Is There Life After Football?

Most players that have spent enough time on the gridiron have mentioned experiencing a phenomenon known as “the still” or “the pause”. There’s even a song that references this (Fountains of Wayne – All Kinds of Time) and certain players that appear to have some form of mental control of it, i.e. Peyton Manning. The still is described as a slowing of time, often accompanied by an ethereal silence, much like in a movie. But this cinematic experience happens on the field, and grants the individual a clarity and comfort before snapping back into reality.

I’m not making a case for time travel in football, but this unifying concept is often brought up post-game and accompanied by beer in the case of women’s football (played mostly by over 21 competitors). The other most-oft referenced conversation after that night’s game has been thoroughly picked apart?

What will you do after you stop playing football?

Humble beginnings to a new team

Humble beginnings to a new team

It’s always enough to silence an entire table of rowdy athletes. It’s hard to pry a woman away from this game. Far harder than it is for men. Most men realize they have a very viable post-high school football career path. If they are good enough, they will get a free education. If they do well in college, a multi-million dollar payday awaits them in the professional world. Yet there are relatively few men’s semi-pro teams. Those who don’t get onto the path of the elite seem to realize they are destined for something else. Women’s football is silently HUGE, spread all across the world–even Guam has a women’s pro league–sponsored by Bud Light! And since the game is largely denied them, and since money is NEVER part of it, women love this game in a way I think men never will. Men’s relationship with football in their adult lives is far too stained by money (for the pros), fantasy football prizes (for the vicarious) and the self-satisfying ability to criticize the TV (for…everyone).

I’ve had the opportunity to know many great women’s players that played well into their forties. History was made a few years ago when a woman North of sixty took the field. Though I don’t recommend my mother buy a set of pads, I simply know that women’s football is one of the tightest knit groups of women possibly in the world. After every game, both teams mix together, pray, and cheer for the sport, regardless of how many tussles, tackles, or thrown flags there were. It’s impossibly painful to think about how I’ve been without that camaraderie for over a year. I coach high school women’s lacrosse, and I’ve never seen even a glimmer of that kind of unity. It starts at the top…I’ve been hard-pressed to find coaches that are even somewhat convivial–many are exclusionary elitists that belong at the ‘popular’ table in a private school (and perhaps came from just there).

So many of us have scattered from the game we love. I know a running back that’s now a cross-fit athlete. There’s a powerhouse linebacker playing flag (and getting plenty of penalties). Even a defensive line standout playing in softball leagues. I’ve come back to the world of lacrosse, where my college athletic exploits called home. I’ve also joined a band and we’re starting to have some real success. But while we feign peace, I know the truth. Dear God do we miss football.

We always talked of change; lower sponsorship, better community involvement, better coaching. We went to sleep in 2012…and our dreams came true in 2013.

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The South Florida Swift has opened its doors, answering all the aforementioned prayers. But where are the players? Reluctantly hiding in their collective new sports. Will they return? Yes–because we all remember the feeling of standing still on that 120 yard field, mesmerized by that impossible silence. And that is much better than the stillness and silence of our regular lives.

There is life after football, but it’s a hell of a lot less entertaining.

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Into the Black

For the last three weeks, I’ve been careening through the backstreets of Hollywood. Thanks to the fortune of UMiami’s film school faculty connections, roads normally closed to the public have had their barricades smashed for me to wander. I’ve met some of the most influential people in this town, something that without the help of my graduate film school would have been nearly impossible. Some have had harsh words, reminding that movie-business rookies need to pay their dues and be willing to work for nothing. Others have had sunnier viewpoints, stating we should make our own rules and forge new paths into the business. I’m green in this world, and green sticks out here–as if cast against a black background.

As the days wane before the WFA Women’s National Championship, our sport is too sporting the lush and leafy color. Slowly but surely, all are casting their eyes on Pittsburgh, specifically Heinz Field, and asking: does women’s football deserve to stand next to titans (or in this case, Steelers)?

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Montreal’s talented vets have returned to greatness.

Let’s review. The IWFL crowned their champion last weekend: the playoff mainstay Montreal Blitz. Montreal narrowly edged out the Sacremento Sirens with a last moment extra point block. The Tier II championship (now monickered the Founder’s Bowl) went to the once-meek Carolina Phoenix, who triumphed over the sturdy Portland Shockwave. I’d love to go into more detail, but my former USA teammate Leah Hinkle has already done the event justice in her IWFL-approved “All Champions Now“. There is nothing in my heart except love for the IWFL, once the home of the Punishers and the backers of Team USA. However, I must admit it seems they are stuck in the mud of Round Rock, Texas. Until they venture to a new venue, they may continue to appear as yesterday’s football league.

There were very little surprises in the WFA playoffs this season. In fact, it included the exact same final four as 2011. That being said, I’ve had no trouble marinating in the anticipation of this particular championship. As you all must know by know, I’ve been itching for the Chicago Force to burst into the show for a couple of years now–I’ve been a believer for quite some time. They snuck past the Boston Militia 35-34, dashing the hopes of a three-peat. I expected that, but I didn’t expect the San Diego Surge to lay down 56 points against the Dallas Diamonds’ 29. Talk about making a statement–the perennial champ of the early 00’s was many’s pick to win it all.

Chicago has finally forced their way into a championship game.

I’ll make my prediction swift; I don’t see the Force losing. San Diego has one HELL of a trip occuring right now. Their special teams problems (like last year’s punt-less championship game) also give me concern. But their bloodthirsty defense will keep this closer than Chicago is used to, which could turn the tide. Grisafe has been rattled by the pass rush in the past, but now, more confidant and protected than ever, even the rain-making Knengi Martin of the Surge isn’t enough to stop the Force’s offense.
The interesting truth is that this weekend is much less about the championship game than it ever has been before. Regardless of who holds the trophy Saturday night, history is being made by all of us. Even the small market teams clinging to life? Yes, you!

The Surge defense could create a stunner in Pittsburgh.

Despite the continuance of the IWFL and the growth of the WSFL, the WFA is proudly claiming the title of the largest, strongest, and most influential league in the game, and even the greenest of players are feeling empowered. Though we all need to shake the hand of the Pittsburgh Passion’s front office this weekend, we can also know that every player paying league fees is part of this extraordinary step in the right direction. Five years ago, even I would have laughed at our sport playing in an NFL venue, or being broadcast  live on ESPN3 (for all the world’s watching).

We are standing on the verge of visibility, mere inches from ledge of legitimization. Every player, coach, fan, and friend in this sport should be encouraged to used this weekend as the jumping off point of their own creative or promotional project. Always wanted to write a book about women in football? Write it! Been considering designing a website to share our experiences? Make it happen! I, for one, have two concepts to pitch in the coming months–freshly foddered by the wake of our sport’s historic weekend. And my newfound connections in LA could help me say it into the right ears.

Though I’m still daunted by the shadows of the big studios, and shaken by the swank of the vaulted agencies, I truly feel as though I’m among fellows; I belong in this business. Similarly, women’s football belongs at Heinz field, and in the eye of sportscasters, barflies, and score-scourers everywhere. Perhaps the finest piece of advice I’ve received in this town has come from an executive at Mandalay Entertainment this morning. He stated that if you believe in something, stand behind it, “even in the darkest hours”. He then made the blackest black seem crystal clear…we must stay true to our vision. “It’s either that, or it’s [working at] McDonald’s”. I love me a Big Mac, but I’ve never looked good in red.

Hell Hath No Fury

Charles Dickens put it best: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way…”

A Tale of Two Cities wasn’t talking about the 2012 Palm Beach Punishers football season, but it certainly does apply. While this year Palm Beach reached several milestones, like being undefeated at home and finally conquering the arch-rival Miami Fury (albeit a bruised and broken shell of its former self), the one line that most applies to us is that of “all going direct the other way”–hell.

Despite the faltering ranks and cascading crises, Palm Beach managed three home victories before closing its doors, possibly for good.

The Endzone Airwaves have fallen silent for quite some time. The plagued Punishers year shoulders most of the blame–I’ve been disenchanted and uninspired by the stunting of my own football career at the hands of a crumbled season. But some of the reasons for my inattention to covering the sport I love so dearly are good. After leaving my career in the golf business (I use that term loosely, as I merely worked around the clubhouse and neighborhood) to concrete my work as a screenwriter, my first screenplay has been sold to a production company and will soon be a feature film in a theater near you (I also use “soon” loosely). As the deadlines near, my fingers are well occupied with draft over draft of the script.

Though I beam about the future of my film career, I fret over the future of my football career. I’m confidant enough in my abilities to say there are many other places I would be welcome. However, the pleasure of playing close to home is one I’m troubled to give up. Not to mention the extreme connection to and affinity of Palm Beach–all six years of my women’s career have taken place here.

Yes, yes I hear you. “What about the Punishers?” I could go on and on about the lack of fundraising, sponsors, off-season practices, camps, the coaches walking out of practice even though 14 girls were there and ready to play, the clamoring for forfeits by CAPTAINS, the founding member and former owner that quit out of nowhere, the three All-American caliber defensive talents that were kicked off the team because of OFF-FIELD conflicts with staff (not coaches), and the eventual folding of the entire program for the duration of the year, but that would be exhausting! Even that rambling sentence was an excessive amount of time to spend rehashing the utterly depressing series of events that lead to this point.

Even before the forfeits, it was evident that the family was splintering. Parties used to be the one place everyone would show, but not this season.

But as Dickens’ quote displayed, there were good moments. Glimmers of hope that our season and franchise wasn’t on the way to being reduced to rubble. Offensive records were set, burned bridges re-built in times of need (former teammates returning to help triumph when others had fallen with injury). And as I said, we did manage to conquer Tallahassee, Central Florida, and Miami with a specter of our previous talent, much lighter in the saddle than we’d been since our first season.

Still, in the end, we’re all sifting through ashes of a program we once thought bound for greatness. The core of the team, from captainship to coaching, became unwilling to continue the mission, and both riddled with and terrified of injury. In a sport as brutal as this, the moment you think you could get hurt…you will.

So rather than place blame, marinate in my bitterness, or curse the football gods (or off-field distractions) that put us here, I’d like to birth this thought: the Punishers have all but crumbled, but in a way that shut the door on many unanswered quests. If there was to be an end to this franchise, let it be on the note of that undefeated home season. Let it be on the defeat of the Fury. Though it is the winter of our despair, let us recall the 2012 season for the spring of hope. Hope that from these ashes can raise a NEW program, a NEW mission, a NEW franchise.

There is a point where even I must walk away from a broken, battered dream.

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, but far worse are a great many women scorned. And attempting to revisit the failures and mis-handling of the Punishers may be just enough of a sin against the talented players in this area to break them for good. No, let us learn from our mistakes and go direct to heaven.

It’s good to be back, and it’s time to move on.

Chariots of Fire (and Mire)

Within the cavernous coliseum of the 2012 women’s football season, dozens of chariots prepare for a jeopardous race. In an event both brutal and swift, the drivers behind the reigns of their respective teams are hoping their horses can survive the contest and its trials. Everywhere, practice jerseys make way for brilliantly hued gameday threads, and un-fallowed game pants are pulled over girdles. The war paint is on and the mission is clear – be the last one standing on the track come July.But in the crowd, chalices are raised and bets are placed. Still, as the wine flows so does the rumor mill of the coliseum’s future. As a historian of these great chariot races, allow me to present my own bets, and dispel some of the pre-commencement discussions.

RUMOR 1: League Merger: False, but very much in the works.

 In the foreground of this topic is the flamboyant businessman Mr. Vasker, who was previously behind the supposed 2011 merger movement with the backing of his company, Artfest International. Along with his partners, Vasker has proved to be one of the most mysterious and controversial people in professional sports. His big push is the “UWFL”, which promises to unite women’s football under one roof and secure coveted air time contracts for select match-ups. It sounds good on paper, but Vasker’s original plan had teams footing the bill–hundreds of thousands of dollars large. The deal is currently being re-worked, and Vasker is reportedly still peddling for sponsors and contracts. He’s either the savior of women’s football, or its prodigal son.

Behind the scenes, big names within the leagues are still hard at work looking for a way to bring the three heads together. League contracts and player protection plans are all being drafted. I can’t tell you who, or what, or when (and least of all WHY), but there will be some major complaints from small market teams that are used to the old rules of women’s football. I’d feel sorry for them if they weren’t the same teams that forfeit and fold with the frequency of Tebow’s name being uttered on Sportcenter. I want everyone to be able to play the game, but the Northern Alabama Boll Weevils will not likely put our sport on that same show.

RUMOR 2: NFL affiliation: False.

Wish I had better news for you, but an attempted deal with the big boys was cut short because of–you guessed it–a lack of unity. Apparently the contact delivered the news by saying it would be too difficult to sponsor our seperate branches. I’m guessing that means they weren’t even inclined to choose one over the others.

RUMOR 3: IWFL scraps Tier system: False.

The discussion over drying up the tiers was again derailed. Teams will still compete regionally and across tiers, but the playoffs will have the same format, and two IWFL champions will be crowned.

Now that the mythic underlay of 2012’s offseason is in the dust (other rumors are too silly or controversial to comment on), it’s time to focus on thundering, helmeted hordes: the championship hopefuls.

In the WFA, it’s difficult to bet against the champs. Boston returns a roster with very minimal changes and a few solid additions. However, my heart is in Chicago. Yes, I believe the heavily hyped under-achievers of 2011 are due for an appearance in the show. And I think they may face a repeat American Conference opponent—San Diego. San Diego has made several key additions, including IWFL & Team USA standout Knengi Martin at DE. If the Surge abandons their reckless anti-special teams mantra, they could be the ones hoisting the trophy. Expect Dallas to make a charge (as their smart ownership and PR work keeps them hot every season), even though their defense has lost some of its youthful spark. New York should make a heartened effort to succeed in the post-season, but their ultra tough divisional area makes their progression unlikely. Jacksonville, or the ‘Littlest Big Guy’ as they are considered, could actually surprise some people if they can make it past Miami with more momentum than last year. As per always, the playoffs should see some less-than stellar attendees due to those weak divisions in the South, Northern Mid-West and Northwest.

From the back of the darkhorse pack, I’m picking the heavily rebooted Columbus Comets, which features some of the best coaches in the nation, and could absolutely slay a few Goliaths and get deep in the playoffs. If they have managed to improve their offense, the heavy-handed Western Michigan Mayhem could knock some contenders from the fray. The upstart West Coast Lightning, an evolution of the dissolved So Cal Scorpions and other fragmented Southern Cal teams, could be a startling shocker (pun intended) in the West if they can up-end the Surge and Bay Area.

The power-packed Chicago Force have my vote.

Sadly, not everyone appears to be moving in the right direction. As is often the case in women’s football, the wheels appear to be coming off for many. Florida seems to suffer from TMTS (too many teams syndrome). Though we don’t appear to have the population for 7 teams, we also can’t justify the lengthy trips up 95 and 75 to conjoin anyone. Many call for the union of nearby teams like Jax and Orlando, as well as my own Palm Beach with our bitter rival Miami. Oddly enough, the biggest stability problems are in places like Tampa (who have JUST changed their name to the Inferno) and the Gulf Coast Riptide. More likely Southern folds are the Carolina Raging Wolves and the Atlanta Phoenix, the latter of which will undoubtedly live in the shadow of the IWFL’s champ Ravens until they take the bait and jump on the wagon. Up North, the Southern Tier Spitfire has rekindled their franchise, but may give up the fight soon—they are without a website and schedule at this time. The San Diego Sting clings to life out West at the feet of Cali titans. Upstart Tacoma Trauma is in for a tough year…with two 17-hour road trips to Utah and a small budget; they should probably be in the IWFL, with teams like Portland and Seattle to showcase against. Their roster is also unusually small, but I respect them for having the guts to make it happen and play the game they love in the league they believe in.

I certainly can’t seem to think about the successes of the season without a few picks from my heart. The Arkansas Wildcats might be the best bunch of people I’ve ever met—hard workering players, fundraising phenoms, and coaches that would do just about anything for their team. Under new ownership and sporting a sprightly name and logo makeover, they have all the makings of a darling Hollywood-caliber underdog. With a big-armed quarterback and some speed injections, the Wildcats could be the team of the future. I’m also a big fan of the Indy Crash. Indy, whose super-confident veterans led well into the playoffs last year, deserve a repeat appearance in the final rounds. Their roster treats football like life, not a hobby, and I’m ever-impressed with their well-coached group of athletes. Of course, seeing Cinderellas in the show is like expecting lollipops to rain from the sky and rainbow-haired ponies to sing showtunes. But hey, a girl can dream.

The fun-loving Wildcats could turn some heads this year.

Keep an eye on the newborn Utah Jynx and Derby City Dynamite. Both teams have some nice sponsors behind them and some pretty keen-minded owners. They also value the much-ignored importance of the pre-season scrimmage (ever heard of that, people?) and a hefty amount of intense pre-season practice. Both also have some fresh graphics and technology at work; many mock my confidence is cemented by a team’s website, design, and social media efforts, but  where there is a professional appearance there is money and business sense.

In the IWFL (which has already penned 4 games in week 1) I ostensibly expect the Atlanta Ravens to repeat. Mashonda Gilmore might be the smartest owner and businessperson in the entirety of women’s football, and she has put together another offensive nightmare for her opposition. The Ravens defense will also be as tough as ever, and her 60-woman roster should stand the test of the year. Montreal will likely make a strong run for the title (narrow victors in Week 1 over the sturdy Intensity), as will the always-impressive Carolina Phoenix, who showed some serious beef by shelling out to travel to Philly for their season-opener AND SHUTTING THEM OUT. The California Quake has lost some bite to local WFA teams, but should still do well. Portland has rebooted their defense, but still has major gaps (including special teams) to iron out, and Seattle (34-12 over Modesto) will also be strong Western Competitors.

My darkhorses in the IWFL are the Connecticut Wreckers and the Northeastern Nitro. If you’ve forgotten the story behind the Conn Wreckers, let me refresh your memory: when the Northeastern Nitro left the WFA, they moved to New York. In their wake, the Wreckers set up shop for the Conn girls unwilling or unable to locate. Both of these Northeastern teams should be strong enough to make a show in the playoffs.

The IWFL will likely see some folds this year. The Carolina Queens always seem to pull off a decent season, but the seemingly super-powered ownership & coaching of the Phoenix will likely make a move to absorb them if the merger talks move forward or the Queens struggle with sponsors. Arkansas Banshees are a mix of rookies and WFA Wildcat dropouts. They will have a hard time getting a foothold in the IWFL, and will be traveling to some tough Texan teams. Fortunately, most of the forfeit-fond strugglers of ’11 have gone the way of the buffalo, strengthening the IWFL, but I’d like to take a moment to mourn our fallen franchises, two of which are dear to my heart. The dearly departed Monterrey Black Mambas: the only Mexican team in all of North American pro women’s football. Perhaps it’s my appreciation for my own Mexican heritage, or my support of the IWFL’s international football mission, but I bow my head for you. The Mambas will be playing two games this year against the Houston Energy, so I can at least cross my fingers for an improbable and unconscionable upset. The Chattanooga Locomotion: a long-standing and much beloved Tennessee troop, battling constantly against an abandoned Southern region. A dear friend from Team USA helped introduce me to their dedicated and innovative ownership and team, as well as their grassroots football mission. They will be playing one game against the Banshees. I certainly hope these young ladies can pull it together and return in 2013, as the IWFL plans.

A fresh face in the IWFL is the Arlington Impact. With a big market and big aspirations (as well as some former Diamonds & Mustangs in their ranks) they could do some damage.

Discipline & training are never scarce in Atlanta.

Say what you will about the IWFL—the “baby in the corner”, the stalwart merger-fighters, the continuants of the much-defamed Tier system—they continue to provide a professional image and are constantly working on new product partnerships and PR opportunities. Their front office certainly boasts some enviable business minds, which any Mega-League brain-stormer should seek to include.

Expect to see some highly unusual things this year: shortened seasons for some small-market teams, wacky playoff formats for both the WFA & IWFL, and out of league play for both leagues within the enigmatic WSFL, which I will be discussing next week. But as the chariots begin a-racing and the rumors continue to swirl among the crowd, one truth remains unquestionable—there will be harrowing hits, vexatious controversies, narrow wins and unsung heroes amidst every league, every team, and every showdown.

Chalices up…I’ll drink to that.

The Wins and Losses

The Palm Beach Punishers football program has been suffering the past few weeks. Not with the pang of an on-field defeat or the throbbing of an injury. We’ve been afflicted, but in a much more profound and permanent way. We’ve had to say goodbye to a dear friend, veteran lineman and special teams star Patty Lahman.

I won’t be discussing the circumstances of her untimely departure from this world. It is a mere footnote in comparison to the acts of kindness, bravery, and love she endeavored upon in her life. And I cannot venture to discuss her life before I met her on the gridiron. What I can do is show you the teammate she was and the impact she had on Palm Beach’s franchise–the players, coaches, fans, sponsors, and myself.

#41 in her favorite attire

Patty was one of those rare motivators: captain material. When we trained she always went hard. In the weightroom, she pushed me to do workouts I’d scarce attempted for their difficulty and intensity, even in High School football and college lacrosse training. When we were sprinting, doing crossfit, or hitting the tackling dummies, she made everyone else look paltry. Which is perfect: in fear of appearing obsolete or ineffectual, Patty made each one of us work harder.

She’d take on any position asked of her, and never complained about playing time; she was an absolute endangered species in a world of blame and self-entitlement. Unlucky with injuries, Patty would always approach physical therapy like she approached practices: an opportunity to improve physically. She always came back stronger than before, and always put a hurt on me when tackling practice came around (excuses like “I need to kick field goals” didn’t hold up against her).

Working hard(er)

My favorite memory of Patty isn’t the beers we shared, the laughs we had, or the deep conversations about where to take our program or handle internal disputes. It was the middle of an especially intense practice, and I was frustrated over a mistake and threw my helmet to the ground. As a young player, I was embattled: haunted by near-misses and disastrous team experiences in my past, I could never be perfect enough to meet my own expectations. I was also hunched with the weight of perceived lack of respect from my team. I wanted to be the best, and be approached as such. Patty called me out; though the exact words are now lost in the sands of time, the jist of it was “stop complaining, work harder, never worry what they think–just show them what they ought to”.

I can’t lie, it was put in much harsher terms. But at that point in my career, getting through to me was harder than getting James Harrison to hug Roger Goodell. Patty was one of the sweetest, most affable people I’ve ever met. But she was mercilessly dedicated to seeing her team and herself succeed.

I know that moving to Arizona was impossibly hard for her–we often heard from our estranged teammate at key points last year: before games, during a tough patch of team conflict, or after a hard-earned string of victories in the face of massive internal and external criticism. Patty was thrilled to return to Florida, and the team was elated to have her back. Her positive energy electrified our off-season, and even rookies connected with her in their brief encounters.

Patty is survived by her husband and four wonderful kids (the three youngest pictured above), all part of the Punisher family.

Always ready to help others and an understanding ear to their troubles, Patty is just another example that only the good die young. Her power will illuminate our locker room forever, and her kindness and strength will bolster our hearts even longer.

One team, one dream, one family. Rest in peace, Patty Lahman #41: wife, mother, sister, teammate, inspiration.

Statistically Speaking

We are what we eat. Bananas, radishes, buffalo chicken. No, you’re not morphing shapes every time you take a bite, but your health will be determined by what you put in…such is the scientific and mathematical explanation for our output. Input value is essential. However, if you were Jacques Derrida, or some other philosopher, and you didn’t think within the parameters of arithmetic logic, you might say “perception is reality”. In other words, we are what we see.

It’s a shallow concept: evaluating ourselves and one another based solely on physical appearance. But truthfully, we are all guilty. I don’t mean to become so deeply engrained in discussions of society’s narcissism. I’m trying to make a point to everyone in the women’s football world. Whether you’re a gameday manager, a team owner, or the president of the league, we have a serious problem. Our statistics are repulsive, and we’re being judged by them.

All you have to do is go to the IWFL’s website, and look at the stats per team.  As soon as you see that the Carolina Phoenix had 136 interception touchdowns in 2011 you’ll have the same reaction I did. “What the *&%$ is this?” Unless Darelle Revis AND Antonio Cromartie spent the offseason playing in the IWFL, that statistic is light years off base. And I don’t plan on hacking the server to figure out if it is a software glitch or human error. It’s much more than that little oversight…it’s the widespread lack of stat reporting and recording all across the world of women’s football.

Many of my talented teammates have missed out on All-Star appearances due to the invisilibilty of their stats to league reps.

Before we can analyze a solution for our horrendous appearance, we have to find the reason.

1. Our clothes are mismatched: is that because we were tired when we woke up? Translation: we were so busy trying to get everyone’s uniforms, gear, and paperwork sent in that we forgot to hire a stat guy.

2. Our face is breaking out: did we forget to take our makeup off last night? Translation: we were in such a rush to get to bed (or the bar) on Saturday night we didn’t send in our stats.

3. Our hair looks scary: should we have avoided that new salon? Translation: we hired a stat guy, went to send it in, and realized it was totally wrong  (the girl with the broken leg on the sideline probably DIDN’T have 2 fumble recoveries and a 50 yard punt).

4. Last but not least: we only look this bad because our “friend” put Nair in our shampoo – Translation: the OTHER team was supposed to report them, but they didn’t/screwed it all up.

It can be very challenging to find capable stat teams. But one good option is simply hiring extra officials. Most officials are familiar enough with the game to take good stats. You can often pay a couple of assistant coaches from your home stadium’s varsity team also (they are grossly underpaid and have less work in the late spring and early summer). Remember: the more the merrier when it comes to the press box. Good stat keepers and spotters make the announcer’s job easier, which leads to a better gameday presentation.

It’s also a struggle to afford statisticians if you’re a small market/low budget team. So my suggestion is this: have an extra fundraiser, or stop wasting everyone’s time. As harsh as it sounds, making an extra $500 is as easy as picking up another player or selling some discount cards. If small market teams aren’t willing or able to make their season happen in a way that befits the image of our league (and that of our goals and mission), then they have no business attempting to field a team. Having a developmental/practice team would be an option for those in such dire straits.

Lastly, if you’re going to do your stats yourself via film, avoid distractions. Giving the wrong player a touchdown won’t just make someone angry, it could cost them an appearance in the All-American game, or cause them to lose a sponsor.

Some come on people, have some pride in yourself. Brush your hair, take a shower, and don’t wear white after Labor Day (or is it Memorial Day?). Because even if we train hard, put on nice clean uniforms, and give our website swagger, the minute Rick Reilly heads to the WFA’s stat page and sees top teams who haven’t reported all their games, he’s going to roll his eyes and go back to his Netflix queue. So owners, hire someone decent. Sideline managers, go look over his shoulder for a few plays. And league staff, start playing hardball with stat reporting. We need to look professional to be taken seriously, because perception is reality…even if you’ve eaten all your greens.

Hydra-nomics

Mythology is a curious mechanism. Though stories of beasts, heroes, and gods are rarely rooted in fact, they serve as a looking glass for our world. When gazing at that which we cannot understand, attaching explanations and meanings can give us the peace of mind we’re seeking. In our case, as a dull and news-less offseason leaves us itching for excitement, we can examine our sport’s odd and somewhat ghastly image.

The second of Hercules’ 12 labors included a mythical beast known as the Hydra. It possessed 9 heads, and each time a head was severed, two more grew in its place. Hercules asked for the help of his nephew Iolaus, who cauterized each stump before the heads could restore themselves. The final head was immortal, and Hercules buried it under a large boulder.

We should be wary of sword-wielding heroes; we too are a Hydra. Although we (the WFA and IWFL) aren’t causing much destruction. With two fearsome heads, rowed with teeth and crowded with ideas, we’re struggling to even walk. Highly different opinions and directions mean we’re splitting at the shoulders.

The Hydra was a harrowing and dangerous foe. In our case, we’re the ones at risk. The NFL season is on, so a pressure has been lifted off of us. There will be no scramble for fall airtime; we can rest assured our Sundays are spent on the couch. Still, as that weight is alleviated, a sort of dread has replaced it. “What if?”

If the WFA and IWFL had gone head to head (pun intended) with fall Sunday line-ups and battled for airtime, would there be any survivors? The sports media and networks suits might have been so perplexed by our lack of unity we’d likely have been laughed out of the room. With the mega-success of the NFL, no one can mention a two-league football community with a straight face.

Let’s examine the kind of fire the twin heads have been spouting in the last two months.

The IWFL is making a lot of waves by picking up new teams at a velocious pace. The Akansas Banshees take the field in 2012, and are already taking digs at the three-team owners and Texas-based Little Rock Wildcats’ regime, by calling the Banshees a “locally owned” team aiming to serve the players’ needs. The Arlington Impact joins a crowded Texas field. Anyone familiar with the Texas landscape knows the proximity to the Dallas Diamonds and Lone Star Mustangs, but it seems the rules are different when one is tapping the veins of the competitions’ teams. Phoenix, Arizona joins a growing desert lineup with their Phantoms (how they play in 100+ degree summer heat is beyond me).

A big story is the first team to jump ship from the WFA: the Northeastern Nitro. The Nitro brings the IWFL a much-missed foothold in New York state, as the team relocates. The Connecticut Wreckers have erected a team in the void of the Nitro. Knowing the IWFL’s new-found disregard for team stability, this could all mean very little. Same season births and folds are not unheard of (like the Georgia Stingerz). The North Texas Knockouts and Desert Fire Cats should be saying their last rites, as they head to the WSFL (Spring League), where IWFL teams seem to go to die. On another note, the logos for the inbound IWFL teams are diminishing in quality. There are talks of the partnership with the graphic design company responsible for such logos as ours (Palm Beach) and the Tuscon Monsoon, coming to an end. The IWFL did pick up a new videographer (visit Jeffpower.tv), but the wheels of their media bandwagon continue to spin in the dirt.

Perhaps if we had a common "foe" we could find a way to work together.

The WFA’s lineup has seen a few changes as well. The Derby City Dynamite are setting up shop in the Louisville, Kentucky area in the wake of defunct Louisville Belles, Nightmare, and the Kentucky Karma. Stability in Kentucky has been hard to come by, so wishful thinking is in order. The former So Cal Scorpions have found new life in the West Coast Lightning. Packed with veterans and sporting a handsome logo and Flash-driven site, it’s nice to see one of the oldest franchises in the country back in business. The Atlanta area is becoming confusingly avian, as the Atlanta Heartbreakers have become the Atlanta Phoenix, as the Atlanta Ravens and Carolina Phoenix are both flapping wings in the IWFL. There is also an unconfirmed rumor that the Southern Tier Spitfire (Binghamton, NY) are attempting to restart their franchise, though it seems unlikely, consider the 9+ months of Twitter silence and lack of a website.

The WFA’s recent Sports Illustrated coverage is a boon to the media blitz the league been making the last 6 months.

The small, flagging tertiary head that I mentioned previously (WSFL), rarely makes my headlines. I have no confidence in the quality of their ranks, or their ability to complete even a half season of football, though they have increased their membership to “21”. The odds of even 8 of these teams hosting actual games this season is highly unlikely. Sadly, the fact that the Spring League remains operational is a further hindrance to the unification and legitimization of our sport.

In Greek mythology, Jason also killed a Hydra. Perhaps he and Hercules’ powers combined could defeat our lurid visage. Were we reborn with one head, a stalwart frame, and legs moving in the same direction, perhaps then our sport would move forward.

SEASON ENDING REPORT CARD:

  • IWFL – C+
  • WFA – B
  • WSFL – D-

Together we’re barely passing, but there’s still time to make improvements. Stay tuned for more monsters of women’s football–forfeiture and statistics–and how they contributed to the leagues’ grades.