The sad, sad tale of a flag football washout

Published 5:55 pm Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Many, many moons ago, when I was a much younger man, I did a lot of foolish things. I drove way too fast. I hung with bad crowds and made bad decisions.

I tried to play flag football in the Vicksburg Warren Flag Football League.

On the laundry list of dumb things, that last one isn’t so bad. At least I got some exercise out of it. The foolishness came from not realizing how far in over my head I was.

When I was a kid, we played football almost every day — or at least a version of it. We rarely had more than seven or eight kids available in our neighborhood and we lived in an urban suburb, so the game we played was typically 3-on-3, two-hand touch in the middle of the street. Think of the modern 7-on-7 high school summer league stuff, only with fewer people.

I learned the basics of the game, like how to throw and catch, but when I got to high school I was too small to play the tackle version.

Fast forward a dozen years to when I was a young, bored sports writer in my early 20s in Vicksburg. Desperately looking for something fun to do, I joined the VWFFL figuring it’d be laid back, fun and similar to what I remembered from my youth.

This is the point in the column where we’ll mentally insert the “Price Is Right” fail sound effect.

At my first practice, I was introduced to concepts I was aware of as a fan but had no clue how to execute, like covering receivers in a zone defense. After a couple dozen people caught passes in my vacated spot, I was not the most popular guy on the team.

I was eventually moved to the defensive line. I could get to the quarterback quickly, but stunk at grabbing their flag. I think the entire offensive game plan consisted of letting me run in, putting one juke on me, and then running 50 yards untouched to the end zone because I’d blown my assignment while everyone else executed theirs.

Most of the guys on my team had played high school football. Some had played college football. All were a million times the player I could ever hope to be.

Near the beginning of the fifth or sixth practice, the coach told me to go sit on the sideline for a while. He never called me to come back in, and I got a good sense of where my flag football career was heading. I quietly retired at the end of the session, never to take the field again but with a healthy respect for the guys who remained and a valuable lesson — flag football is no joke. Those guys can play.

Ernest Bowker is a sports writer for The Vicksburg Post. He can be reached at ernest.bowker@vicksburgpost.com

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured sports reporters in the paper's 137-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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