It’s mid October and the smell of football is in the air.
The Baltimore Ravens are 4-2, the Washington Redskins are 3-3 and both Gang Green and Golden Wave are 4-1. No, those are not new NFL teams; they’re the frontrunner teams in the D.C. Gay Flag Football League’s inaugural season. The league had been a dream for many players for years and has finally come to fruition.
A group of guys began playing flag football near Dupont Circle in 1994 and another group began playing on the Mall in 1997. In September 1998, the two groups merged and continued to play pickup games throughout the winter season.
In October 2003, the group was invited to compete in the National Gay Flag Football League’s (NGFFL) Super Bowl in Boston. The team was named the Washington Monuments and went on to win the tournament in their first attempt. They repeated as champions in 2004. In 2007 the League offered the Monuments a second slot in the Championships to be held in New York, so a new team was formed called the Washington Metros.
Both teams competed that year and again in 2008. In 2009, Washington was awarded Gay Bowl IX and the two teams formed the League as a 501(c)3 to host the tournament.
The Monuments and Metros also travel annually to Chicago in June to compete in the Pride Bowl. Just two weeks ago, the teams participated in Gay Bowl X in Phoenix. Their performances qualified them to compete once again in the A bracket next year in Houston at Gay Bowl XI.
After intense planning and recruitment led by Chris Cormier, the league organizers had a list of more than 100 players with which to begin selecting teams. Funding came from the $25 registration fees for the players and team sponsorship from local businesses. The new league follows the guidelines set up by the League which is seven-on-seven play for two 30 minute halves. At the end of each half, three plays are run with no timing. The season consists of six weeks of regular play with two weeks of playoffs for the league championships. The next step in setting up the league became figuring out a way to separate the players into competitive teams.
League Commissioner Brandon Waggoner devised a strategy to rank the players. Fifty of the players were veterans of the Monuments and Metros teams thus their abilities were known to the league organizers. Skills clinics were held and the players were also asked to rank their own abilities on a skills list.
Based on the findings, the players were then ranked. According to League President JJ Johnson, the number of teams in the league was determined by the number of experienced quarterbacks on the roster of players. It was decided that seven teams would be formed led by a captain, a co-captain and a quarterback. Ninety-four players were chosen for the seven teams with the rest of the players put on a waiting list. After week three of season play, eight more players were pulled from the waiting list to beef up the teams.
The League plays its games on the Carter Barron Fields in Rock Creek Park on Sundays usually at 10 and 11:30 a.m. If you head out to watch them in action, you will be treated to well-executed plays, some trash talking and the occasional diving catch. Diversity of the players is present as the league boasts a 10 percent straight and 3 percent female base.
Johnson says any growth for the future will be contingent on the number of quarterbacks who step forward. That sounds like a challenge for all you retired quarterbacks out there. The group would also like to have more stats on its website and could use a volunteer statistician.
Check out the league here.