No color barrier
Brooke A. Henderson doesn’t even blink at the question.
“No, I’m not blond at all,” says the sunny blond rookie on Team Blonde. The 23-year-old publicist has turned out on game day in a pink hair bow and the same slim-cut hot-pink jersey donned by her teammates. (This year, the Brunettes are in blue.) She has eyeliner on her lids and eyeblack on her cheeks.
These days, it’s not a rude question at all. From dye to highlights to extensions to wigs, there’s a world of hair-color options, and why should we pretend we don’t exercise them? Henderson explains that she made the transition from dark to light about a year ago.
“That’s surprising!” exclaims teammate Sarah Valerio, a 27-year-old lawyer. “I think of you as blond!” (As for herself: “Born blond” — a common refrain among her teammates — but “now a bottle blonde.”)
Meslar stops by the Blonde meeting to wish everyone well, and a groan goes up. “You always go brunette before the game!” someone complains. Nothing partisan, Meslar says, just seasonal. Dark blond by nature, she lightens in summer and darkens in winter: “I’m trying to go bur-lond.”
The changing times of BvB might be best exemplified by journalist Kate Howard, 24, whose Team Blonde friends asked her to join them this year.
“There’s a minor problem with that,” Howard reminded them: She’s African American. Not a problem at all, her friends insisted. So, yes, Howard dyed her hair, a shade of dark honey. “I say I’m channeling my inner Beyoncé,” she says.
Gives a whole new meaning to “gameday highlights,” huh? But it goes both ways. The Blondes get blonder for the football game, but on Team Brunette, “there are three girls who’ve gone darker,” notes raven-haired Molly McGlynn.
The Blondes are maybe, on average, somewhat lither; the Brunettes a bit more buff (this year they enlisted a couple of members of the D.C. Divas pro women’s football team). The Blondes have their real last names on their jerseys, while the Brunettes have tough-guy nicknames (“Lindsanity,” “Doofer”). The Blondes had one final practice Saturday morning, whereas the Brunettes had brunch. (“Which I missed,” says Allison Prescott, “because I was blow-drying my hair.”)
Big game highlights
There was a lot at stake Saturday. In 2010, the Blondes broke the Brunettes’ five-year streak with their first-ever win, a 26-20 victory.
But Blonde quarterback Deanna Tebeau (yes, pronounced “Tebow”) came on hot right out of the gate, finding her receivers with no difficulty. The Blondes were up 2, then up 8.
It got ugly: Jenny Nolen, playing defense for the Blondes, tried to grab the Brunette QB’s flag, got pushed by a Brunette (“I’m sure it wasn’t intentional,” she later told us sweetly) and landed hard on her hand. She played the rest of the game — but ended up at the hospital afterward, with a diagnosis of a broken wrist.
There were hurt feelings, too: A few players were never put into the game, raising some concern that win-hungry coaches were forgetting that this was supposed to be fun.
Meslar says she urges the volunteer coaches (guys, as it happens) to play the women based on how much they’ve shown up for practice — but, ultimately, she allows them to make their own decisions. “I’m not going to be like Dan Snyder,” she says.
At halftime, the Blondes led 16-7; in the final quarter, by 22-13. Branca clustered members of Team Bru together for a pep talk.
“Ladies, we are way better than this,” she said. They had 15 minutes to turn it around, she warned.
They did. Brunette QB Jenny Paine made a touchdown just microseconds before a Blonde pulled her flag.
Minutes later, Team Bru won the game, 26-22, thanks largely to a brilliant interception by game hero Maria Burton that dazzled play-by-play announcer Joey Catron.
“This is her fourth year playing,” he told the crowd, “and she’s proud to be a natural brunette.”