Sunday afternoons on the Gorham campus, the field outside of Bailey Hall will be filled with young men and women running around with a football in competition.
This is flag football. This is where students have recreational time outside of their studies. Tim Smith, the director of flag football, says, “This is where students have a lot of fun.”
“There are 15 teams,” he says. “Mostly the teams sign up together. They come as a team. They are composed of players from the same frat house or from the same floor in the dorm.”
In the first week of play Smith had to cancel the games due to a grim weather forecast and players were debating over the phone, wanting to be able to play their games. They wanted to win and to compete. They didn’t mind missing the Patriots game on Sunday afternoon.it was their own games that they were concerned about.
When asked about dominant teams in the league and the level of competition, Tim says that it varies from year to year, that there is not one dynasty, per se, in the league that destroys the rest of the competition.
Last season Delta Chi took the championship and will most likely be a force in the league again, but at this early stage in the season Smith was reluctant to pick favorites. The teams are all out to win and this makes every week a battle until the post-season.
The season is set up so all teams play one game a week until Oct. 20 and then the playoffs are scheduled to culminate in the Championship on November 17th. “At that time of year,” says Smith, “it doesn’t matter if it is snowing. The players will still show up with their sweatshirts and they will be fired up.”
The modifications to the rules of flag football as from tackle football are simple. The players wear flags that are fastened around their waists, thus no tackling. There are three 20-yard markers on the field to designate first downs-when the ball crosses these lines, there are four downs to reach the next line or the team will sacrifice possession of the ball. Blocking is allowed, not taking away all brutal aspects inherent to the game of football.
The rule that is most incongruent with a general football game is the no-fumbling policy. When the ball hits the ground, it is dead and the team that fumbles regains possession at the point of the fumble after the whistle is blown. Smith says this rule is to prevent hostility on the field. Fumbling leads to players punching and pulling at the ball while the opposing team is running with it-stripping the ball, as opposed to simply grabbing the flag. Further, after the ball is fumbled there is usually a pile and in this pile all sorts of nasty and depraved acts take place while wrestling for the ball.
In football, possession of the ball is a very valuable thing; players know this. When the ball is loose, on the ground in the middle of live play, an unnatural switch is triggered in the players’ brains and they become dogs. First they stop all action and thought, then they swarm to the football-people jumping from all directions, from both teams. In this pile all sorts of instinctive animalistic acts take place in order to gain possession of that valued object.biting, pinching, nut wrenching, spitting, fish-hooking. Most of these things were invented in piles on the football field. It is not in the rules, but anything to prevent these crude acts will obviously benefit a smooth game and a successful Sunday.
In nine years of flag football action at USM there has never been a fight. Nine years of good sportsmanship and competitive action, intensity without violence. This is the heart of the whole experience.
On Sundays in Gorham there are young men and women running around with their friends competing, throwing and catching and defending, in a football game on a shortened field that encourages the big play, a one shot deal through the air to a sprinting receiver down the field.the touchdown pass. This is therapeutic.