Talk of the Town - Tackle this May 07 2003

When Kristal Holmes speaks, you know you don't want to mess with her. Her authoritative tone can put anyone in their place. On the field her teammates call her "Shorty," but this 5-foot-4-inch, 138-pound woman is a force to reckoned with as a running back for the Atlanta Xplosion, the newest member of the Independent Women's Football League.

Forget pulling flags — these are real women playing real football, complete with helmets and pads. The game doesn't scare Holmes. She uses the intensity as a form of stress relief — instead of punishment, it's pleasure.

"Here's something else that people say women can't do," says Holmes. "And now we're proving them wrong."

Holmes is not your typical 37-year-old woman. She works full time as a computer systems analyst, tones up at the local gym and then kicks ass on the weekends. She says her love for football began at an early age, growing up in Memphis, Tenn., with her grandmother, who was a huge football fan. Her school years were spent on sports teams and intramural leagues. But it wasn't until recently that she got to huddle-up with a team of like-minded folks.

For the time being, stereotypical roles are reversed for Holmes and her teammates. Daughters serve as the water girls while husbands and boyfriends scream from the sidelines. And when one of these women rushes forward, people get out of their way.

$10-$20 per game. Season tickets also available. Home games played Saturday at Clark Atlanta University, 223 James P. Brawley Drive. 678-592-1217. www.atlantaxplosion.com.