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TOURNAMENT NOTES FROM THE ATLANTA STORM & HEAT
By Thurman Williams
Tournament Organizers. To Mark Barr and the Salt Lake volunteers, thanks for a great tournament and hospitality. From arrival to departure, it was a class act! Your efforts exceeded expectations and delivered on fun, camaraderie and social satisfaction.
Referee Pride. Atlanta, required to bring a referee in exchange for having two teams participate in the tournament, took pride in the performance of Lance. His professionalism, knowledge of the game, southern hospitality and experience stood out, leaving most teams desiring him to referee their games. The misfortune for Atlanta was we weren't able to benefit from the same level of performance. Perhaps his performance was so addictive that the Board will actively seek out referees that have the same level of expertise. The conduct of some referees (penalty call without explanation) and lack of knowledge made for undue stress. Recommendation: allow teams to rank referees' performance and FIRE those that don't make the cut.
Competitors. This year was no exception as it relates to competitive play. Every game was a challenge, regardless of a team's ranking. Sportsmanship was at an all-time high, despite the lack thereof from our three-year nemesis NY Bad Apples. Three years running we have concluded our tournament play against the Bad Apples, and the poor sportsmanship seems inevitable. Although the game had little meaning (playing for 9th and 10th place finish) and we agreed to "just have fun", the Apples seem to thrive on arguing with our team, complaining on every call and claiming racism.
Its How Cold? Who would have thought that mother nature would bring such swift winds, rain and snow on the most anticipated days of the year. While the weather wasn't sunny Atlanta, it made for great football weather and added an element of uncertainty that could favor any team. It made for great football weather and added to the economy, given the need to shop for cold weather attire.
Flags Be Gone. Rules are made to exclude those you don't want to include, is what my mother taught me as a youngster. Although the Board declared Triple Threat flags as a "must" for the tournament, reminded by an email the week of the tournament, a game protest of a team "not" using the approved flags was disregarded as unfounded. The flags (length shorter than Triple Threat) were declared a non-competitive advantage, although this team was cited for not using the correct flags in NY. This claim of "unfounded" became "founded" as one of the Board members had to play "said" team in the competitive semi-final game. Suddenly, a non-competitive advantage became an advantage and the team was required to replace their flags. Fair? I'll let others be the judge.
Racism Claim Unfounded. Let it be known that Atlanta prides itself on having respect for its competitors and players. Despite Cyd's claim we cheered at a NY injury in a prior year, resulting in his "no surprise" that we made racist remarks, Atlanta undeniably refuses to accept this branding. In its context, the heat of the game and in response to the Bad Apple outcry, the comment was not a racist comment. Atlanta's teams are made up of ALL races (Black, White, Asian and Hispanic), and no one would make a comment to any player that, in itself, would be offensive to an Atlanta player. Did we understand how the comment could be offensive, yes? Was it intended as such, no! Did we empathize with him as a Asian player, yes? Did we offer an apology immediately and repeatdly, yes? Recommendation: All teams strive to respect one another, refrain from excessive taunting and respect the referees.
Size Matters. The tournament is evolving and its growth over the years has been astounding. The great news is that gay sports are taking off, particularly flag football. Teams are forming, leagues developing. This is exciting! The only downside come tournament time is that teams and individuals you admire, you may not see the entire tournament. For the love of the game, it may mean one will simply have to fall in love with a player or team over and over again. Damn, that's hard on a man!
Photo Perfection! Team photos and slide shows were back! Kudos to Salt Lake for bringing back the great photos, specifically team photos. David Daniels was awesome and brought back the quality that Tom Weigand offered over in the early years. It was great seeing the photo slide show at every event and having a team photo for players. Excellent!
Who Loves NY? It could be said that NY is well on its way to being a dynasty. While NY Warriors assume everyone is against them, they should appreciate that their performance year over year is respected. What NY players may be feeling and/or witnessing is the disdain for the taunting and attitude that accommodates its performance. Perception or reality, winning with class will always draw greater respect than winning without it. In life and friendships, people tend to admire those that are humble in all aspects of their life. Its not all players, just some that reflect upon NY poorly. NY is respected and with a little behavior modification, they will soon be loved. Congratulations NY for three in a row!
NOTES FROM THE NEW YORK WARRIORS
By Cyd Zeigler jr.
The organizers. Above all else, thanks needs to go to tournament organizer Mark Barr and all of the volunteers who worked to put this tournament together: The fundraisers, the referees, the medical crew, the people who secured the fields, the people who organized the parties – every one of them. You all did a great job, and I thank you for your hospitality from the bottom of my heart.
A great referee emerges. One of the most pleasant discoveries this tournament was Lance, a referee from Atlanta. He refereed our second game and, before the game even started, I could see he was a pro. He carried himself with eternal confidence, never raised his voice, knew the rules down cold, corrected himself quickly and effectively when he made a rare mistake, and immediately earned the respect of every player on the field. This guy is a total superstar, and I hope the national board will get him as heavily involved as the national head referee as he is willing.
New York Warriors, champions again. I couldn’t possibly be more proud of my team. We lost several players from our team last year, and we had several big injuries in the last month (including my own Achilles tendonitis), and then we had another huge injury during the tournament. But the team kept fighting and extended its consecutive-wins record to 18 and won its third straight title. We beat host Salt Lake City X-Communicated, 28-20, in the final game. I told my guys before that game that it would be the loudest crowd we’ve ever had to face, and it was. Their sideline was packed with local fans and other teams cheering against us; A smattering of people from New York, Phoenix and Los Angeles was all we had on our side. On our last offensive play, when our quarterback tried to call an audible, their sideline drowned him out; Luckily I had heard the audible and repeated it loudly to the receiver it was meant for. Wide receiver streak, 30 yards, touchdown, game over.
After my team lost three years ago to Chicago in the semifinals, I put a personal goal for the team as nothing short of being the first team to win three Gay Superbowls. Never did I think we would carry an 18-0 record in that time. I’m so proud of them.
That championship game was my last with the Warriors, as I’m moving back to Los Angeles at the end of this year. When will the Warriors lose their next game? My guess is that it won’t happen for quite a while.
Consolation champs. The Chicago Bears, making their first tournament appearance, won the consolation championship, also beating a Salt Lake City team in the finals. I think it’s so great that the teams that happen to not do so well the first day still have a shot at a trophy. Congrats to Chipp and all the Bears for their win!
Most-improved teams. Two teams took big leaps this year: The Michigan Panthers and the Phoenix Hellraisers. Both teams made the competitive division, finishing 6th and 7th respectively. We ended up playing Phoenix twice, and my team was unanimous: They were the best team we played. We beat them by 6 in overtime and by 8: Our two closest games in a while. They have a good thing going: A smart, solid quarterback and guys who have clearly bought into the program that league founder Shawn Rea has brought to them. They will be contending for a title for years to come.
“Beatable,” but not “beaten.” One player from another team was calling my New York Warriors team “beatable” after the first couple of days. I heard from a bunch of people that that was the word he was using to describe us. It was humorous to me, since every team is beatable. But, at the end of the tournament, my team was unbeaten and his failed to even make the finals. Call me crazy, but I’d much rather be labeled “beatable” than “beaten.”
Temperature swing. Last year was the hottest Gay Superbowl yet, topping off at 95 degrees in New York City. This year was the coldest, getting into the 30s at times and with games played on Sunday on a snow-covered field. My team stayed in Draper, about 1,500 feet in elevation above the fields. We awoke Sunday morning to temperature in the 20s, 6 inches of snow, and more falling fast. It was very cool.
Injuries. Always the worst part of the tournament, injuries took their toll this time around. In our first two games, two players from other teams were sent to the hospital (neither, thankfully, from aggressive play on our part). I know Boston had to forfeit their 7th-place game because they didn’t have enough healthy players to play the game. Other injuries saw quarterbacks sidelined, broken bones, sprained ankles. Two of our players need surgery on broken fingers. Unfortunately, it’s often the cost of playing football. I talked to one guy from Phoenix who is facing surgery to repair broken cheek and jaw bones when he returns home. When I asked him if he’ll play again he said, “As long as the doctor lets me.”
Racism at the tournament. I was incredibly disheartened to hear that an Asian player on the New York Bad Apples was the target of racially insensitive langue during one of their games. It is sad that, in a gay sports event, someone might resort to yelling racist slurs (or racially insensitive comments, whichever the case may be). I hope going forward that everyone will just be a little more careful with what they say, even in the heat of a game.
Altitude & Revenge. Last year, after my team beat Salt Lake City in the Superbowl, they said that they were going to get us this year because it was in their backyard, and because we wouldn’t know how to handle the altitude. So much for that. Other than being a little winded the first day, my entire team felt few repercussions from the altitude; and I heard the same thing from other teams.
Interestingly, it was the Salt Lake team and the San Diego team who both talked a lot of shit last year after we beat them, saying they’d get us back this year; My team played them in the semifinals (San Diego) and finals (Salt Lake). We beat San Diego, 28-0, and we beat Salt Lake, 28-20. Going into those games, my team’s mantra was, “give them what they wanted” and “they wanted us, they got us.”
MVP and all-tournament teams. I would be saying this whether I was on the championship team or not, but here’s no getting around it: I was (and many others said they were) shocked and disappointed with the organizers’ decision to create a backward system for awarding the tournament MVP award. The system was designed to reward players who play on bad or mediocre teams, and no one I have spoken to was ever told what the system was until they announced the award. Here it is . . .
At the end of each game, each team’s captain voted on the other team’s MVP for the game. Whether a team won by 30 or lost by 30, the two people named each got one “MVP Point.” So, if a player scored 6 touchdowns en route to his team’s 40-point victory, his 1 “MVP Point” counted the same as someone who simply caught a couple big passes en route to his team being blown out. Whoever had the most “MVP Points” at the end of the tournament won the award. Oddly, at the end of the Championship game, no one asked me who was my selection for Salt Lake, and I have to assume no one on their team was asked who was my team’s MVP for the game; In other words, every game counted more toward this award than the actual Championship game. Insane.
The person who won the award is a very good player, no question about that. But, of the 20 teams in the tournament, his team did not finish in the top 12 and did not have a winning record. Every MVP from past Gay Superbowls was from the team that won the tournament. In the 51 years the Associated Press has handed out the NFL MVP award, not a single time did the winner come from a team with a losing record. Of the 73 Heisman Trophy winners, only one (52 years ago) came from a team with a losing record. Of the 42 real Super Bowls, only one player was ever named the MVP without winning the game, and that was 37 years ago in a defensive struggle.
Hopefully, the national board will create a better formal system. Last year at the tournament, every captain was given a sheet that included all the stats from the tournament, including touchdowns caught and thrown, sacks and interceptions; Captains then voted on the all-offense and all-defense teams (which were, sadly, eliminated from this tournament). There couldn’t possibly be a better system than seeing exactly how everyone did. And since the MVP award was created, the feedback of the captain of the winning team was valued most heavily.
To me, the MVP of the tournament was Wade (No. 11) of the New York Warriors. With all due respect to the award winner and everyone else in the tournament, Wade was the best player in the tournament, made huge play after huge play, was a great tactician and coach, made the rest of his teammates better, and maybe most importantly, helped his team win the tournament.
NOTES FROM L.A. MOTION
BY JIM BUZINSKI
Weather does seem to follow LA around -- In 2006 at the Gay Games we played in 100+ degree heat (people were warned to stay indoors); last year, NYC had a record high that weekend (95), but the topper was Salt Lake City. Snow? A record low "high" of 37 on Sunday?
Normally, I give my own MVP awards, but this year it's not possible to separate any individual from the team. We had 10 players score touchdowns (a record), scored on our first possession in every game (a first), never punted and played great team defense. So I figured I would list my personal on-field memories of each. No way I can keep up with any of you off the field.
Ross: Super Hands! His catch in the back of the end zone for a TD on fourth down in the first drive of the tourney was magic.
Brenton: Not sure how a Broncos fan could be an effective pass rusher. His best came against Boston, when he chased Mr. Elusive around, got an angle, dove and got the flag.
Juan: Mr. Cover. I remember one play where he closed about a 10-yard gap and effortlessly swatted the ball away; I think the QB and WR were both stunned.
Matthew: The best LB we've ever had. Loved his pick against NY Bad Apples where he raced down the sidelines and almost took it to the house.
Drew: The Double Threat. Loved his clutch third-down leaping grab for a first against Salt Lake City. Bonus for his personal foul penalty for kicking the ball after being sacked on fourth down against So. Florida; his best kick of the weekend? :-)
Zach: Twice he scored 65-yard TDs on short passes. The best was the playoff win against Boston, after they tied up the score and had hope; Zach quickly dashed it.
Brent: Played more downs than anyone and never tired. He scored or had first downs on a bunch of shovel passes. But I most remember his sensational blocking on a play against Silicon Valley, when he bought me about six seconds, long enough to find Zach for one of his 65-yarders.
Toby: He kept a streak alive. Last play against Silicon Valley; Rory and Brenton are on the sidelines saying that this was the 1st game we did not get a pick. Voila! Toby snags the last pass of the game to keep the streak going.
John: Loved his great grab against Silicon Valley, when he was sandwiched between two defenders and managed to hold onto the ball while tasting the turf.
JP: Yes, he sounds like Wade Phillips, but he sure can call a defense. And he had the best pick of the tourney against Boston, where he managed to keep his eye on a tipped pass and caught the ball while sliding and avoiding going out of bounds; amazing.
Rory: Our Security Blanket on offense, he had too many clutch catches to count. But I most remember his brilliant read and pick against So Florida when they were on our 2. Rory stepped in front of the receiver, secured the ball and sprinted 78 yards for a score.
Me: Scored my first non-QB TD. It was great to feel like Marvin Harrison for one play.
NOTES FROM THE PHOENIX HELLRAISERS
BY SHAWN REA
The Organizers: A very big THANK YOU to Mark Barr, his volunteers, and the Salt Lake City organization for hosting a wonderful tournament. The fields were some of the best that the Gaybowl has seen, and the fields and time slots for the games provided teams with plenty of space to stretch and warm-up prior to kick-off. As one of the first teams to arrive on Sunday morning to a snow covered field, it didn’t go unnoticed that Salt Lake City already had a crew there working to get the fields ready for play. Mark, thanks to you and your staff for a well run tournament.
Congratulations: To everyone that participated in making this a special event whether it is a volunteer, player, coach or fan. Thank you NGFFL Board Members for all the hard work in keeping our league growing. Thanks to Cyd for the difficult task of calculating the seedings before and during the tournament, and for the recognition and praise during the weekend. Congrats on what you have done in New York City. Congrats to Chad Cooper of the DC Metros as the tournament MVP. Way to show that spirit and be recognized by your peers. Congrats to the Consolation Champion Chicago Bears. It’s always a pleasure to see the hometown team be represented in the championship game - Good Job X-Communicated! There is a lot of hard work, passion, and desire that go into winning one Gay Bowl title much less three. To our three-time champions the New York Warriors, be proud of your accomplishments and take your well deserved bow.
The Officials: I thought the officiating was some of the best that I’ve seen in all the Gaybowls. Part of that may be the result of having the afore mentioned Lance ref all three of our pool play games. I also thought Jeff (sorry for not knowing your last name) from San Diego did a tremendous job. The Hellraisers had two very intense and competitive games against the New York Warriors and the officials did a great job of maintaining control on the fields while allowing the play of both teams to determine the outcome of the games. One last note, NO TOUCHDOWN – FLAG ON #9!! (wink wink).
The Weather: One of the nice things about playing in the Valley of the Sun is that we’re able to play almost all year long and never have to cancel or postpone games due to rain, snow, or hurricanes. The unfortunate thing is that we don’t get the chance to play in the elements. Salt Lake City provided a nice change of pace with rain, snow, and temperatures in the 30s and 40s. While I thought our team handled the weather well and played at a high level, I know there were more than a few Hellraisers disappointed that they had to keep their clothes on the entire time. Here’s hoping to more sunny days in DC next year and the return of shirtless men!!
The Fans: The Hellraisers had three sponsors travel to Salt Lake City to cheer them on in the tournament. A very special thank you goes to Ron and Lee (Apollos) and Jim (Plazma) for making the trek and braving the cold weather to cheer on a team they support and a league they help foster and grow! The Hellraisers also had about a dozen other “athletic supporters” travel just to watch and cheer their team on. Their presence was not only visible on the sideline, but their cheers and chants echoed off the snow capped mountains!! It made me proud when captains of other teams told me they heard us while they were playing 3 fields away.
The Games: The competition at the Gaybowls is getting tougher and tougher. I was very proud of my team that had to play the NY Warriors twice. The Warriors haven’t lost a game in the last three years and we gave them two of the toughest and closest games they’ve had in the last 3 years - losing to them in pool play in OT, and suffering a tough loss in the opening game of the championship bracket games.
The Hellraisers battled through several injuries, including a broken face, two players rehabbing knee injuries from this summer, losing our starting QB for a half, cramps, jammed fingers and thumbs, and several other bumps and bruises. There is no doubt that flag football is still football!! I was very proud of our defense for shutting out the DC Metros in the second half to help us pull the #6 seed. For a team that finished 15 out of 16 last year, I’m very proud to climb to #7. The Hellraisers most disappointing game was a forfeit on Sunday morning. The hollow victory was not how the Hellraisers wanted to finish the tournament.
The Hellraisers: I need to recognize the guys that helped make Gaybowl VIII my favorite Gaybowl. I couldn’t have asked for a better group of guys (and gals) to play with each week. Each one is the reason I love gay flag football. So thank you to Aaron F., Aaron M., Benjamin, Brad, Brian, Chris, Danny, DJ, Emmanuel, James, Jared D., Jared G., Joey, Joseph, Leroy, Marc, Mike, Rich, Sothy, Steven, and all the other Hellraisers for believing in the Hellraisers and for investing the amount of time and energy it takes for us to succeed. Your friendships are the reason “We Love Us”!
The Hellraiser Standard: In the weeks leading up to Gaybowl VIII, the leadership of the Hellraisers challenged our team to help us set a Hellraiser Standard. The Hellraisers want to be the team that other cities – new and old – strive to be like. We emphasize good sportsmanship on and off the field. We encourage our players to stay at the host hotel, attend the social events, mingle with other teams, and cheer on fellow cities when they’re playing. As a result, our players take pride in the uniforms they wear and want to be a member of the Hellraisers.
The Phoenix Hellraisers have a good thing going, and I’m excited to see where this group is going to take us! Some already have ambitions of hosting Gaybowl X in 2010 and what they already have planned is simply amazing. The Hellraisers look forward to challenging the other cities to match us in our spirit, our camaraderie, our drinking (bring your best Florida!), our fun-loving, our creativity, and our sportsmanship at future tournaments. Because this, fellow NGFFLers, is why the Phoenix Hellraisers play the game!