Monday, July 4, 2011


Monica catching the pass.
I'm watching Pre-game warm-ups - receivers running patterns and quarterback working on passing.  One receiver has remarkable grace.  Her running stride is fluid, smooth.  The ball descends irresistibly into her hands as though entering her magnetic field.  There is no wasted motion, no flailing of arms, no last minute correction of her direction. 

And I'm thinking, wow, there's an athlete.

That was Monica Gauck.

Soho Brooks, intimidating even when
just standing on the sidelines.
Outlaws practice - a particular coach catches my eye.  She has a way about her.  The way she moves, kind of like Monica, smooth.  When she demonstrates a point to player she has a natural grace.  Never seeming to exert herself but always in the right place at the right time.  She isn't remarkable physically but the way she carries herself signals core strength.  Intimidating. 

I have her pegged as an athlete.

In 2009 I finally get to see her play.  She more than lives up to my expectation. Playing on the defensive line she was a devastating tackler.  She had a great sense of the game, was always around the ball.  She was quick and strong, almost impossible for the offense to block.

That was Soho Brooks.

I don't like the word "athleticism."  I am (was) convinced it was a silly term invented by jocks-turned-TV commentators.  When I sought a title for this post, athleticism was the only word that came to mind.  I googled, hoping for a good synonym.  And learned more than I wanted to know.  Simply, according to, athleticism has been a word for 140 years and I shouldn't recoil at using it.

This is a brief commentary on players with athleticism.

Ted Williams, superstar slugger for the Boston Red Sox in the 1940s, famously claimed he could see the stitches on the baseball when it met his bat, could tell whether he made contact on the white of the ball or the stitches.  A fast ball by a good pitcher travels nearly 100 miles per hour and looks like a white blur to "normal" people.  Ted Williams wasn't "normal."   Pro baseball players aren't "normal."

I've played at baseball, softball, football, basketball, tennis, hockey, golf... And I've proven beyond reasonable doubt I'm not an athlete.  NOT.  Attempting the games has given me an appreciation for those who play well.  For the athletes.  Watching a basketball player start a jump around the free-throw line and twist and turn in flight and underhand the ball against the glass and into the hoop with his off hand - takes my breath away.  I can't jump over a crack in the sidewalk.  Watching an NFL receiver battling the defensive corner back for the pass, simply amazing.  More amazing is the quarterback throwing a pass forty yards down field with precise accuracy so the 10-second-hundred-yard-dash receiver racing full speed runs under it and makes the catch it without breaking stride.

Bridgette Brown, #55, driving runner off the field.  The power of her
hit lifts the runner completely off the ground.  Soho, #3, is there for
the assist if Bridgette should need one.
In an earlier post I said I don't see games live but rather in freeze-frame on my computer when I Photoshop hundreds of pictures from my Nikon camera.  Still, there are times when I get a sense of the athleticism of some of the players.  I saw an opponent runner - she was vertical, then she was flat on the ground.  Nothing between, up-down.  A few plays later the same thing - runner vertical, runner on the ground.  What happened?  Bridgette Brown happened.  What a devastating tackler she is.  What an athlete. 

Another amazing Outlaw is Shadana.  How many times has she eluded would-be tacklers and raced down the field for the score?  Dozens for certain.  She is so quick, then so fast.  Her nick name is Bo-Peep and has something to do with her not wanting to get her uniform dirty, not wanting to be on the ground.  The first few games I saw her play, I couldn't believe anyone would ever catch up with her.  I was amazed when she was sometimes actually tackled.  She is slender, looks almost fragile in person.  She has a captivating smile.  If you didn't know she was a football player, you would never guess.  She just doesn't look the part.  Until you hand her the ball. 

Shadana Hurd in one her signature romps to the end zone, leaving defenders in her wake.

Those who can -  do.  Those who can't - take pictures and write articles and wonder at the... okay, use the word again, the athleticism of the players on the field.  If you attend Outlaws games, or any Women's Professional Football Association games, you're seeing something special.  Athletes plying their trade, displaying their athleticism.

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