Shit happens, but not without consequences.
Sometimes, it takes a while for things to get through my head…sometimes, I even have to bleed first. If there were ever a moment, or a catalyst that prompted the creation of Southeast Texas Flag Football League, it was this:
In the Spring of 2015, my team was still playing in the Beaumont League. We were in the playoffs and were playing a very close game against…well…I don’t even remember the name of the team. Sometime late in the second half, our quarterback scored a touchdown. Someone from the other team struck our quarterback in the ribs as he passed the back pylon. He would later discover that his ribs were fractured. One of our players came to our quarterback’s defense and pushed the opposing player. This caused mass chaos between the teams, with some players attempting to fight, and other players attempting break up fights. Troy (Maddox) was standing on the sidelines, moving away from the fighting. A man ran to Troy, and punched him in the face. Troy bent down to cover his head, and the man punched Troy seventeen more times (mostly in the face). No one running the league stepped in to stop the fighting. One of my teammates (Cory Bruno) and I ran to Troy, and pulled the man off of him. I ended up on the ground, and someone punched me in the back of my head. I felt more thuds to my head and attempted to cover up. Then, I felt a sharp, hard strike behind my ear. Just then, another of my teammates (Aaron Long) pushed the people away from me, and I was able to finally get to my feet. I was bleeding from the back of my head, my neck, and my upper shoulder. It was a cleat that caused most of my injuries. While I was on the ground, someone had walked through the crowd and stomped on me. I know that this happened the way that I describe it because my mother was there and had videoed the entire thing. I have watched that video at least a hundred times. My son was also there and saw me – his dad – walking off the field, bleeding. I asked the person running the league for the name of the man who had struck Troy all of those times, and for the name of the person who had used his cleats to stomp on my head. I was told that he did not know their names – he did not keep rosters. I asked him if he would give a witness statement to the police (because I was assaulted). He refused. So, after several fights and many injuries, the game continued. As I contacted the police and the men who had assaulted Troy and I left, the game continued. As I stood on the sidelines attempting to wipe the blood from my head, and figure out what the Hell had just happened, the game continued. We lost that game, but that did not really matter to me.
What did matter to me was the feelings I was experiencing. In my life, I have been involved in many tense situations. I am a police officer and I have been involved in physical altercations. I have been around drunk people and separated bar fights. This was a different kind of situation. I felt confused and unsafe in a circumstance that had previously always been pleasant to me. It was not the fighting or even the lacerations to my head that really bothered me – it was the utter indifference with which the incident was handled. After multiple fights, at least two assaults, and blood leaking from my head, the game simply continued. That night, I made plans to begin another flag football league.
To this day, I hold no malice for the person running that league, or for the league itself. When it was new, it was really fun. But, as time went on, rules became relaxed and there was less attention to detail. This is understandable and tends to happen with almost all things. The league’s fatal flaw was the toleration of ever-escalating aggressive/bad behavior. We could have all still played with some teams forfeiting. We could have all still had fun with unclear rules and an arbitrary playoff system. What ruined the fun was a lack of consequences for fight-provoking behavior. It is literally the only reason I stopped playing in that league.
Having said that, I will address what recently occurred in our league. Last Sunday, two players on the same team fought (with fists) on the field. They were separated by referees and other players. The players were ejected from the game and told to leave the premises. They did not leave, however. After the game was restarted, the players once again met one another near the south end zone of the field and began fighting. This ended the game because the situation had obviously become unsafe.
The question we were left with was this: Should the offending team receive a forfeit? (A forfeit – in our current system of rules – would most likely squash that team’s playoff hopes.)
The Board discussed that issue and voted. The Board overwhelmingly voted for the offending team to receive a forfeit. The logic was that the game had to be stopped early because of that team’s player’s behavior. That team happened to be losing at the time, but if they were winning, they still would have received a loss – a forfeit. This decision from the Board did not come without thought and consternation. At the end of the day, the Board said this simple statement – We cannot tolerate fighting.
I at first, believed that the offending team should only receive a loss and not a forfeit. I withhold my vote for last for two reasons – 1. So that I can be the tie-breaker and take the responsibility for controversial decisions. 2. So that I do not influence other Board Members’ votes. I did not have to cast my vote, as a majority was quickly reached for the offending team to receive a forfeit. I was initially surprised by the voting results.
But, then I reflected on what had occurred in 2015 in Beaumont. I remembered bleeding from the back of my head. I remembered the uncertainty of that day. I remembered that everything kept going as if nothing had happened. The Board made the correct decision. Fighting cannot be tolerated. But, that is not all…
The offending team in this circumstance was the top team in the league. That team is possibly the best flag football team I have ever witnessed. That team would easily defeat any other team in the league. That team makes the league…well…better. This is the crux of the issue – If the worst team in the league committed the same violations, what would happen? That answer is easy: That team would receive a forfeit. Immediately.
I have concluded that this issue would have never even been discussed if the offending team weren’t the Jackboys. It is disappointing. It is upsetting. But, it is the right decision. And, it is not the fault of Southeast Texas Flag Football League. It is the fault of those who chose to put their own emotions over their team’s best interest.
I stand with the Board.