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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Are You Ready for Some Football?…From The Ripple’s Sports Page…

Tualco FieldFootball fever has come to the Valley, and for this edition The Ripple has added a special sports page to cover the news.

As the old year slips into the new, football fans across the country huddle in front of HD widescreens to watch their favorite teams do battle on the gridiron.  With bowls of chips and dip before them and bowls on the flat screen, they are bowled over by one bowl game after another. Now football has come to the Valley, and The Ripple, ever faithful to the news, was on hand to cover the first annual Tualco Valley Pasture Bowl.

I’m afoot in the Valley this last day of 2011 when I hear a sound that should not be heard this time of the year: the offensive thrum of a riding lawnmower. Now there’s an unwritten Valley covenant whose bylaws state: “No yard mowing until March at the earliest!” I stride on until I find the scofflaw at work. Brett de Vries, the offender, is about to make the final passes on the field in front of his red barn. Brett is not alone. A young man armed with a shovel is doing some scoop work in the field. Thinking he might be leveling mole mounds to make the mowing easier, I asked him what he was shoveling up and dumping over the fence. “Cow manure,” he says. Then I remembered Brett had pastured out the field to four cows for lawn mowing duties last summer.“Just leave it there,”I tell him. “If Brett is so fond of mowing, those patties will make the grass grow that much faster!” “Can’t do that,”I’m told. “There’s going to be a football game here later. Hard to get good traction with these piles underfoot.” Football in the Valley? Hmmm…. “When’s kickoff ?” I asked. 1:30, I learn…about an hour from now. Just time enough for The Ripple to get organized.

1:45 and The Ripple has arrived in time to cover the pre-game show, most of which, it appeared was lining the field. “Why don’t you reinstall that hotwire,” I tell Brett. “No question, then, when a player steps out of bounds!” The grounds crew was hard at work running tape measures, string lines, directing spray paint.Lining the field Traffic cones to mark the fifty yard line and end zones added official color to the field. Players trickled in from parts unknown, wearing uniforms of a colorful and highly idiosyncratic nature. Among them all age groups were represented, as were various shapes, sizes and athletic abilities. Obviously something had gone horribly wrong in last year’s draft. The motley group immediately went to work on their equipment, adjusting kneepads, socks, lacing their game shoes. Some black-streaked their cheeks to cut glare. Glare What glare(Glare this time of year in the Valley?) Someone wondered about the whereabouts of a certain player. Turned out he was in the kitchen boiling his mouth guard.



Team hodge podge

The Tualco Valley Pasture Bowl featured flag football. This year’s contest pitted Team Blue against Team Yellow.opposing colors The teams were coed and in the choosing of sides, special attention was given to alternate the selection of male and female players.

A cheer staff of one (when she wasn’t playing right guard or tackle) flourished her pom poms, urging the crowd to show their team spirit.We've got spirit, yes we do!

After a forty-five minute delay (that mouth guard…a watched pot never boils…), it was finally kickoff time. The players donned their colors and game faces. 34 gettin' toughThis game had the potential to be a contest of epic proportions.The  players’ faces beamed with excitement and enthusiasm spread quickly throughout the fans lining the field. The Ripple was given special press privileges: a front row seat on the fifty yard line.

One exciting game!

Team Yellow won the coin toss and elected to receive. After a brief rehearsal of the rules (“no unnecessary roughness,” especially in the groin area), the teams lined up. The crowd tensed on the sidelines and a hush fell over the field. A sole referee blew an official-sounding whistle.Then a swift kick. The ball sailed into the air. At last the game was underway. 

Kick off!

Several plays and a few possessions later, it appeared that compliance with the rules had deteriorated into random chaos. For further clarification, The Ripple conferred with the whistleblower, who soon after kickoff and a few unheeded tweets, had returned the ineffective whistle to his pocket with a shrug and ceded control of the game to the contenders. He explained the parameters in general as: “On each possession a team has three downs to make it to the fifty yard line and three more to make a touchdown. Possession turns over if a team fails either way.” It appeared these guidelines were the only remaining vestiges of game rules.

Go Team Blue!
With no shrilling whistle at each play, the game seemed to morph into a curious blend of soccer, lacrosse, and hot potato. Forward laterals seemed to be the favorite departure, the ball hopping back and forth across the line of scrimmage (the lacrosse and soccer players) almost like a tennis match. On one play I noted at least three receivers, each downfield from the other, shoveling the ball from one to the next. “Knee down, dead ball” was all but forgotten as some players crawled and wriggled their way for extra yardage. The designated official just shook his head and smiled, his pocketed whistle “officially” retired from duty. Some huddles lasted longer than an official time out. What were they doing? Planning the halftime show?  Hut! Hut!

Team Blue drew first blood on a Hail Mary pass that dropped into the end zone and the open arms of a surprised teammate who happened to be standing in the right place. Controversy arose after the “go for two” play (Tualco Field has yet to erect goal post, affording no “point after” opportunities) went awry.The debate revolved around whether or not a player had possession of the ball on a bobbled pass reception in the end zone.

Going for two
A contentious player approached The Ripple’s photographer for an “instant replay”review of the play in question, but at the time his camera was focused on the cheer staff, not the field, and unfortunately the play went unnoticed.Cheer fires 'em up

Competition was fierce. Spectacular plays ended in high fives and chest bumps. With such intense play, injuries were inevitable. When one did occur, the injured rushed to the first aid station and gulped down some painkillers. The Ripple overheard some of the players say they had practiced preventive medicine and dosed themselves ahead of time --pre-injury—some even anticipating the day after effect. for the injured reserves

As the clock ticked down to the first annual Tualco Valley Pasture Bowl halftime, both teams resorted to elaborate plays to score against the opponent. I saw faked handoffs, complicated backfield reverses, one of which almost worked. Team Blue executed an onside kick that would have been the envy of any NFL pro. The best kickoff, in the opinion of this reporter, was a perfect, whirling spiral with awesome hang time. The kicker? A lady soccer player, of course.

on side kick

At halftime the score was Team Blue 30, Team Yellow 24. The Ripple did not stay to cover the second half—in part because there was not yet a consensus on whether either team was capable of playing a second half. Mostly, though, this reporter had caught a chill spending nearly an hour covering the game from an unheated press box.

The Ripple’s post game analysis: for Team Blue and Team Yellow in spite of the competitiveness it was obvious the Pasture Bowl wasn’t just about scoring goals but rather another goal…just being together…enjoying an afternoon of healthy, active fun with friends and family. And while The Ripple missed the half time show and the second half--if it was played--it was quite apparent Teams Yellow and Blue on that account were both winners!

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  1. Great article! Thank you for sticking it out!

  2. A finely done sports review, Sir! It takes a talented "reporter" to make sense of this motley crew. :-) You nailed it right on: we are a family that loves being together and making memories. And we sure know how to end the year with a bang...and a few bruises. Wishing you a fabulous 2012! ~Theresa (Warner) Arnold

  3. We had a blast and believe it or not, no serious injuries! Thanks for "covering" this great event and posting it on your Blog.
    One of the Senior Players :)

  4. Thanks for opening up the event to the press. What better way to spend a winter's afternoon than watching people having fun! Just sorry I couldn't participate. Unfortunately The Ripple's contract has a clause prohibiting employees from participating in "extreme" sports. I appreciate your comments. TMJ

  5. Wow!! What a fun time!! I'm glad to see the field being put to good use. :)