For soccer, there’s soccer. Indoor or out, the team sport still carries the one common denominator: to score more than the opposition.
For baseball, there’s baseball. No matter how unathletic one thinks of him or herself, it’s a game that remains loyal to its roots whether the pitch is slow or fast, underhand or over.
For basketball, there’s basketball. Three-on-three, one-on-one, or a friendly round of Horse or 21? One still follows the laws: dribble and shoot.
As you’re catching the drift, this following statement might be mystical – but don’t panic.
Because … for football, there’s flag football.
“Flag football? HA,” I recall the days of bashing the concept. Now I’m here wondering why I can’t hold the last laugh.
The game features a mind of its own. No shoulder pads, no helmets. No protective gear is necessary, a cup might help though. Any pair of shorts, any shirt, and a pair of the flashiest shoes will suffice. Cleats are optional. In all my high school years, a group of friends, acquaintances and strangers gathered at a nearby field or park to duel out a gruesome game of tackle football. Every Thursday and Sunday, rain or shine, thunderstorm or hurricane, snow or hail, we mindless teenagers drove to an open field to prove a point.
If football didn’t allow tackling, I’d call it ballet. The physical pain that we endure, shaking off jammed fingers and brushing off the soreness in our thighs only motivated others to hit the opponent harder. We weren’t inherently violent, but the game on Sunday evening after church service definitely swelled the convictions within us. Inner demons were left on the field, I guarantee that.
The high adrenaline that came attached in the package of tackle football was basically better than using any drug. (NOT THAT I’VE TRIED ALL DRUGS!, ha) Emotions destroyed personal camaraderie when the game faces came on.
After high school, the majority of my friends migrated south to Richmond, VA. The heavy-hitting football players kept me updated with the exciting news of creating a flag football team.
How pathetic, I remember thinking, of these guys to downgrade to a softened version of my favorite sport. I don’t know why I started getting migraines thinking about how worthless it was for them to join forces with the Flag, but the light headaches might’ve been caused by football-withdrawal. I was envious of their AIM statuses always reading “30-12! Great win guys!” and me being 90 miles away twiddling my thumbs not being able to help.
So after my community college days, I transferred to VCU. Fit right in with my old timers, they let me start quarterbacking for them. I felt like I hit puberty again, the awkward sprouts between my armpits and wondering if I should report it to my parents or not. Yes, the emotion of uneasiness and betrayal swarmed me when I donned the pesky flags around my waist. The moment I stepped on the turf of the Cary Street Field though, it was like coming back home after a long, boring trip. My right arm, also known as my favorite gift from God, contributed to the team’s efforts as we made a run for the semi-finals of the 2008 intramural flag football season. We lost, but that experience is something that I’d never take for granted.
For the first time ever, I appreciated flag football. I learned to love it. The 7-on-7 battles against other teams in the league one beautiful night a week , under the lights, was too precious to dislike.
Every fall, teams train for the grand tournament: the Turkey Bowl. Turkey Bowls are different every where you go, and the one that we participated in was at George Mason University. We have never achieved 1st place yet, but anything can happen this fall. 🙂
What seemed like tutus around your waist now has developed into a belt of achievements. In my four years here, the team’s that I played with were part of 6 total Co-ed championships. I also qb’ed for the the most coveted prize and a lifelong-chased-accomplishment, a Men’s-league championship. The framed picture of our team of Koreans posted behind the glass window at the gym always put a smile on my face when I walked past it. It’s now hanging on my wall in my apartment. I look back at my resume with a smile, not only because I quarterbacked for these squads, but the relationships that I formed and will cherish for a long time. I’m grateful for the mentors that totally humiliated me in the public, the fights and the drama that I overcame, and some lessons of life that I can’t live without.
I might sound a bit dramatic, but I’m not exaggerating at all when I say that, “flag football is not for the weak!”