LGBT and ally Philadelphians who are already itching for the return of weekly football and their beloved Eagles now have another outlet to feed their fervor.
The Greater Philadelphia Flag Football League kicked off its spring season last month, and is looking for men and women of all athletic abilities to get involved and help solidify the league in the city’s varied LGBT sports scene.
The league, which began organizing last year, was established after several area residents expressed interest in having Philadelphia join the dozen-plus other cities that house teams as members of the National Gay Flag Football League.
Scott Dinkins, who moved to Philadelphia from Boston last summer, played flag football for the Boston LGBT league and was eager to continue playing in his new city. When he discovered Philadelphia didn’t have such a league, he contacted NGFFL, which put him in touch with three other Philly-area football enthusiasts — Matt Joseph, Brian Scott and Christian George — who also had been inquiring about a local league.
“The four of us bonded instantly over the fact that we want to bring flag football to Philly and make it a great, well-run organization,” Dinkins said. “That was and is our common goal.”
Last year, the organizers decided on leadership positions — Dinkins as commissioner, Joseph as assistant commissioner and director of membership, George as director of media relations and events, Scott as director of rules and play and fellow leaguer Andy Gonzales as treasurer — which Dinkins said was a natural process, based on their experiences.
“I think we were lucky in that each person brought a set of skills to the table. I have worked in sales most of my life, so I don’t mind getting in front of people to sell the concept of the league to people in the community. Matt and Brian coach sports, so they are helping with the rules and regulations. Christian is more of the fun, social party type, so he has helped us tremendously in scheduling our social events, along with some of the Web design. And Andy works in finance and has offered to work as our treasurer. We have also been fortunate to work with my friend Rich Lee at MediaCopy, who has helped with our printing of fliers and posters. It all just sort of came together nicely.”
The organizers began recruitment efforts during last year’s OutFest, where Dinkins got the chance to meet with Mayor Nutter, whom he said was very interested in the league.
“Mayor Nutter was very gracious and supportive and spent about 10 minutes with me. He asked what we needed from the city to make this a reality in Philly, and the first thing I told him was, ‘A field to play on,’” Dinkins said. “[That] Monday, I had two phone calls from the mayor’s office — one from the parks and recreation department and one from the LGBT outreach contact from the mayor’s office. It was incredible. We had a field that week.”
Team members will play Saturday pick-up games at Tarken Recreation Center, 6250 Frontenac St. in the Northeast, and are looking to have enough players to fill at least four teams that will play against one another this fall.
“We are looking to recruit as many people as possible that want to come out and have fun, regardless of their football skills,” Dinkins said. “Fun is the name of the game. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t played before. We welcome all skill levels, straight or gay, men or women.”
The league will send members of its traveling team, the Philadelphia Revolution, to Chicago in late June to participate in the city’s Pride Bowl, and to Washington, D.C., in October for the NGFFL’s Gay Bowl, which will draw at least 300 participants from the 15 other member cities.
Jim Buzinski, NGFFL commissioner and creator of OutSports.com, said each city’s organization varies in size — with nine of the cities housing multiple teams — and that the concept of LGBT flag football has gained increasing momentum since NGFFL’s 2002 founding.
“We’ve grown every year and this has kind of taken on a life of its own,” Buzinski said. “I think this growth is mirrored by the way gays and lesbians have been accepted more in society. It’s no longer an odd thing for gay people to play sports.”
Flag football also allows individuals of all athletic abilities to contribute their own skills to their team, the commissioner said.
“It’s a great team sport; no one individual can decide a game,” noted Buzinski. “Unlike basketball, where you may have five players and just one really good player, in flag football everyone can play, regardless of your skill level, because everyone can do something: You can go after flags, rush the quarterback, block, catch and throw passes. It’s really a team-bonding game because you have to work together.”