How 'The League' Invited Women Into The Football Conversation, According To Creators Jeff & Jackie Schaffer
When you gave it a first glance, The League didn’t seem like a show that was made for women. The story of six football-loving friends who insulted each other via fantasy football and beers at their local watering hole? Eh. Wasn’t my cup of tea — or was it? After seven seasons of pocket dogs and pee corners, the series finale of The League is upon us, and folks, I am pretty sad. I’m not so good with goodbyes, it’s time to bid farewell to the gang, most especially, Jenny MacArthur, the matriarch of the show and, most importantly, one badass B. In an interview with Bustle, the show's creators Jeff Schaffer and Jackie Schaffer talk how The League has brought women into fantasy sports, why Jenny is so successful in her league, and who is the best fantasy player on the show.
I’ve been a baseball fan since birth (and cheering for a team like the New York Mets certainly builds character), but I really didn’t get into football until I watched The League. Sure, football was on every Sunday, and I knew the rules and all that, but I never really paid attention. Jackie says that this is a common refrain in The League female fandom: “It makes me really happy to hear women say that they were never really interested in fantasy football — I couldn’t be more flattered that women are on social media all the time saying, ‘I didn’t really want to do fantasy football, I didn’t know that much about it, and now I love it because of The League .’”
While there are many women who are football fans and watch the games every Sunday, The League, to its credit, has acted like a Trojan horse for sports fans, and Jackie asserts that it’s not only good for fantasy sports, but it’s good for women, as well. “I think for us, as fans of football, it’s great to get more women loving football, loving fantasy sports, and feeling like they have a place at the table in what’s become an insanely popular pastime. Women feel that they’re included rather than excluded,” she says.
Just look at Jenny — she’s arguably the best fantasy football player on the show. Jenny ran Kevin’s (that’s her husband) team for years. Though it was supposed to be a secret, everyone on the show knew that she was the brain of the operation. Jeff says that this was the plan from the beginning, with Jenny forcing her way to a seat at the table by sheer football skill. Jackie says, “One of the things that any fantasy football player can do to destroy whatever chances they have at winning is to tinker. The men tinker, and Jenny stays the course.” Jenny was never allowed into the game, and once she was, she dominated the men. This plot line on the show is becoming the reality in many fantasy football leagues around the country.
And, that Jenny MacArthur magic has rubbed off onto Katie Aselton, the actress who plays Jenny. Jeff and Jackie have had a real-life fantasy football league with the cast since the show’s inception, and guess who the first winner was? Katie Aselton. “Our trophy is called the Aselton Cup,” Jeff notes. It’s also worth noting that Jackie has won their league twice — the only two-time champion — beating Jeff in her second championship.
Football isn’t always a safe place for women — a rash of headlines about domestic abuse in the NFL with next to no consequences underlines this. (Although in December 2014, the NFL said it's working on taking "steps towards preventing domestic violence and sexual assault before they happen.") However, with The League, Jeff and Jackie Schaffer helped to create a safe zone for women in which they’re free to trash talk, trade running backs, and show their non-tinkering skills off. For that, The League will be sorely missed, but always appreciated.
Images: Scott Schafer/FX; Giphy (2)