Lena Sutherland and Jules Mancuso started out as two best friends and good-natured "sports widows” chatting over the phone one night while their husbands were glued to whatever big game happened to be on. The hilarious, off-the-wall commentary that ensued inspired their getting-more-popular-by-the-minute webcast, WhileTheMenWatch.
Their alternative sportscasting has turned the stereotypical “sports widow” on her head by coming at any and every sport with a sense of humor and an irreverent, off-the-cuff style of commentary that has attracted not only women but, surprisingly, their spouses, too.
Recently, I caught up with the lovely Lena and we got to chat about everything from the show’s roots, to their empowering take on women and sports, to the community of American expats who relied on the WTMW ladies for their World Series coverage.
Just to be clear, despite being described as "Sex and the City meets ESPN," this isn’t about just ogling the hotties on the screen, right?
No, no, that would be the first ten minutes and then you’ve got another three hours to get through! ... While we do select a boyfriend of the game for every show that we do ... we [also] talk about the rules of the game and have a vocabulary term that we try to look for. We’ll do fashion revamps of players, or even make recommendations as to how we think the whole team should upgrade their uniforms or equipment. So it’s really just all a common sense way of looking at the game that men don’t seem to focus on when they’re engrossed in what’s happening.
We’re not trying to reinforce the stereotype that women are nagging and don’t have the brains to understand sports. We’re just approaching it from a different way, and we’re taking something that could be a bicker over changing the channel and turning it into something fun.
What part of this show would you consider the most rewarding or fun?
It was really surprising to us that men and women can really get into this way of watching the game. It’s so funny, we always have women tell us that they start out listening at first on their headphones, and then by the end, their husband’s listening too because he can’t stand it that they’re laughing so hard throughout the game and he wants to know what the heck is so funny. So it’s something that inevitably creates a community of people, and the more people involved in the community, the better, the more fun it is. It’s really been phenomenal.
And I have to tell you that in Game 6 of the World Series, somehow a whole contingent of American expats living in Europe who didn’t get the World Series found out about us and there were like 300 people in the chat room dying to know what was going on - a person in Ireland, a person in the Ukraine, a guy saying “Don’t shut down if it goes to extra innings! We want to know what’s happening!” And Jules and I were like, “You guys are depending on us for a real play by-play of what’s happening?!” But there really wasn’t any other stream out there at the time that people could get into and have fun. It's just such a blast!
How do your husbands feel about the show?
My husband was the one who said, “Well, you should do it!” and if he hadn’t, I don’t think it would’ve even dawned on me to do it because it’s such a whacked-out idea, but I think that was really kind of the kick start we needed.
And for us it’s been great, because it’s been a way to have fun with each other, but we also get to have conversations with our partners about the sports - you know, we’ll ask them questions (why did this happen, why did they get traded) and now we actually know the players' names, so it’s more fun for them because they can talk to us about something they love.
What are your favorite sports to cover? Ones you dread?
The one that we love that we do most often is hockey, because it’s very action-packed and there’s not a lot of downtime, and it helps that a lot of the hockey players are good-looking. But my second favorite is horse-racing, because everyone gets all dolled up to go to the race, the champagne is flowing ... and then the whole race is over in two minutes and you can get back to partying.
[And] we don’t hate any of them. The more “boring” it might seem, the more minutiae there is to talk about. I mean, we do kind of get tired when the football game at 11pm goes into overtime - we definitely dread overtime - but apart from that we’re just having a great time.
What would you say to women without a best friend like yours and who often feel like they’re taking a backseat to the premium sports package on cable?
Yes! I say join us, because we’ve already made lots of friends this way!