Paper champions

We stepped onto the flag football field seeking glory and fortune. We left it ragged and demoralized. But for one moment, we felt like champions.

For the second consecutive season, staff members of the USF Oracle participated in Intramural Flag Football. And for the second consecutive year, we were defeated soundly in the playoffs.

We did see vast improvement from our summer team, the Oracle MJs, which posted an overall record of 1-4, with the lone win coming via forfeit. Last year, a team named NYSP destroyed us to the tune of 50-something to nothing in our first-round exit. Fast forward to the playoffs.

After a 3-3 record, we got the No. 32 seed. Our first game was against the No. 33 team. If we won, we would have to play later that evening against the No. 1-seeded Fun Boyz. We had faced members of the Fun Boyz in the summer league, and the experience was – well, even the memories are painful. Needless to say, we weren’t very excited about the prospect of playing the No. 1 seed regardless of what team we had to leapfrog in the 7:45 timeslot. But we were the Oracle Aye-Ohs – we would not shy from battle.

Our squad showed up at the field primed and ready to go. We began our warm-ups and checked in with the referees, only to find that Team Nizats was nowhere to be found. The referees informed us that the game was a forfeit. So, without even snapping the ball we had moved on. Knowing the challenge we had ahead of us, we decided to get some practice reps in before the final showdown.Suddenly, a rag-tag group of guys approached the field. It was the Nizats. Blast! If we had only left after the forfeit we could have saved our energy. Now we had to fight to play the Fun Boyz.

Receiving the ball first, the Nizats jumped ahead early, marching down the field to the tune of a 6-0 lead. Soon after, we threw our first but only interception of the game, despite our quarterback’s borderline-flawless yet egotistical style of play. By halftime, we were clutching to a one-point lead. One of our best defenders and blitzers, Nick “Fantana,” went down with a finger injury. The chips were stacked against us.

Then the unthinkable happened: On the third snap of the second half, the Nizats blitzed, leaving me wide open in the middle of the field. I took the pass and ran, but my flag fell off. Thinking the play was dead, the defense stopped chasing, but my sharp wit and overzealous knowledge of the rules made me keep running. If a player’s flag falls off, they have to be two-hand touched. I lumbered towards the end zone for my inevitable score.

As I celebrated in the end zone, my teammates downfield were already grimacing at the horror I was about to realize. We had been penalized on the play. No touchdown. 60 yards for nothing. I was deflated, but not defeated. We eventually moved down the field and scored. The Nizats fought hard and on many occasions had a chance for the upset, but the Aye-Ohs prevailed 20-6.

Then came time to lead the Oracle lambs to the slaughter. The season itself was rigorous, but playing the No. 1 team in the “A” league was like chasing a bullet train while wearing cement shoes. I won’t discuss too much of what happened against the Fun Boyz, just know this: It was ugly. We made our first first down of the game on our final drive. While we did manage to score, it was because they declined an obvious penalty that would have negated a first down late in the game.

The Fun Boyz managed a play where they reversed field nearly four times, only to throw a makeshift shovel pass to a wide-open receiver. They were always wide open. It was like watching the Harlem Globetrotters play football. We were still helpless as they scored at will. It was the Patriots vs. Pee-Wee.

When all was said and done, we had accomplished our original goal. We managed to have fun and get some much-needed exercise.

And on a final note, for every team that fell to the Aye-Ohs: You were beaten by journalists. For shame.