Flag football, failure and a free T-shirt


Photo credit: Ren Rader

Illustration by Ren Rader

During my first semester at Trinity, my friends and I won $100 for being the worst flag football team on campus.

We were a couple of weeks into the semester when my roommate Will and I saw an advertisement for intramural sports. Desperate for excuses to leave our dorm and meet new people, Will and I began recruiting. After asking around our hall, sending a few messages in the first-year GroupMe and meeting up outside Herndon Hall, we had our seven-person Men’s Flag Football team, which we sarcastically dubbed The Best Football Team Ever (TBFTE for short).

After meeting up twice to practice plays and passes, we organized TBFTE by assigning positions and developing a few strategies. While we knew we were by no means going to win the Intramural Superbowl any time soon, we figured we could probably put up a fight, at least against another equally disorganized first-year team. That’s when we found out that the only other opponent who signed up in our league was the entirety of Chi Delta Tau.

The Men’s Flag Football Intramural program was divided into a beginner and advanced league, so we had expected to be joined by other similarly inexperienced teams. But only the Delts ended up joining the beginner league, so our three-week season was going to consist of playing against them eight times. Thoroughly discouraged, we tried to reach out and recruit female first-years so we could join the co-ed league at the last minute, but our rag-tag group of guys wasn’t able to inspire any new members to join. We were stuck in the beginner league, alone with the Delts and destined to meet our doom.

On our first game day, the six members of TBFTE who could make it that night walked onto the field to meet an entire fraternity furiously practicing plays. Teams needed seven players for a full team, and the Delts weren’t about to cut their team down to six to match ours, so they loaned us a few players out of pure pity. In our first play of the first game, we threw a pass directly to a member of the Delts, who promptly caught it and ran it all the way to score a touchdown. A few plays later, the same thing happened. Then it happened again. The night continued until we were finally given mercy by the game clock running out of time. The final score was 0–69, the ultimate humiliation.

The next game a week later, we had our full seven-man squad, and we rallied around a single goal: score more than zero points. Tirelessly, we threw the ball and our bodies toward the end zone, desperate to put ourselves on the board. Winning was out of the question; we only wanted those sweet six to seven points next to our name. Back and forth, we moved closer and closer to that thick white line, improving with each play. Five yards away from TBFTE’s first-ever touchdown, we huddled up and discussed our strategy. Our pores wept with sweat as our hearts yearned to taste the sweet feeling of scoring points, even though the Delts already had 36. Nothing else mattered but crossing that line.

Right as we finished discussing our strategy, the buzzer marking the end of the game went off.

We returned to our dorms tired and dejected, knowing that might be the closest we would ever get to scoring a single point all league. We turned out to be right. The next morning, I received an email from Intramural Sports notifying us that the Delts had moved up to the advanced league in order to play teams besides ours. As the only team remaining in the league, we won the $100 gift card to Bay’s and T-shirts that almost mockingly declared, “IM the Greatest.” With our prides shattered but our wallets full, we took the win-by-default and disbanded The Best Football Team Ever.

While this may not sound like the best endorsement for intramural sports, I’ve always looked back at this three-week saga as one of my fondest memories at Trinity. Many of the former members of TBFTE are still some of my closest friends. Most people wouldn’t consider being clobbered in flag football by Chi Delta Tau as a good way to spend a weekend evening, but I was able to bond with my team in a way that only informal, loosely organized sports can make happen. Intramural sports gave me and my team both despair and hope. It gave us laughter and stress. We put the team together simply to kill time and to be able to claim that we were “involved” first-years on campus, but we ended up walking off the field with a sense of camaraderie in our collective failure. The messy nature of it all prepared me for the roller coaster that is college, and it helped me understand that valuable experience can come without success. Sometimes, you have to grit your teeth and lose over and over. And if you do, you might just win a free T-shirt.