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Saturday, May 18, 2024

How an NWSL Star and a Reddit Cofounder Landed On ‘Vanderpump Rules’ Meets ‘Drive To Survive’

  • For Alexis Ohanian, a 2019 ‘rage-tweet’ about women’s sports being undervalued led him here.
  • Midge Purce was just trying to train—and that turned into a show.
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Every weekend, Front Office Sports brings you one of the week’s best conversations from our daily podcast, FOS Today. This week we’re highlighting host Owen Poindexter’s interview with NWSL star Midge Purce and Alexis Ohanian, a cofounder of both Reddit and the NWSL’s Angel City FC. The duo is teaming up to produce a sports-driven docuseries they believe will be unlike any show you’re currently obsessed with. In classic Hollywood elevator-pitch terms, Purce has described The Offseason as “Vanderpump Rules meets Drive to Survive.” What does that mean for viewers? The show will follow 11 NWSL players as they live in one Miami house together, train together, and deal with all the pain and glory that comes with being a contemporary professional athlete. To hear the whole conversation, check out the episode here. The following has been edited for clarity and length.

Front Office Sports: You two are collaborating on a reality show called The Offseason—11 players living together during the NWSL offseason. How did this come together?

Midge Purce: It’s not necessarily just a reality show. It’s a docuseries hybrid reality show. The idea came a couple years ago when I was looking for a place to train in the offseason because I play in the New Jersey–New York area and it’s really difficult to run around outside, do your conditioning, find good trainers, find other players to play with on the same schedule as you. And in having conversations with Alexis, he was like: Why don’t you do something about it? So, I convinced my trainer to leave all of his MLS players and his USL boys to come train us down in Florida. We had chefs, we had massage therapists. And when I went back to my friends and asked them about joining, they couldn’t say no. 

Our league has stars who have been overlooked because they’re not on the international stage. It’s a travesty to know that there’s so much talent and so many incredible stories that are just not told because there’s no exposure. So the idea of doing a television series kind of came naturally—these are women who are incredible in sport, but they’re also really, really incredible storytellers and really fascinating to watch.

FOS: Alexis, as an investor, you have to make choices. Why was this a good choice for you?

Alexis Ohanian: In 2019, I rage-tweeted about how undervalued women’s sports were. It was simply because the Seattle [NWSL] team had just sold for like $3 million. I didn’t know anything about women’s soccer, but I knew Megan Rapinoe’s name, and I knew she was on that team. I knew her value—her brand value or marketing value—was at least worth that much each year.

It made no sense to me. The math did not math. What was clear was that the folks running things just weren’t necessarily thinking about building a business. And then I’m thinking: We have all these sports docuseries now. And all of the most successful ones have always featured women. So as Midge is describing the show, I’m frankly just shocked no one’s done it before. Because we know that women are just so much better at being the focal points for this kind of television. And it’s the same reason why women’s sports excite me in general. If you spend any time with Midge—or, frankly, any of the women of The Offseason—it’s very obvious why you wanna pay attention and invest.

FOS: I feel like the newer, younger leagues are willing to do things that you probably wouldn’t see in the NFL. It’s hard to imagine Robert Kraft doing a show with Kirk Cousins.

AO: It would be boring. And I love Kirk. Kirk’s my boy. Kirk, you know I love you, man. 

MP: What’s really cool about the show is that you don’t see this side of sports anywhere. Like when someone gets traded in the NBA, you don’t get to see what that process is like, what the player actually goes through in those conversations. The mental gymnastics you jump through in moving all of your stuff. Or if you’re in contract negotiations or if you’re getting back from injury—all of those things are behind closed doors right now. 

FOS: With Angel City FC, I remember seeing the promo video for this new team and thinking: This could be a movie. 

AO: We needed to tell a story out of the gate because, at that time, no one was investing in teams in this way. That was needed to do some storytelling, to get some attention and excitement, to get those first brand partnerships. But the only reason this league will be successful is because of the players. Full stop. This always has to be about them. And there’s really only one elite group of professional athletes that have simultaneously been at the top of their game and also creating media empires. I think of LeBron, and now Midge. This goes to show how the new generation of athletes is taking control of so much more than just their play. I think it’s a role model to prototype—that’s what Midge is.

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