Sunday, April 10, 2011

The IFL All-Star Game, Working Together

cross-posted on Shiloh Musings

As loyal, supportive parents of a top IFL Israel's Tackle Football League top player, we went trooping of to cheer him play at the  first-annual All-Star Game.  It was North versus South, (Jerusalem, Gush Etzion and Beersheva,) but the big question was whether opponents could "bury the hatchet" and play well together as a team.

For many players, the risks of being injured are "worth it" for the team during the regular season, but they have no loyalty to the mix of "enemies" that constitutes the "all-star team."  So the honor of being included could be a very heavy burden.

The players had to refocus, re-identify each other.  And don't forget that the players do this for fun; they don't get paid.  They all have full-time jobs, studies and more to keep them busy, so extra post-season practice isn't easy to schedule.

Everyone showed up, the players, referees and fans.

At first it was more a "defense" game, because the defense players are more in tune with their opposition, doing their best to grab the ball away, by way of tackling.  Except for dividing the field or opposing players, there's less cooperation.  It's not like the offensive players who must pass to teammates and really work very intuitively together.

Since the players' shirts were given out a short while before the game, we had trouble identifying many of the stars.  We learned the names and numbers of those mentioned as scorers and tacklers, but otherwise it was pretty-much a mystery.

That wasn't the only mystery.  Unlike a typical game in season, Itai Ashkenazi, the Jerusalem "Big Blue" Lions quarterback was constantly targeted and roughly knocked down by opposing players.  There was more dirt on his uniform as he limped off the field after this one game than all the others combined. Only afterwards did I recall that his former teammates, from the northern team he used to play for, were most probably out to get him for deserting them and joining the Lions.  To his credit, he stuck it out and took the "punishment."

And as the game went on, the players got into the rhythm of it and worked well together.  Sportsmanship was victorious.

The biggest problem for those of us up in the bleachers was that we couldn't figure out how to cheer for our teams.  It just didn't feel natural calling out "North" or "South."  Some people yelled the names of the actual player teams, but the teams weren't playing.  There were also generic calls of "offense" and "defense."  G-d willing, next year the IFL will find two sponsors to cover expenses, buy better quality shirts (one player lost his shirt as it was ripped open very early in the game) and then we'll gladly cheer the sponsor of our favorite all-star team.

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