When I was born, my father was sure he had a son.
My mother never told him she found out a month before that their first child, me, would be born sans testes. While she was blissfully drugged unconscious at the time of my birth, my father was faced with a daughter he was not exactly emotionally prepared for. However, he said discovering I was a healthy baby overshadowed all of this, and he took on the task of naming me alone.
Like most living people in 1993, my father idolized Michael Jordan, a fact I am quite grateful for. Had MJ not named his only daughter Jasmine, I wouldn’t have the delight of introducing myself as “Jasmine, like the princess” that I do today.
Because of this, I feel like I’ve always been destined to love sports. But it wasn’t until later in my life that I took to basketball.
Football has always been my first love.
From my first word of “touchdown,” my family knew I was following my father’s footsteps towards sports obsession. There was no place I’d rather be on a Sunday night other than on my father’s lap, flanked by my Pop-Pop and uncles, watching the Giants go for the win. Even when I didn’t understand the rules, I loved the joy that watching football brought to a room.
By the time I was old enough to ask questions, there was no doubt in my mind that I wanted to be a part of the game. I wanted that adrenaline rush of sending a perfect spiral to my wide receiver for the game-winning touchdown. I wanted to fake out the guy on my back to get open for a first down. I wanted to take a man to his knees to protect my QB’s blind side. There was no part of football I didn’t crave to learn. I was young, but I felt football in my veins.
At age 8, I propositioned my father with a flyer for a youth football league in my town that was passed out in class the day prior. I had my pitch all ready about how I was the same size as most of the boys in my class, and how I could catch well in gym and how I was sure I was fast enough—
I couldn’t even get a word in edgewise. Instead, he pointed to the other part of the flyer, at the very bottom: “Become A Cheerleader!” A part I hadn’t even considered. The thought never even crossed my mind. I wanted to play football, I knew I could play football.
There wasn’t a waking moment after that that I didn’t pester my father to let me play. All I needed was practice, Daddy, and I’d be able to take a tackle. I wouldn’t cry if I got hurt! I could be just as good as all of the boys, even better! I could, if someone believed in me.
But this isn’t a letter to my father. This isn’t me blaming him for not letting me live my dream, for pushing me towards safer, “girl” sports. This isn’t about me being upset with him for being a part of the patriarchy and keeping me in my “role” as a little girl.
If he didn’t, I wouldn’t be able to write this letter to you, Sam Gordon.
You’re not the first little girl to get into pads and put a football in your hands, but because of you, and all this recognition you’ve garnered, I know you won’t be the last. I could go on and on about your stats and about how amazing your tapes are, but I don’t think that matters here.
What does matter is all that you’ve done for the little girls like me, who didn’t have daddies that said yes. In just a few short months, you’ve gone from small town superstar, to the talk of ESPN. You became the first female football player ever to grace the front of a Wheaties box, an accomplishment and an honor in the world of sports. You went to the Superbowl this year and got to sit next to Roger Goodell, the commissioner of the NFL himself. Most grown people can’t say they’ve done half of what you have.
I can’t really describe the feeling of pride I get every time something else good happens to you. You’re doing everything I could have ever wanted to do at age 9 and taking everything in stride, all while just being yourself.
Even if you don’t stick with football when you grow up, I’ll always be grateful for the little bit of your time that you let America see, because you gave 9 year old me a voice. You put a football in my younger self’s hands and you let me play with the boys because I could.
You believed in yourself, and for that I am forever grateful.