Nothing makes me feel more nostalgic than thinking of the previous three falls that I have spent on DaSilva Field – rain or shine, hot or cold, win or loss.
On Thursday, I had the first game of my final season of flag football. That’s probably misleading. My team started its final season of Flag Football on Thursday — I stood on the sideline. Regardless, standing out there that night made me think back to my own personal football history.
I’ve always loved football. I would watch it with my dad when I was growing up, even though I didn’t understand anything that was going on. I couldn’t play as a child because I was too busy with other sports, but I always thought that in another world, I could see myself playing football.
In middle school, I would play flag football on Saturday mornings with the local families. We’d use tube socks as flags and the dads would draw up plays with their finger to make sure everyone got the ball. It was so much fun and as I got older, I wished I had never “grown out of it.”
I didn’t play any sort of football again until the Homecoming Powder Puff football game my junior year of high school. This time was different – pride was on the line.
The game was so fun. We made history by being the first junior class to win, a fact which did not make us any friends in the senior class. We followed it up the next year as the first back-to-back winners in school history.
Naturally, when I heard about a co-ed football league – I wanted to be a part of it. My roommate knew someone who knew someone who was putting together a team, and somehow my name got thrown into the hat.
I was told I would have to “try out” for the team. I honestly don’t remember, but I’m pretty sure that never happened.
Freshman year, our team was a random group of guys who happened to live together. Somehow, I’m convinced by luck of the draw, we ended up fourth in the league. After that, things got real.
We started recruiting. That next year we were added incredible athletes from all different teams to make ourselves a powerhouse. We started having “practices” rather than “toss arounds,” the goal was to win the league. Any loss was a failure and we would not tolerate it. That season ended earlier for us and the team was not satisfied.
Once again, the beginning of the season brought new faces to our team. These guys were fast, big, knew how to play to football and more than replaced the players we lost to one of the frat teams in the league.
After completely dominating throughout the regular season, we were matched up against that same frat team in the playoffs. Tempers flared during the game but at the end, we came up victorious. Though we lost the subsequent championship game, it was clear that we were the team to beat in the league.
This year we’re back and better than ever. We’ve finally kept our team stable – didn’t lose any players from last year’s dominant squad. We’ve got one goal in mind – Flag Football Champions and nothing is going to come in our way.
Especially not me. I’ve spent the last two years as the only girl on the team, surrounded by 15-20 men. Sometimes it feels like I’m the only girl in the league. Rather than feeling uncomfortable or awkward, I’ve embraced it. These men have become like brothers to me.
I’ve gotten used to not playing all the time. I am generally saved for the games that are so out of reach that it doesn’t matter what I do. I’ve become the cheerleader for the team. I cheer for our boys as we pick off the other team’s deep balls, I groan when the referees make a bad call (which I thought was a lot, until I watched the Packers-Seahawks game on Monday night) and I celebrate each one of our team’s wins when the final whistle blows, which is nearly every week.
When I do play, something ridiculous almost always happens. Sometimes, the other team stays as far away from me as possible – as if I were a bubble about to burst. Other times they treat me like one of the guys and I’ll be bulldozed (I’ve always gotten up afterwards). One time I caught a sideline pass and the defender grabbed my butt instead of my flag – that one I didn’t even notice, too excited about the ball being thrown to me, but my teammates made quite a fuss.
These things are all part of the game and part of what makes me love flag football season so much. I can’t help but romanticize the cold fall nights we spend out on the turf or the competition between teams we’ll play three or four times before the playoffs. Each game matters and this time there’s no looking forward to next year – we’ve gotta get it done now.