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On the sixth of April, the Green Bay Chill played our first game of the 2013 season. For me it marked one year of living in the US and joining the Legends Football League (LFL).
After an extended off-season and 12 months of scrimmaging against each other, we all felt raring to go.
Seattle’s ShoWare Centre played host to the game and it was chocka-block with passionate, rowdy Seattle Mist fans.
We arrived to our locker room 10 hours before kick-off. On paper it sounds like a long day but between the hair/makeup, photo shoots, media activities, field walkthrough and warm-ups, the time passed relatively quickly.
The day was well choreographed, and with the locker room downtime in between, I couldn’t help be reminded of my high school Starstruck days (Hunter and Central Coast combined schools musical/dance extravaganza).
The LFL has always faced critism of blurring the lines between sport and entertainment, to the extent that the legitimacy of the sport has come into question.
On game day the marketting/production component was in full swing and was interesting to observe. It’s something I have not been previously exposed to in my sporting experience.
It was all very efficiently run – kudos to the league – but I was certainly mindful of staying focussed on the job at hand – playing football.
When you attend a game all the bells and whistles are, yes, beefing up the entertainment factor but really act to showcase the athletes and some hard hitting football.
Without a certain standard of athlete, the LFL would not continue to grow momentum and evolve the way it has to date.
Funnily enough running onto that field and being booed by thousands felt strangely exhilarating. My nerves were under control apart from a severe case of cotton mouth!
After what felt like an age worth of Mist player introductions, while they backflipped through burning hoops (or whatever it was they were doing – I was more concerned with my entire mouth being adhered to my mouth guard), the coin was tossed and we were first to kick off.
On ran our special teams’ kickoff line-up. The Mist scored on their first possession, our offense huddled and, not phased at all, our quarterback Annie Erler said, “It’s ok… I’ve got this,” and subsequently went for a quarterback draw all the way for a touchdown.
She is one of the league’s greats for a reason.
The first half remained close and we exited the field at half time down two points, 20-18.
This was sufficient to silence the critics somewhat, all of whom were predicting a Mist walkover. Unfortunately we suffered in the third quarter with lapses in focus and communication.
With seven minutes to play, I scored my first touchdown off a slant route and pinpoint pass from Erler.
Due to the sheer iciness of the crowd I thought for a second it had been called back – it was so quiet I may have actually seen a couple of tumbleweeds cross the arena. Not at all what I envisioned, so much so I internalised my happy dance.
The final score was 55-36. With hand-sized areas of turf burn and feeling a little battered and bruised from being introduced to the arena walls and turf by some built Mist players, it was certainly a fitting football initiation.
This was an amazing experience. With all the outside distraction, although I felt prepared coming into the game, I wasn’t.
It’s impossible to recreate the intensity and high emotion of game day, but with the first one under my belt I certainly now know what to expect.
Feeling disappointed at the loss yet excitement towards our next game, the adrenaline did not let off – I didn’t sleep a wink that night.
Images via Legends Football League LLC