Growing flag football in the fall

Wayne Knaub, the new commissioner of the Greater Philadelphia Flag Football League, anticipates a makeover this fall — for the league, that is; not for himself. He envisions continued membership growth to warrant four to six permanent teams throughout the fall season. Each team will have a captain, distinctive uniforms and a team name. Since the league’s spring 2009 founding by former commissioner Scott Dinkins, players have participated in weekly pick-up games and, this fall, will function as a full league.

The Philadelphia league follows the rules of the National Gay Flag Football League, which encompasses 20 regional leagues throughout the U.S. Before moving to Philadelphia, Dinkins played in the Boston league. The national confederation put him in touch with three other local men interested in starting up a league in Philadelphia: Matt Joseph, Brian Scott and Christian George. According to Dinkins, “The four of us bonded instantly over the fact that we wanted to bring flag football to Philly and make it a great, well-run organization.”

The Philadelphia league follows NGFFL rules during its normal season so that players are not caught off-guard when they compete in tournaments and championships — especially important, as the league welcomes players of all skill levels. Expecting a new player — who is just getting used to the game in general — to adapt to a different set of rules while under the pressures of play leaves too much room for error. Starting in the fall, each team will be comprised of players across a range of skills, allowing new players to benefit from the experience of more-seasoned teammates. Rules call for seven players each on offense and defense. Also — in case you were wondering — no tackling.

In addition to the fall and spring leagues, the Philadelphia Revolution is the traveling team for GPFFL. As a relatively new team, the Revolution made a respectable showing at the Pride Bowl in Chicago in June, placing fifth in the B division and 13th overall among 16 teams. Of particular pride for Knaub was having the most age-diverse team in the tournament. The youngest player was 21, the oldest 59, reaffirming the club’s focus on team play and not merely winning.

When not dealing with the highly competitive Revolution, Knaub focuses on fostering team play throughout the league. Players join the league to have fun: The more he can do to ensure that everyone gets the most out of the experience, the better. One way he does that is by ensuring every player gets into the end zone at least once to experience the thrill of success at the hands of team play.

While the flag football league is co-ed in theory, since there is a women’s league in Philadelphia, it tends to be only male. Straight players are welcome, though national rules allow only 20 percent of any team or league to be non-LGBT athletes. Also thrown into the diversity pot is size: The league is not just a bunch of stereotypical overgrown football players. In fact, some of the more vertically challenged players (ahem) tear up the field.

As it grows into a full-fledged league, GPFFL will host its first Fruit Bowl on Sept. 25, two weeks before the Gay Bowl hosted by the Phoenix Hellraisers in Arizona. Also resuming in the fall will be the monthly Jocks party at Tabu, 200 S. 12th St. Knaub introduced the party last spring as a recruiting tool for the league and now spotlights a different local club each month. Watch for it on Fridays starting in September.

Check out the league at New players are always welcome. If you have any questions, ask Wayne: He’d love to talk to you about the exciting new season of flag football.

Kevin Aldridge is a freelance writer. He swims with the Fins Aquatics Club and competes in triathlons, marathons and other running races. Kevin can be reached at [email protected].