The badass league

Rookies are welcome at the SF Women's Flag Football League


This one starts with a dislocated finger, too. In the absence of any trainers or team doctors, not to mention health insurance), Manny the referee had to set it. "How's your pain threshold?" he asked, first.

"High," said Leland Perzanowski, looking off into the distance. Blue sky. Beautiful day, Crocker Amazon.

"You got this," someone said.

Snap, some tape, game goes on ...

It was opening day for the San Francisco Women's Flag Football League, and it was St. Patrick's Day too, so a lot of players wore green somewhere on their bodies. Green socks, green hats . . . The green team in the league is called the Call Me's, and they lost 14-12 to the Rebels, in spite of executing one of the sweetest "Statue of Liberty" plays I have ever seen, at any level — including playground.

The Statue of Liberty is a rarely-used but super-fun vintage trick play, where the quarterback drops back and fakes a pass, instead handing the ball off behind his or her back to a reversing wide receiver. It's a no-look transaction, and therefore crazy risky.

The Call Me's opened the second half with it, timed it perfectly, and Deuce, their speedster, ran it all the way for a touchdown.

Earlier in the morning, the Cosmos had edged the Irontails 20-17 and the Lexington Club Bruisers had come from behind to beat Harm Reduction 12-6, on the strength of some impressive running by the new Bruiser H-back, Brooklyn.

Who was wearing very cool, colorfully framed sunglasses the whole time. I complimented her, after the game — on the touchdown and the dazzling eyewear.

"You can't see my eyes," she said, with a smile, "you don't know which way I'm going."

So that's 20-17, 12-6, and 14-12. In other words, all three opening day games were decided by one score or less, and could have gone either way.

It's not always like that, but the SFWFFL is one of the most exciting, baddest-ass rec leagues in the city, in any sport. I was a fan of the league many years before I became a participant in it. (And a participant a few minutes before I became — damn the knee — just a sportswriter.)

I used to go when they played on grass, in between the now-falling over goal posts at the northwest corner of Crocker. I would bring a picnic, and a friend. And witnessed some great games, including one where a shorthanded team came back from 19-0 at the half to tie it on the final play.

The league has been around for going-on 23 years. Started in 1990 by Michelle Brodie of the Rebels, it has grown from just four teams to, well, twice that. Usually. One team had to drop out this season, according to current commissioner Becca Litke, because they couldn't field enough players.

People get dinged. (I speak from experience.) And old. (I speak from experience.)

Litke, who plays for Irontails, has been in the league for 14 years.

"And I'm just a rookie," she said, "compared to some of the players." She glanced over her shoulder toward the field, where the Rebels and the Call Me's were going at it, just a couple minutes left, and still anyone's game.

A lot of players from the earlier games stick around to visit, watch, and in many cases drink.

Nicole Brisebois of Harm Reduction was leaning against the fence texting her high school and college football-playing brothers, and her dad, the recap of her game. Her teammates Patti Curl and Marsha Glass, both med students, were sitting cross-legged on the sidelines nearby, discussing locked-in syndrome.

"I don't want that," I overheard Curl say.

So I asked, and learned, what "locked in" meant, syndromewise. It's a medical condition where you are completely conscious but all you can do is move your eyes. A result of certain kinds of strokes, or head injuries.

I didn't want that either, I said.

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