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The Citizen

Annual football tourney brings out class competiveness

By Alex Remingon, Culture Writer, MPP ‘13

On Sunday, November 20, HKS students came to defend the honor of their class at the annual HKS flag football tournament. It was surprisingly beautiful, all the players wearing shorts as the sunny weather hit 66 degrees, defying all late-November Massachusetts logic. The MPP1s won the day, beating the Mid-Career class as well as the favored MPP2s, who won the tournament back in the spring, when they were MPP1s themselves. But the victory was not without controversy.

The MPP1s were unable to field a team at first, as only five first-years showed up at the start of the tournament at noon. Two others showed up afterwards, but they needed to supplement their number in order to field a full eight-man team. (The MPP2s and Mid-Careers each had one woman on their teams, but the MPP1 squad was all-male.)Beer Cans

So the final MPP1 was the lone MPA on the field, Jamal Jones. Fortunately for them, this was not the first time Jones had played football. He played four years in the NFL with the Packers and Saints, as a punt returner and wide receiver. He was the only player on the field who had ever caught a touchdown thrown by Drew Brees. They were lucky he came. “Somebody talked me into going,” he said. “I mean, it was fun, but now my body’s paying for it.” In the games, he played quarterback and receiver. (But really, everyone other than the QB was a potential wide receiver.)

Three games were played, with the MPP2 team beating Mid-Career 20-12, MPP1s beating MPP2s 14-12, and MPP1s beating Mid-Career 18-13. Several MPP2s were heard to grumble about the augmented squad that was beating them.

The tournament was held at Hoyt Field in Central Square, on an approximately 60-yard pitch of grass in what was essentially the outfield of a little league diamond. On the sidelines were piles of backpacks, bicycles, and $2.99 six-packs of Trader Joe’s canned beer, Name Tag Lager and Simpler Times Lager, sponsored by student government. “Can we have a new rule? After every drive someone has to drink some beer,” one MPP2 shouted, to no one in particular. “Seriously, we have a lot of beer.”Only at HKS

Flag football is a variant on touch football: it’s football without tackles, where every player wears a velcro belt with two flags, one on each buttcheek, and on each play, the defensive player tries to yank the flag off the player with the ball. There were no uprights, so there was no kicking: no punts, no kickoff, no field goal, no kicked extra point. After a touchdown, a team had to go for it, and would receive one point if they elected to spot the ball close to the end zone, two points if they spotted it further away.

Two referees were on the sidelines, watching the first down lines and monitoring the time in the 20-minute halves. At turnovers on downs and halftime, players switched in and out of the MPP2 and Mid-Career squads. After the end of her game, Jenn Hoegen, the lone Mid-Career woman on the field, sat on the grass to do her API-201 homework. It was the first time she had ever played football. But she is a rabid Patriots fan. “They’re playing tomorrow night,” she told me. “Thank goodness. I don’t think I could be here if they were playing.”

The woman on the MPP2 team was Sarah Haig, and she was a tenacious pass rusher. “If I am outdoors playing competitive sports, then I am a happy person,” she said. By rule, each blitzer had to wait until the end of a count of three by the referee before rushing the passer — and by the time “three-one-thousand” left his lips, Haig was rarely more than a few steps away from the quarterback. However, Jones proved adept at scrambling out of the pocket for extra yardage.

Most of the players were American, and, with the exception of Jones, the MPA and MPAID classes were absent. “I don’t know that the MPAIDs are big on football,” mused one of the MPP2s. “At least, this kind of football.”

The MPP2s called several numbered plays, which they had devised at halftime. That layer of complexity was deliberate, said Ryan Ross, the organizer of the event. “Last year, we had three practices before the game, but the MPP2’s had everything drawn out. We lost to the Mid-Careers, who had some of their kids playing,” he recalled, with a pained expression. “Then I took over this year.” Sports and higher education go hand in hand for Ross, a graduate of the University of Florida who was wearing a Gators hat on the field. He pointed to the sidelines. “We have a trophy over there that we’re gonna drink beer out of later.”