Pride, Poise, No Boys 

Up close and personal with a female pro football player

Think you've seen everything in professional sports? Raiders too slick and packaged for your taste? Want to watch a hungry pro football team? Go out to Burrell Field on Teagarden Avenue in San Leandro this Saturday afternoon (1 p.m.) when the Oakland Banshees take on the California Quake. Oh, one thing -- the Banshees (2-5) and the Quake (5-1) are women's teams in the Women's American Football League.

At 34, Banshees running back Ondine Kilker of San Francisco is probably a little old ("We're mostly at the end of our sports careers") and more than a little inexperienced (it's only her eighth game in full pads) for NFL-rules football. "We have a great group of talented athletes," says the five-foot-two-inch, 135-pound Kilker, "but we lack experience. As a woman, you don't grow up playing organized football. This was my first time ever in equipment. There's definitely a learning curve. In the WAFL, we're going straight from zero to ninety."

You can say that again. The upstart WAFL, reportedly one of five competing women's pro leagues in the US, is now in its second season, fielding teams with names like the Alabama Slammers and Hawaii Legends and paying players what it can ("We work on a profit-sharing basis," admits Kilker. "We divide up the ticket proceeds"). But the league has its own Web site: And the $15 ticket price is a few bucks south of the NFL.

Finding places to practice is a constant problem ("I don't know how the Raiders deal with it," Kilker sighs), but she and her teammates are looking forward to playing the Long Beach-based Quake, even if they don't have much in the way of scouting reports. That doesn't faze Kilker. She works a variety of day jobs to support her athletic endeavors, and like many another jock has followed sports all her life. "I'm not supposed to say it, but I'm actually a 49ers fan. The Chicago Bears, too. I also love Brett Favre. For his ability." The Banshees could probably use Favre on Saturday, but he wouldn't fit in.


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