Get your touchdown dances ready

The ultimate guide to IM football

By Jordan Holliday

Ah, mid-October. The air is crisp, the Cubs are spending time with friends and family, I’m in over my head in all of my classes, and I’ve struck out up and down frat row. My academic, social, and professional aspirations, which had revived some over the summer, are all in tatters once more.

Don’t get me wrong, though, I’m still in high spirits because just as I was getting down, IM flag football started back up. Finally, all of us former math-teamers, cross country runners, and J.V. All-Americans can lace up the cleats, strap on the flag belts, and go deep. Check your wry detachment and sense of perspective at the gates—it’s time for some flag football.

This year’s IM football promises to be better than ever, because all of the games will be played on the turf at Stagg Field—the same place that the real, full-contact football team plays on Saturdays. No more fearing for your well-being while running the fields on the Midway, which are alternately swamps and concrete cheese graters.

But with the new venue come new pressures: You can’t bring your B game to the A field. The same old four-wide go-routes aren’t going to cut it anymore. So to help prepare your team for the big time, Maroon Sports is proud to present the Official Flag Football Strategy Guide.

The first and most important part of the IM season is, of course, choosing the team name. A clever name can easily make up for a losing season, so don’t rush this decision. Self-deprecating names, like “The Ungainly Midgets,” or names involving exotic rodents, like “The Chinchillas,” are always good, though maybe overplayed. And 1 mix tapes are fertile sources of team names: “Half Men, Half Amazing” and “The Hot Sizzlers,” for example.

One common technique involves picking a name so that it will be funny when opponents say, “We just beat [team name].” Names that start with “Off” are popular for this reason, as are names that incorporate the words “Women” and “Children”–tasteful discretion isn’t the name of this game. Under-used, I feel, are “Cute Woodland Creatures” and “Registered Republicans with Blunt, Leaden Objects.”

After you settle on a name, you have to decide who will play which positions. If you played sports in high school, even if it was only in a rec league, be sure to repeatedly mention your experience and then appoint yourself all-time quarterback or all-time defense. Your teammates will thank you.

Everyone who isn’t playing quarterback plays wide receiver, even if they’re on defense. That’s because the average quarterback will be as likely to pass it directly to the coverage as he is to get it to his own teammates. IM quarterbacks attempt more reckless, wildly improbable passes than Brett Favre in the playoffs. Seriously, my team’s defense outscored its offense last season.

Which brings me to the next step of flag football strategy: lowering your expectations. It turns out Tom Brady can make pinpoint passes, and Terrell Owens can catch the ball over his shoulder while running full-tilt because they’re both extraordinarily talented. Who knew?

If you’re anything like me, though, you will struggle to catch the ball while standing still during warm-ups. The only rotation on your passes will be end-over-end: Forget ducks, these are Canadian geese. Last season I never attempted a pass because my teammates decided, after some deliberation, that I would be more valuable playing wide, really wide—wider than the sidelines, in fact. An unorthodox strategy.

I did wander onto the field every so often, and when that didn’t get us flagged for illegal procedure, I even caught a couple passes, but none for a touchdown or even a first down. I’m told I have great intangibles, though.

In truth, over four games, my team probably completed only 20 or 25 passes. Towards the end of the season, we were getting desperate for yardage, so we moved on to the next part of any sensible flag football strategy: trick plays and cheap gimmickry.

We ran a Statue of Liberty, triple-reverse combo play with some success. Hook-and-ladders are good, too, though they require you to complete an actual pass, and that can be iffy. Or your offense can consist solely of Cal-style, never-say-die laterals, which will probably be as effective as anything else.

Eventually, every team will score a touchdown or two, thereby bringing up a phase of the game nearly as important as name choice: the TD celebration.

At my high school, the football coach told his players not to celebrate much. They should act, he said, like they’ve been in the end zone before and expect to be there again.

Plainly, that is not the case for me. IM football is my lone chance to score a touchdown, and so I’ve prepared ahead of time a few celebrations that pack in as much poor sportsmanship and self-aggrandizement as possible.

For one, the “Ricky Williams”—I lie down in the end zone and consume an entire bag of Funyuns.

The “DeSean Jackson” is an impromptu dance performed, crucially, on the half-yard line.

One, which I call the “Sarah Palin,” involves running to the sideline, grabbing a bullhorn, belittling the honest efforts of my opponents, and pointing out that they all live in the general vicinity of unrepentant terrorist Bill Ayers.

You know what, scratch that last one. We’re adults here, and we’re above that sort of thing, even if our team is named “Off in the Shower.”