who left us too soon

What would certain icons look like if nothing had happened to them?

Mercury would be 76 today.

Some icons have truly left this world too early. It’s a tragedy when anyone doesn’t make it to see old age, but when it happens to a well-known public figure, it’s like a bit of their art and legacy dies with them. What might Freddie Mercury have created if he were granted the gift of long life? Bruce Lee? Princess Diana?

Their futures might be mere musings of our imagination, but thanks to a lot of creativity (and a little tech) we can now get a glimpse into what these celebrities might have looked like when they were older.

Alper Yesiltas, an Istanbul-based lawyer and photographer, created a photography series titled “As If Nothing Happened,” which features eerily realistic portraits of long gone celebrities in their golden years. To make the images as real looking as possible, Yesiltas incorporated various photo editing programs such as Adobe Lightroom and VSCO, as well as the AI photo-enhancing software Remini.

“The hardest part of the creative process for me is making the image feel ‘real’ to me,” Yesiltas wrote about his passion project. “The moment I like the most is when I think the image in front of me looks as if it was taken by a photographer.”

Yesiltas’ meticulousness paid off, because the results are uncanny.

Along with each photo, Yesiltas writes a bittersweet message “wishing” how things might have gone differently … as if nothing happened.
Keep ReadingShow less
All images provided by Adewole Adamson

It begins with more inclusive conversations at a patient level

True

Adewole Adamson, MD, of the University of Texas, Austin, aims to create more equity in health care by gathering data from more diverse populations by using artificial intelligence (AI), a type of machine learning. Dr. Adamson’s work is funded by the American Cancer Society (ACS), an organization committed to advancing health equity through research priorities, programs and services for groups who have been marginalized.

Melanoma became a particular focus for Dr. Adamson after meeting Avery Smith, who lost his wife—a Black woman—to the deadly disease.

melanoma,  melanoma for dark skin Avery Smith (left) and Adamson (sidenote)

This personal encounter, coupled with multiple conversations with Black dermatology patients, drove Dr. Adamson to a concerning discovery: as advanced as AI is at detecting possible skin cancers, it is heavily biased.

To understand this bias, it helps to first know how AI works in the early detection of skin cancer, which Dr. Adamson explains in his paper for the New England Journal of Medicine (paywall). The process uses computers that rely on sets of accumulated data to learn what healthy or unhealthy skin looks like and then create an algorithm to predict diagnoses based on those data sets.

This process, known as supervised learning, could lead to huge benefits in preventive care.

After all, early detection is key to better outcomes. The problem is that the data sets don’t include enough information about darker skin tones. As Adamson put it, “everything is viewed through a ‘white lens.’”

“If you don’t teach the algorithm with a diverse set of images, then that algorithm won’t work out in the public that is diverse,” writes Adamson in a study he co-wrote with Smith (according to a story in The Atlantic). “So there’s risk, then, for people with skin of color to fall through the cracks.”

Tragically, Smith’s wife was diagnosed with melanoma too late and paid the ultimate price for it. And she was not an anomaly—though the disease is more common for White patients, Black cancer patients are far more likely to be diagnosed at later stages, causing a notable disparity in survival rates between non-Hispanics whites (90%) and non-Hispanic blacks (66%).

As a computer scientist, Smith suspected this racial bias and reached out to Adamson, hoping a Black dermatologist would have more diverse data sets. Though Adamson didn’t have what Smith was initially looking for, this realization ignited a personal mission to investigate and reduce disparities.

Now, Adamson uses the knowledge gained through his years of research to help advance the fight for health equity. To him, that means not only gaining a wider array of data sets, but also having more conversations with patients to understand how socioeconomic status impacts the level and efficiency of care.

“At the end of the day, what matters most is how we help patients at the patient level,” Adamson told Upworthy. “And how can you do that without knowing exactly what barriers they face?”

american cancer society, skin cacner treatment"What matters most is how we help patients at the patient level."https://www.kellydavidsonstudio.com/

The American Cancer Society believes everyone deserves a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer—regardless of how much money they make, the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, gender identity, their disability status, or where they live. Inclusive tools and resources on the Health Equity section of their website can be found here. For more information about skin cancer, visit cancer.org/skincancer.

Joe Biden's White House Competition Council is making airline prices transparent.

Have you ever seen a fantastic deal on an airplane ticket but as you are checking out you realize there are fees for just about everything? Your $99 airfare balloons up to $250 after you add baggage fees, carry-on charges, seat selection and insurance. Some airlines even charge an additional fee for unaccompanied minors.

Pretty soon, what seemed like a good deal on a cheap carrier costs more than if you bought a ticket on a full-service airline.

The Biden administration is announcing new rules that will make airline ticket fees more transparent to consumers. Under the proposed new rule, the first time your fee is displayed, travel websites will have to disclose any fees for baggage, cancellations or to sit with your child.

Keep ReadingShow less

As the saying goes, "You have to kiss a few frogs..."

Dating has certainly evolved over the years—we’ve gone from courtship being purely a financial arrangement (not that this trend has ever truly died) to knights jousting for a lady’s favor, to casual hookups … and now, romance is primarily found through an app more than anything else.

Technology used for meeting that special someone has become so advanced that you can base your search entirely upon specific interests. Like … oddly specific interests. Think a fellow cat person would be the purrfect match? There’s an app for that. Wish to “love long and prosper” with a fellow Trekkie? There’s an app for that too.

No matter the changes, one thing remains the same—dating is awkward. It’s got all the unspoken formalities of a job interview, disguised as innocent fun. The balance between playing it too cool and too eager is hard to find even for the smoothest among us, and usually results in total embarrassment. Even if we aren’t the ones committing those embarrassing acts ourselves, we are often the reluctant witness to them.

Terrible dates might not always be fun in the moment, but they can be just as important as the good ones. They can teach us a lot about ourselves and what qualities we want in a partner. And at the very least, they can teach us to embrace social clumsiness with a sense of humor.

Jimmy Fallon recently asked his “Tonight Show” audience on Twitter to share a “funny or embarrassing first date story” for his ever popular #Hashtags segment. The best part—some of these awful first dates ended in marriage. There’s hope for us all.

Below, find 15 stories that are truly the best of the worst. How do some of your first dates compare?

1. "After a nice dinner, she invited me to her house. On the way up, inside the elevator, I decided to push the button to stop between floors and give her a kiss... She had a phobia of closed spaces and she smacked my face as a reflex, two punches after we were kissing and laughing.” – @PanqueAlgarvio

2. “His jeans were so tight he couldn’t sit down. Stood at a bar stool the whole time.” – @onlyintheozarks

3. “Waiting 4 my date when an older couple asked me for a ride. my date came up and said sure! We drove them home & they asked us to come in. Date said “sure”. I pulled him back & asked why he wanted to hang w/strangers. He said ‘sh@t! YOU DON'T KNOW THEM!?’ We bolted!” – @natashaham75

facebook dating

Talk about a fashion faux pas.

Giphy

4. “Before the date, we had been chatting about books we liked and I talked about a great book I just read. We went on the date. I loaned her the book. She ghosted me.” – @thenextbarstool

5. “The worst first date I ever had was when my date locked his keys in the car and I had a curfew so he had to break his car window out to get me home on time. Didn’t think I’d ever see him again but we wound up married.” – @csleblan

6. “First date movie ‘Basic Instinct’ not realizing how suggestive it was. We just thought it was a mystery thriller! We left the movie discussing how each character could have actually murdered someone. We're married now.” – @Southrnbell_Amy

black people meet

There are worse first date movies tbh.

Giphy

7. “First date with my ex husband was a double date with his parents. The preview for ‘Speed Racer’ came on, and she leaned over me to say to her son, ‘You know what your dad's nickname in the bedroom is?’" – @theostoria

8. “A friend asked me on a double date as a blind date with his date's friend. I went to the bathroom and came back just in time to hear my date say to her friend, ‘why do I get the ugly one?’ I said good night to all three and headed home, leaving her w/the bill.” – @StevenTrustum

9. “He loved cheese. I was subjected to a 2 hour conversation/lecture about cheese, and why cottage cheese is not cheese!” – @Optimist_Eeyore

bumble

I'd like to see this two-hour cheese lecture.

Giphy

10. “He took me to an Asian fish market. We walked around looking at live & dead fish for a while. I don’t like seeing dead animals & I don’t eat seafood. Then we sat on a curb & he pulled out a ziplock bag of pineapple for us to share. I don’t like pineapple.” – @markayhali

11. “My cousin set up a first date for me with a family friend. During a break from dinner, Mr. Man follows me into the ladies’ room, comes up close and says in a low voice, ‘I shave my butt.’ Can’t remember what I said in response but the evening ended abruptly.” – @carli_zarzana

12. “I once took out my high school crush to a sports bar and ordered the spiciest wings there in an attempt to impress her. Not only was she not impressed. The next morning I woke up with heartburn.” –@Dmonster38

tindr conversation starters

Talk about a hot date.

GIF

13. “My date showed up with his bestie and girlfriend, and they talked through dinner about people I don’t know. Walking to the car, he gave me a wedgie because he thought he hadn’t been paying enough attention to me.” – @surrealDazey


14. “I was taking my date home and was pulled over by the police for speeding. When the cop came to my car, she jumped out and told him she had to get home. She walked home and I never heard from her again. I'm not sure who's #WorstFirstDate it was mine or hers!” – @eastriverbear

15. “After an evening of dancing with a first date, leaving the dance hall, I had to take a quick pee break. Rushing out to the parking lot, I see a lady, I grab her and swoop her around, and plant a big wet kiss on the lips. She was another guy's wife. Oops!” – @seadogskamore

date you

Only Gomez could have gotten away with it.

Giphy