By Hayes Gardner
It’s a familiar scene. The professional football players don black and gold uniforms as coaches bark orders and organize drills.
Pittsburgh is written across T-shirts and equipment. The defensive captain’s hair spills down the back of the hard-hitting defender’s uniform, partially obscuring the 12-year veteran’s number.
But that hair isn’t black. And it doesn’t belong to Troy Polamalu. The blonde hair belongs to 49-year-old Beth Amato, middle linebacker for the Pittsburgh Passion, the undefeated pro football team in the Independent Women’s Football League (iWFL).
The Passion (6-0), has yet to play a close game this season and is focused on winning an iWFL championship this season — at least, that’s what Amato hopes.
Amato, a bartender and mother of three, retired from football one year ago, but couldn’t resist returning when her teammates begged her for one more season to finish on top. Not that she needed much convincing.
Amato, known as “G-Ma” to her teammates, grew up in the Pittsburgh area and fondly remembers her entire family gathering around the TV on Sundays to watch the Steelers. But she never thought she’d be able to play. That’s why, 12 years ago, when she heard about the Passion starting up, she couldn’t resist.
“This keeps you so young. It’s like when you’re a kid playing in the backyard,” Amato said.
Playing linebacker at age 49 sounds bizarre. And it is. But equally strange is a star quarterback commuting four hours each way, twice a week, solely to play football.
Lisa Horton is in her 10th season with the Passion and recently became the first woman to throw for 10,000 yards in a career. She works for the YMCA in Washington, D.C., and drives from Maryland for practice at least one day a week and then does the same most Saturdays for games. She could play for a team in the D.C. area, but that thought hasn’t crossed her mind.