By John Chen
Football today has changed greatly from the traditional three yards forward and a cloud of dust. The emphasis on passing enables common players to excel and have fun at the same time. For this reason, more and more Americansâ€”especially gay men and womenâ€”are now playing the recreational version of the game, flag football.
Gay football is relatively new to the LGBT community. In fact, the city of San Francisco not surprisingly had a strong hand in establishing the National Gay Flag Football League (NGFFL). San Francisco gay football dates back to the early 1990â€™s when the SF Trojans competed in straight leagues and later played socially at Dolores Park. Darrel Bayani, who played on that team, recounted those early days especially when Mark Bingham (of 911 and rugby fame) came to play on a regular basis. In 2002, according to Bayani, John McGill (San Francisco) teamed up with gay grassroots football leaders in Los Angeles and Boston to establish the first ever Gay Bowl with the goal of bringing together gay football players from around the country and more importantly, laying the foundation of gay football in America.
In 2003, led by Bayani, San Francisco hosted Gay Bowl II where three more cities participated and the annual national championship began to emerge. Gay Bowl generated so much excitement among gay football enthusiasts that the founding cities created their first gay football leagues, including San Francisco. Last year, Denver, with great support from its mayor, hosted Gay Bowl XII. A record number of teams from 20 cities (including Toronto, Canada), as well as the first ever womenâ€™s division, competed for the coveted gay national title! San Francisco teams have competed well and took home Division B titles in 2004 and 2009.
On January 27th, 2013 San Francisco Flag Football (SFBFF) will begin its 4th season in the LGBT football league. Men and women (gay, straight, bi, etc.) come from all over the Bay to play for the love of the game and to meet other LGBT football players. â€śSFBFF welcomes players of all levels and backgrounds,â€ť says Bayani, who is still very much involved. â€śWe made the game simple, fun and less physical so everyone, regardless of ability and experience, can play!â€ť
Mike Dolan first learned to play football two years ago and, like many gay players, was a late athletic bloomer. â€śFootball is fast paced and fun. I like watching it now knowing that Iâ€™ve played it and understand the rules.â€ť Mikeâ€™s pal Sarah Rodriguez, on the other hand, grew up with football and loves the sport, but wasnâ€™t permitted to play because she was a girl. Sarah mused, â€śFew guys underestimate what a woman can bring,â€ť and added that â€śif this was tackle football, I would probably lay you out flat anyway!â€ť Sarah encourages more women to come out to play saying â€śthe guys are teddy bears once you know them.â€ť
SFBFF also has its share of straight members who are very supportive of LGBT athletics and causes. Three-sport athlete Pat Schock echoes the general sentiment: â€ś[At the end of the day] good people are good people. It doesnâ€™t matter whom you have sex with when you step on the field.â€ť
Itâ€™s not too late to join SFBFF and play in the upcoming season. For more information on SFBFF and San Francisco Bay Crash Football Team, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or via the San Francisco Bay Flag Football (group) on Facebook.
John Chen is the founder and team captain of the San Francisco Bay Crash. He is also president of the Silicon Valley Flag Football Community Association.