You’d think flag football is the civilized version of the sport. The kids are young, they don’t wear pads. It’s a “learning experience” where kids learn the value of teamwork. It’s run by the YMCA. They don’t even keep score. Well, don’t you believe it. The salaries may not be quite as high as the NFL, but the passion is already there at the tender age of nine.
The kids all look like bobbleheads with their large white helmets wobbling on thin unpadded shoulders. They goof around at practice, yelling and ripping each other’s flags off. But when the coach’s whistle blows, it’s all business. They have honest-to-goodness plays. The coaches run them again and again. On defense, they mostly practice zone. The field is divided into three parts and they go over it all every Tuesday and Thursday night. It does pay off. Daniel’s team – The Raiders – is undefeated this season. They’ve outscored their opponents 83 – 6… if they kept score (which – of course – they don’t). They’ve won four and tied one. That tie game sticks in the craw of the assistant coaches.
“The coach can’t talk after the play has started,” he told me afterwards. “He called our reverses.” Even worse, the Orange Crush (our arch nemesis on the flag football field) is also undefeated with a record of 5 – 0. We’re a half-game behind in a set of standings that – technically – don’t exist. Is it paranoia? No. During the last game, the Orange Crush coaching staff was there on the sidelines during our game, unobtrusively scouting out the competition.
The team practiced Tuesday until the sun was down and I could no longer see the football. The Raiders take on the Orange Crush this Saturday morning in Belvidere’s version of the Super Bowl. I think it will be a fun game and very exciting. I will tape the proceedings as per usual. My plan is to generate another “NFL Film” out of it. I’ve explained to Daniel that he should just go out and have fun and it doesn’t matter if they win or lose. He shakes his head. He wants to win. They all want to win.
And – frankly – so do I. Go Raiders!