When I signed up for this fall's flag football program through Rec Sports, I expected some tough competition, but good times. Our "recreation league," tiered one lower than the "competitive" league, was supposed to give us a fighting chance. When 14 testosterone-overloaded guys end up on the same turf, the "recreation league" turned into a war I didn't expect.
Teams have run highly scripted plays and turned our team's defense into a giant sieve. The toughest opponent on the field however, is not the plays or our own team's focus, but the silly rules enforced by the stripes.
In the "recreation" league, where according to the intramural website we "play for fun with less focus on competition and winning," games have turned nasty within minutes of the first down based on questionable calls by officials provided by Rec Sports.
The eight-page rulebook of the league clearly outlines the various regulations and violations for the game, but teams seem to struggle with the complexity of a violent game turned domestic.
When fans head to Camp Randall on gamedays, they hope to see a few kids get "jacked up" as ESPN's Tom Jackson would say. Even though freshman receiver Kyle Jefferson's hit led to a concussion last Saturday, it was still a spectacular display of the raw athleticism in modern sports. Although a helmet-to-helmet collision may have been cheap, the play was not flagged and the game resumed unphased.
One option Rec Sports should consider is a competitive, semi-contact league for the students in the crowd who appreciate the added intensity of the game.
Currently, the official flag rule sets blockers on the line to defend a nondelayed blitz. These individuals can only impede the defense with basketball-like screens. Every play turns into a panic to get the ball off before one of the rushers jukes the "blocker" enough to run straight to the quarterback.
Players should be able to use their hands to ward off defenders on the line to give the QB a bit more time in the pocket to find his man. This would introduce all the defensive line tactics necessary to swim-rip or spin around an offensive lineman.
Blocking downfield once a receiver is heading upfield is also nearly impossible with the current rules, so allowing some jockeying and containment wouldn't be a bad idea.
Blindside blocks would need to be avoided to prevent injuries, so a rule would need to be implemented to keep blocks only head on.
Another avenue Rec Sports could look into is a full-out tackle version of football. The argument of the serious liability concerns would likely be raised, but all students would be required to sign a waiver clearing the university of responsibility for any injuries.
Allowing tackling with no pads would need to come with its own set of rules as well to protect vulnerable players like the quarterback waiting in the pocket. Passers could even wear pinneys and be the only protected players on the field who need to be stopped by the traditional flag system.
A backyard tackle game regulated by refs in the intramural arena would be fast-paced and truly allow students to play the hard-hitting football they see every weekend.
Detractors would argue pads or flags are the only safe way to play football with untrained athletes, but rugby and Australian football prove it can be done in a controlled environment.
Rugby is no stranger to bruises and blood, and UW's intramural program could use an option allowing young men to release their excess energy from sitting in class all day.
Society in general is taking a turn for the worse when it comes to physical contact. Elementary schools around the country are joining a movement to "protect" their children by banning physical activities including "tag." A playground with no tag?
A rough tackle would do the average UW student's body good in the long run by developing character and toughness. The current intramural flag football rules, along with ultimate Frisbee and several others strictly watch for any physical contact. Soccer, on the other hand, is full of slides, twists and cuts that wreak havoc on the joints, let alone the contact when players tangle on the field.
Rec sports should take into consideration the maturity of the students in its program and realize a semi-contact, or full contact football is a viable option.
A rule change would certainly eliminate the bickering and negative heckling the zebras receive week in and week out at the historic Natatorium fields.
Nick is a sophomore majoring in business. If you would like to play a game of pick-up football, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org