By BRANDON WAGGONER
Most early Sunday mornings in the fall and spring of each year, a community starts filtering onto Carter Barron’s “grassy” fields in upper Northwest D.C. Players — male and female, gay and straight, 20 to 50-plus years old — start stretching, warming up and preparing to play a flag football game. Nearly 300 people will be on the fields the first Sunday after Labor Day gearing up to play, including about 70 new players experiencing their first opening day. What many of these league virgins may not know, however, is that they are not simply participating in a football league, but rather joining our D.C. community – the D.C. Gay Flag Football League (or the mouthful acronym of “DCGFFL”).
Although this community has been together in some form for more than a decade, the DCGFFL is entering only its fourth year and seventh season. In the early spring of 2010, a small group of dedicated footballers (“old school-ers”) met to discuss transforming from a weekly pickup game to an organized league. For nearly a decade, the same 15 to 20 guys had been getting together most Sunday mornings to play pickup flag football. Occasionally over this decade, some would stay out too late the night before and Sunday morning football would turn into brunch due to a lack of players. Over the year prior to the formation of the DCGFFL, whether due to these late nights or other desires, brunch became more the norm than the exception. Thus began a discussion of forming a league. After many meetings, hard work and incredible luck (plus JJ Johnson’s determination and Chris Cormier’s recruitment abilities), the group grew into a 20-team league, an inconceivable idea to me at the time. And over the past seven seasons this league has become my D.C. community.
Our community not only has a fun time through football but we also have fun giving back. Throughout the last few years we’ve donated more than $15,000 for college scholarships via fundraisers, including a calendar featuring our sexy players culminating in a runway model show with more than 500 people attending; a team music video competition with the winning team doing some serious justice to “Gangnam Style;” and a team drag competition with yours truly looking way too much like Phyllis Diller, to name a few. With the help of the incredibly talented videographer Sean Bartel, we’ve also produced several “It Gets Better” videos as part of that campaign. All of these help our DCGFFL community give back to the larger community in a positive way.
Through league activities like these and countless others, and through individual team activities, including brunches (we now have football AND brunch!), dinners and assorted outings, we bond together. Each team becomes its own part of the community, with most teams sad to disband at the end of each season. By disbanding, however, we develop more friendships and a broader sense of community over the course of several seasons, with each new season bringing new bonds. Not surprisingly, lasting relationships have been formed, fostered and cultivated over the past six seasons, including a recent wedding of two of our members.
I am so thankful to have been involved with the DCGFFL from the beginning. The experience of helping to create this league has been incredibly rewarding. All I wanted was to consistently play football on Sunday mornings. Not only did I get that, but I also got an incredible support system, intense friendships with unlikely people and a chance to be a part of something I will forever cherish — a community that I am so thankful to have.
Brandon Waggoner is former commissioner of the D.C. Gay Flag Football League.