Friday, April 27, 2012

Tricks of the game

In my last post I gave you a couple photos of a weird play the Outlaws tried a few years ago.  I'm repeating one of the photos here in normal size.  If you want a better view, just go back to the previous post and scroll to the bottom. 

In that play, the Outlaws offensive line is set up far away from the center and the ball.  It is odd to see six blockers close to the camera with Monica, the running back, lined up behind the center way across the field at the far hash mark. 

I asked Monica how the play worked out.  She said she doesn't remember that play and explained: 

"I usually block out the life threatening moments, so since I don't recall this down, one might assume the Hurricanes destroyed me."

She referred the question to coach Narlen who explained that this wasn't an original Outlaws idea but rather a trick play used frequently enough to have a name.  He said: 

The formation is called the swinging gate. It's typically used for two point conversions but Geoff used it a few times in this game on fourth downs to throw off the other team. In this case it was the Gulf Coast Herricanes at House Park.

I searched youtube for "Football The Swinging Gate Play" and found a few videos of the play in a game.  Here's a youtube video where they passed the ball from the formation.  Successfully.

Another youtube video presented "Amazing Football Trick Plays"  The swinging gate is the third in the collection and this time set up a run for a touchdown.  But the entire collection ranges from amusing to downright funny.  If you view this video, use full-screen and be ready to back up and replay.  Some of the plays not only fooled the other team but fooled the camera operator as well. 

I'll comment on just a couple.  Most are pretty self-explanatory. 

The Fumblerooski:  The Fumblerooski" is one we talked about trying back when I was playing in high school in the 1950s.  The center or quarterback deliberately "fumbles" the ball by setting it down on the ground.  The offensive right guard "recovers" the fumble, picking the ball up and running around the left end for a big gain.  Since it isn't a real fumble practically nobody on the field realizes what has happened.  Everyone is watching the quarterback who is running to the right.

In a previous blog post I told you about my missed opportunity for glory where I, playing defensive left tackle, stole the ball from the runner and just fell on it.  No one knew I had it.  I could have run (lumbered) to the end zone.  Instead I fell on it and just waited for the official to notice the ball was missing. 

The Statue of Liberty:  I viewed this one over and over on the video and it never did appear clearly what was happening.  The concept was introduced in the NFL many years ago and variations still show up from time to time.  The quarterback takes the ball and acts like he's going to throw it, bringing his arm back in typical throwing motion.  One of the running backs goes behind the quarterback and plucks the ball out of his hand and runs it around end for a big gain.  The quarterback completes the throwing motion but sans the ball. 

The trick plays work because they create confusion for the defense.  While the defense is wondering what to do, the offense is advancing the ball.  A couple of the plays on the video, the "Penalty" and "Wrong Ball" are particularly devious because they give the false impression that the play hasn't started yet.  In both situations the defense bought into the offense act. The quarterback has the ball but he didn't get it the normal way so it isn't a live ball, is it?  and he's just walking with it, going to hand it to an official or something...  oops.

I don't know if the Outlaws or their opponents will be using trick plays this season.  And I don't know how to prepare.  Only one bit of advice.  Once the official whistles the ball in play, consider the ball "live" until the official whistles it dead.  If someone has the ball, tackle her.  If the ball is on the ground, jump on it.  Keep playing until the official blows the whistle to indicate the play is over.

Football is complicated.  Far more than when I played the game.  Add tricks to an already complex sport and it becomes almost unfair. 

But funny. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Where am I?; What?!!!

I'm here.  Just have been neglecting my blog for the past week or so.  Annoyed with myself for missing the opening day game.  That was going to give me fresh photos and material for writing.  So I'm still using my huge collection of previous season photos. 

Confession time:  I'm doing a little filling before I get to the "what?!!!" of this post.  I'm posting some photos I like and have been holding for just the right time to use them.  But the real photos I want to you to see will be at the bottom.  Because they have to be full size.  Even at full size I'm not sure you'll be able to see what they depict. 

Take a look at the right of this screen.  See all that stuff?  If I post a full size photo here it will overlap the stuff at the right.  Not a good way to present.  So I'm posting some fun photos from a couple years ago (or more).  Until I have posted enough material to get below the side-stuff.  Stay with me.  You'll see.

About the preliminary photos.  When I browse my photos I sometime notice one as being just amusing.  The camera catches a moment in time and that moment may find you in an awkward pose.  I liked the first photo because it doesn't make any sense.  I have two of the opposing players on the ground, one to the left and one to the right foreground.  A third, number fifty-five, is standing on her head.  Sorta.  So I've kept this one aside as one of my funny photos. 

Number 55 standing on her head.  Other defenders on the ground
removed from the action.  Can't tell what is happening here.  That's
why I like the photo.

I wonder if the blocker is Tracey Suire?  It looks like she just may
be able to create a path for her running back.
The next one (above) I like because it shows a blocker trying to barge her way through the defense.  You can see the ball in the arm of the ball carrier just below and to the blocker's left.  I'm not sure who is who -
is the blocker Tracey?  This was shot at a practice.  I like the photo because it captures the physical battle that is football.

Trouble for the quarterback.  Three blue-shirts closing in.  I
don't think she'll escape, do you?

Above is another shot from practice.  I think the red jersey means the ball carrier is the quarterback. 
In this case the quarterback is in trouble.  I like the shot because it is full of anticipation.  There's about to be a collision.  Look at the blue shirt in the right foreground.  She's winding up for a big hit.  Doesn't she know not to hit her own quarterback?

If you meet Ski Tejeda in practice, you're happy she' on your team.
Or maybe not.  If she were on another team you'd only bump into
her twice a year.  On your own team, you meet her regularly in
practices.  What a great tackler!

Speaking of big hits, I love this shot.  In the game or in practice, Ski lays big hits on whoever has the ball.  Look at the dirt being kicked up by the runner as the impact breaks her traction.  She is going down hard.  And is thankful Ski is on her team.  And Ski is still playing.  She's a grandma and has been playing a dozen years now and she is still strong and rough and one of my favorite Outlaws.

Okay, now for the full size wall-to-wall photos.  I think I'll post them first, then try to explain.  If you find these photos puzzling, you're right.  Look at them and see if you can figure out what's going on.

What you see is a disconnect.  In the foreground is the Outlaws offensive line, except for the center.
Way far away you see a lone Outlaw in front of the yard line marker.  That's the center.  She
has just snapped the ball to the ball carrier, Monica.  So you have the Offensive line over here, near
the camera.  You have Monica taking the snap from center with only a lone wide receiver in
the neighborhood.  What?!!!

This shot was made just a second after the one above.  Monica has the ball and is starting to run around
the left end.  Her wide receiver is out there to provide the block.  The other team is confused.  But some
are getting the idea.  Go to where the ball is.  I'll have to ask Monica how this worked out.  She looks to
be in trouble with two blockers, the center and wide receiver, and eleven would-be tacklers.

Football is a whole lot about strategy, about doing the unexpected.  If you can confuse the other team, chances are you'll get a big gain.  In this case coach successfully confused the opponent.  And me, too.  If you line the blockers up away from the ball, the defense has to make a decision.  Line up over the ball?  Or line up across from the blockers? 

Now the answer isn't as obvious as we might think.  What if the d-line lines up over center and ignores the o-line?  And what if Monica takes the snap from center and throws a lateral pass back to her right, toward the camera, to a receiver hiding behind the o-line.  That receiver would have a six-blocker escort to the end zone.  Would the defense be able to recover fast enough to come this way and make the tackle.

Sadly, we'll never know.  In fact, I don't even have the photos after Monica took off.  I have no idea how this crazy play ended. 

If you see Monica, ask her to tell us how it came out.  I'll post her reply when I have it.

Football is fun.  Funny sometimes.  Strange sometimes.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Outlaws Cookies

This is the cookie tray before cookies were distributed
to the players.  These are really cool!
In my last post I talked about cool cookies someone had provided the Outlaws.  For each player and coach there was a little cookie with the appropriate jersey number or identification. 

The cookies were provided by a business in Austin called "Iced Sweets."  Here's a link: Iced Sweets Facebook Page.

Lily saw my blog post and identified the source.   Here is her comment: 

The cookies were from one of our sponsors, Iced Sweets. Some of the girls chose to keep theirs as mementos and not eat them. I, of course, ate mine as soon as I could get my hands on them after the game! :) They were well worth the wait - delicious!!

A few of the cookies so you can see what Iced Sweets did.
I have a birthday coming up - next April.  Wonder if they
can come up with suitable cookies to mark that day?

Iced Sweets is a sponsor of the Outlaws.  We've talked before about the cost of fielding a football team and the players having to find funds, often by finding sponsors.  We hope Outlaws fans and player alike show appreciation to sponsors by buying whatever they are selling.

In the case of Iced Sweets, that should be easy enough to do. 

In case you missed it above, here's a link to their Facebook page.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Anticipation; Win; MaryLou Spence

Lily smiling as she heads to the
field, anticipating a great game.
There was excitement in the air at Round Rock's Dragon Stadium Saturday.  Everyone was smiling, focused, dancing. 

Something special is going on with the Outlaws this season.  Something I wouldn't have predicted.  This is a team of rookies.  I would guess 75% of the players are new.  Pre-game jitters are to be expected.  But there was a wonderful team spirit.  Lily Messina somehow manages to create that in her teams, a positive spirit of family. 

There was dancing...
And more dancing (he was good!).

Megan Riley hanging signs in the
stands.  Couldn't play today because
of a damaged knee.
Not all song and dance.  But the song was loud as the guy in the booth tested the sound system at full bore.  Some serious stuff was going on.  As taping signs in front of the grand stand to inspire the crowd.
Or scouting the other team.  I think this is the first time we've played this Tulsa Threat team.  Former coach and still a part of the Outlaws, Narlen Baker,  spent some time studying the opponents in their fancy green socks and matching uniforms. 

Coach Narlen Baker checking out the opponent.

The Outlaws sported fancy new uniforms for this season.  Unfortunately I didn't see them.  I had something come up (happens to me a lot lately) and I had to leave before the game started.  Hopefully I'll get some shots at the next game - May 12?! 

Or maybe you know MaryLou Spence.  If so, visit her Facebook page. 

MaryLou planning her pre-game photos.
MaryLou has been a big supporter of the Outlaws for several years.  She comes with her camera back strapped to her back and she shoots hundreds of photos.  I'm always competing with her (she doesn't know it) and always a little frustrated because she gets better shots than I do. 

MaryLou Spence getting in the middle of things for some great photos.

One of the best photos of the day Saturday is one I didn't get.  Of MaryLou.  She was out on the field - I did get a picture of that - during pre-game warm-ups.  The great shot of her as a dedicated photographer had her laying down on turf and shooting up at players going through pre-game drills.  That's dedication. 

MaryLou is a part of the team in a way I'll never be.  I hang out at the fringe, shoot from a distance with my 300mm lens.  MaryLou is one of the Outlaws.  MaryLou is part of the enthusiasm, the excitement, the family. 

Someone - I wonder if it was she - brought cookies to the game.  They were decorated to resemble the Outlaws new uniforms, at least one cookie for each player and coach with the player's number. 

If MaryLou didn't bring the cookies recorded them photographically and posted many of the photos on Facebook.  Her pre- and post-game photos capture the spirit of the team.  If you know MaryLou ask her to share her photos.  We could post some her if she doesn't mind, or put a link here. 

Does all that rah rah team spirit stuff help win games?  I've always been skeptical.  I'm not that emotional and I'm suspicious of public display.  But seeing the Outlaws spirit in MaryLou's photos - I've become a believer. 

This could be a great season in Austin. 

Oh, I forgot to mention - the Outlaws won 7-6.

Monday, April 9, 2012


Saturday, April 14,  is the first game of the season.  I'll be there.  And it is nearby.  At Round Rock High School's Dragon Stadium on Hwy 620 a mile or two west of IH-35.

Sorry this blog has been neglected the past week.   I was going to say I went to a car show, which I did.  But that was nearly two weeks ago.  Austin Mobility Solutions is an amazing business at Pflugerville.  They sell and service vans for the disabled.  I got to know them when I needed to transport my wife's step-dad who in a wheelchair. 

Two weeks ago they held an open house and also hosted a car show.  I shot lots of photos.  This was my first attempt at shooting cars.  I'd say I didn't do a very good job. 

When I first started  photographing and interviewing Outlaws, I asked "Why?"  Why would women play football? 

When I was photographing some of the cars at the car show, I found myself asking "Why?"  Why would anyone do that to a car?  The cars were cool.  

I've been working on another project for my friends at Austin Mobility Solutions.  I'm learning that I do much better shooting action sports.  Like at the Outlaws practice on Saturday, March 31. 

With opening day a week away the players are having to get serious.  The March 31 practice was the week after the Waco scrimmage.  I'm probably seeing something not really there but I have to believe player's view of the practice had to change just a little after testing skills on a field with an opponent.
The receiver above is focused.  Concentrating.  I wonder if she is imagining real-game conditions.  Someone in a different colored uniform is going to try to get between me and the ball, and going to try to knock the ball loose if I do catch it.  But the one on the left is smiling.  This is fun!  Serious fun.  Doesn't that describe football?

I don't know why people do all those amazing things to their cars.  I do have a pretty good idea of why people, even women, play football.  Serious fun.

Serious fun. I'm looking forward to some serious fun next Saturday. 


Monday, April 2, 2012

Bruises; Practice, yawn; We're ready;

The scrimmage at Waco was a week ago and some of the Outlaws are still feeling the pain.  Football is a collision sport and causes bruises and sprains.  At practice Saturday (March 31) the training table was busy as the team doctor worked on miscellaneous pains and strains. 

The Waco scrimmage was the first full contact play for many of the Outlaws.  There are lots of rookies this season.  One rookie observed that she was surprised at how intense the play really is.  The Outlaws scrimmaged an experienced Dallas Diamonds team, lots of our rookies against lots of their veterans.  It was eye-opening.  You just can't get the "feel" of the game in practices.

Not the fanciest socks but interesting. 
I'm finding practice boring.  I can hardly wait for the big first game, April 14 at the Round Rock High School Dragon Stadium.  There's not enough action for me at practice.  I find myself looking for any subject worthy of my camera. 

Diedra Holland with matching  socks and shoe
  In pink.  The socks have little pink piggies.  I
wonder if she has other socks/shoes
ensembles at home. 
And find myself going back to my favorite but overdone subject, socks.  Sorry.  And only three sets of socks deserved featuring in my blog.  The socks thing started a long time ago with Tiffany, who wasn't dressed for practice today (she was one of the training table subjects).  I can't tell whether other players are wearing fancy socks to show up Tiffany or just because that's the way they always dress. 

Doesn't matter.  I got three socks photos at practice Saturday. 

The other socks shots were static.  This is an action photo.  Hope
you're impressed that I can get a clear shot of socks in motion.
The player is running to receive a ball.  I'll post the full
photo sometime later.
Then I moved on looking for action.   Actually one of the socks pics included some action.  In a future post I'll publish the full picture of this blue-socks player running and catching a football.

But really, the action at practice has been, well, not that active.  Now the players have been feeling the action.  They're running around and working up a sweat and getting ready for the season.  But the team hasn't been scrimmaging with each other.  The hitting hasn't been serious.  

So I found myself just getting close-ups.  And as I've edited the photos I came up with a theme:  "We're ready."  As you check out these photos do you see what I see?  A sense of preparedness.  We've been practicing.  We've worked out under simulated game conditions.  We're in shape.  We know what to do.  Now bring on those Tulsa Eagles.

Practice has been boring for me but the players are working out, running drills, working up a sweat.
This is QT.  I've learned she has played Lacrosse.  I'll have to interview her for this blog and
learn more.  I don't understand Lacrosse.  How does it compare with football?

I like catching a serious expression.  Don't know her name.

Taking a break in practice to rehydrate.  I'm bored but
the players aren't.  But they're ready for the season to begin.

This is Cookie, one of the Quarterbacks.  She looks
ready for the season to begin. 

Should know her name by now but I don't.  As I
said in a prior post I'm kinda shy and try to stay out
of the way and don't annoy the players with a bunch
of silly questions like "What's your name?'

I think her name is Ruby.  She is a quarterback.  I couldn't find her on last season's roster
so I guess she's a rookie.  One of  these days I'll resume my player profiles and I'll profile
her along with QT and Cookie and whichever other players can make time to meet me
for an interview.

The Outlaws will be playing their games north this season, the first at Round Rock High School, the next three at a great sports stadium on Parmer Lane in Round Rock.  Four home games - mark your calendar:  April 14, May 12, May 19, and June 16.  There are away games at Dallas and Houston, an easy drive from Austin.  The team is ready.  I'm ready.