Giants rookie Eli Apple was finishing up his first day of organized team activities Monday when ESPN announced that his mother, Annie, would be joining its “Sunday NFL Countdown” pregame show as a contributor. Though the reaction in East Rutherford was mostly positive, Eli told her there were some skeptics when she popped by the training facility to see him.
“Some people think you’re getting where you are because of me,” Eli said, “but I know I’m here because of you.”
“Yes,” said Annie, who added without missing a beat, “And I got the stretch marks to prove it.”
Suffice it to say it is going to take more than a few skeptics to stop Annie Apple, an NFL uber-mom and writer whose blog, SurvivinAmerica.com, tackles topics like “How to have those awkward sex convos with your adult sons.”
Annie is a hybrid of Cookie Lyon from Empire and that intrusive mom from the Old Spice commercials — with a little of Dr. Ruth and Billy Graham sprinkled in. She became a social media sensation with her tell-it-like-it-is tweets from @survivinAmerica leading up to the draft. She gained even more fans afterward when she penned a first-person column on the draft for Sports Illustrated, declaring she would not let Eli wear the free jewelry that had been offered him on draft day. “I told him, ‘Dude, you’re an unemployed college dropout. You will not be on TV with a Rolex.’ ”
Soon after, ESPN brought her in to appear on “His and Hers” and Seth Markman, the senior coordinating producer for ESPN’s NFL studio shows, knew he had to find a regular place for her. “Right away, there was just something there,” Markman said this week. “She’s so naturally entertaining.”
Entertaining and completely different from anything we have seen on pregame shows, which tend to be dominated by former football players along with a few seasoned, mostly male, sports reporters. A study by the NFL in 2013 found that women represent 45 percent of the NFL fan base, but declaring an interest in football doesn’t always translate into watching it or its pregame shows. According to ESPN, 25 percent of the audience for “Sunday NFL Countdown” is female, so there definitely is some room for growth.
“It’s funny some of the reaction we’ve gotten,” Markman said. “We’ve had more positive feedback to this than anything I can remember for a while. And a lot of it we can’t help but notice is from females. A lot of females and moms of athletes seem to be enthusiastic about it.”
I’m not saying that you have to be a woman to enjoy the brand of humor Apple might bring to the table. Nor am I saying that many women don’t enjoy the more conventional nuts-and-bolts injury and matchup talk that dominates many pregame shows. But there are a lot of sports moms (and dads) out there, and pulling back the curtain on the way playing in the NFL impacts families is something new.
Apple is everything a great sports mom should be: frank, fiercely loyal to her offspring and not afraid to get in your face. She’s also really funny. A 30-minute phone interview with Annie shortly after her hiring included these pearls of wisdom:
Annie on her son: “Eli, just to get ready for the combine, trained six days a week for 12 hours a day. I can’t even go to the gym for 37 minutes without leaving to get a cheeseburger.”
Annie on God: “My day starts at 5:30. I like to pray. I like to get there first before everyone else gets there with their problems.”
Annie on why she blogs and tweets: “Being a mom, I have so much to talk about that my husband and my kids just don’t want to hear.”
For the most part, Eli doesn’t seem to mind having to hear about an opinionated mother. And even if he did, he knows it probably wouldn’t matter.
Said Eli: “She’s just going to be herself. She was like this way back when I was in high school and she was on Twitter. She was like the first person to have Twitter. She was tweeting like this during my high school games and everything, so she’s not going to change.”