Thursday, September 27, 2012

Is Breaking the Rules ever the Right Thing to do?

Do you think the NFL is monitoring this blog? 

My favorite zebra photo.  That's Calvin throwing the flag as an Outlaw
is administering punishment upon a Houston blocker who has
been stretching the rules.

A few weeks ago I did a three-part series on officials.  I called them zebras.  Lots of photos, a little narrative.  I expressed some admiration for the job they do.  I said evidence of the quality of their work is that I never notice them during the games.  Only on my computer when an official shows up blocking my camera view of the play.

Within a couple weeks of my posts on officials NFL officiating becomes big - BIG - news.  Monday night's amazing officiating errors gave the game to Seattle when Green Bay obviously won.  I wonder if all this focus on officiating was in any way inspired by our blog?  Nah.

Tonight's game welcomes back the official officials. 

Don't be surprised if players hug the zebras. 

A while back I did a couple posts about stretching the rules.  I suggested that stretching the rules is part of the game. Sometimes it is sound strategy. If you're playing safety and the receiver has a step on you with a clear path to the end zone, interference, though illegal, may be the best thing to do. If you get caught interfering, the official will give the offense the ball at the point of the foul - and not in the end zone for six points. If you don't get caught... Well if the officials don't see, is it still cheating? 

Here's a link to a video of the final play Monday.   If you play it full screen and watch closely at about 14 seconds into the video, you can see flagrant offensive interference.  Seattle number 81, Tate, pushes Green Bay number 37, Shields, firmly in the back, both hands, knocking him to the ground,  out of the play.  That should have ended the game with a Seattle penalty and a Green Bay win, regardless of your opinion on who caught or didn't catch the pass. 

But the officials didn't see it.

If the official didn't see it was it still cheating? 

I'm an NFL fan.  I enjoy college games,  I enjoy the Outlaws games, I even enjoy little league games.  But the NFL plays at a whole different level.  These are the best athletes in the world.  The level of the play is amazing. 

They're even the best at stretching the rules.  Watching games these past three weeks, we've seen case after case of an NFL professional player stretching the rules and not being caught by the unofficial officials.  NFL games have seven officials (the Outlaws games have five).  Seven zebras to watch twenty-two players.  Twenty-two players who are battling for their careers.  Careers that depend on winning. 

The most striking thing for me in these three weeks is how good the official officials are.  It is incredibly difficult is to control twenty-two highly motivated, super talented athletes.  Athletes who stretch the rules because winning is vitally important.  Sometimes they don't get caught holding or interfering.  Even if they do get caught the prescribed penalty may be more desirable than letting your opponent make the play. 

Which raises an interesting philosophical question.

I checked my Outlaws photos looking for pictures of Outlaws stretching the rules.  I have a few from previous year's teams but none from the 2012 season.

Holding, hand to face.  Two rules being broken in one play.

Holding.  Illegal unless the Outlaw (in black) has the ball.
Holding.  Maybe delaying the tackler just enough,
giving the runner a slight edge.

Should the 2012 team should have stretched the rules just a little more?  This wasn't the Outlaws best season.  Would it have been better with a few more holds? 

In sports the goal is to win.  Rules define how you play.  The rules come with two parts.  First, defining the rule, what is legal and what isn't.  Second, defining the consequences of breaking the rule. 

Here's the philosophical question for you: 

If the consequences of breaking the rule are less than the consequences of obeying, shouldn't you go ahead and break the rule?   Tate broke the rule and the Seahawks won. 

As I raise the question I struggle against my own morality.  I value integrity.  I believe in doing what's right, in living by the rules.  Yet here I am suggesting, advocating even, deliberate breaking of the rules of the game. 

I think the answer is in the last word of the last paragraph:  "game." 

Football is a game. 

Life isn't.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Some Favorite Photos

Browsing some of my photos.  Some I kind of like.  Thought you might like them, too.  

I love the battles going on in any football game.  Especially when an Outlaw is winning.  QT Preston is one of my favorite Outlaws, one who smiles a lot and works hard and takes direction.  Inexplicably I don't have many good photos of her on the field.  Here's one I like.

QT Preston controlling a Mustang defender.
I comment occasionally about the size factor in football.  I admire the way smaller players handle competing with bigger ones.  Marisa "Cookie" Rivas is about 5' 4" and under 150 pounds.  She is quarterback so often attracts unfriendlies.  She holds her own and keeps coming back for more.

Not sure if the straight arm worked.  The defender is
bigger.  I like Cookie's spirit, fighting to escape and
throw the pass.

Kind of cute?  But there is zero affection in that hug.
Cookie is smaller.  Cookie is fighting.

This is an illegal grab of the face mask.  I'll have to
ask Cookie if she remembers, if the penalty was called.

Another hug. 

Another of my favorite photo types is close-ups of anyone associated with the Outlaws.  I like when I catch them dealing with adverse conditions.  There were some cold days early in the 2012 season.  I liked the shot of Lily Messina and coach Kent Morris making notes and braving the elements.

Lily and Mo doing whatever it is coaches do with
pen and paper.

Another close-up I like is the face in the helmet.  This is one of my favorite Outlaws, linebacker Lucinda Benitez.  I've been planning to profile her in this blog but she lives waaaaay south and I won't travel that far, and I live waaaay north and she won't come this way.  So she'll never get the fame this blog affords.  I like this photo of her shot at a practice session this spring. 

Lucinda "Precious" Benitez.  She looks soft and
sweet but this young lady is one tough

I've probably posted the following photo before.  I love the way football is a blue collar sport.  You have to get down and dirty and tough and determined and dogged.  The photo is Tiffany James grabbing a runner by the foot and hanging on until other Outlaws arrive to complete the tackle.  My kinda football.

Tiffany James playing the game the way
is is supposed to be played.


Friday, September 21, 2012

Tryouts Tomorrow

Right now you're probably asking yourself how you can get featured in this blog. 

Try out for the Outlaws tomorrow. 

Here's a link to the Outlaws Facebook page where you can get the details about the tryouts.'s-Football/120676341340196#!/events/387103554677691/

This blog was established in honor of the wonderful wacky wild women who play NFL-rules full-contact football.  Every post is either about the players or the fans or some related topic.  If you're an Austin Outlaw you have a good chance to get featured in the blog. 

Trying out is fun.  You get to see how fast you can run. 

Actually is isn't a race.  You're running to establish
your own time.  But athletes are naturally competitive. 

You get to see how many sit ups you can do. 

So much fun!

You get to see how far you can jump. 

Do orange shoelaces improve jumping distance?

Football is fun.  I'm convinced football has replaced baseball as the all American sport.  Starting in August and continuing through the Superbowl, football monopolizes the sports pages, television, fans.  Watching the game is fun.  Playing is more fun. 

If you're female, you probably haven't had much opportunity to play football.  Maybe your brothers or male cousins let you play in one of their pick-up games.  On condition you don't ask special treatment.  Playing against a bunch of guys isn't really going to give you a real appreciation of the game.  Better to play against a bunch of women.  But it is rare you can find twenty-one other women to put on pads, cleats, helmets... and go mix it up.

Well, Lily Messina, Outlaws founder, has taken care of that.  Come try out for the Outlaws and you will get the opportunity to play that wonderful game.  And you'll find out why the game is so popular.

See how much fun they're having?  And this is just during tryouts.  Or is this a practice session?

I've interviewed lots of Outlaws to find out why women play football.  The love of the game is a big reason.  Breaking stereotypes came up frequently.  Doing what people say you can't do. 

Outlaw players are nice people.
A big bonus is the camaraderie.  The women and fans of the Outlaws are some really nice people.  After a few weeks working out in practices, the Outlaws become practically family. 

So come on over to Pflugerville tomorrow and check it out.  And if you have any athletic lady friends who are a bit bigger than average, bring them along.  Football loves BIG. 

Who knows, some day you may get famous. Someday you may get featured in this blog.  Hint - it helps if you wear chartreuse shoes.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Chartreuse Shoes

The Cowboys lost to the Seahawks yesterday, 27-7.  Not a great game.  My attention wandered.  I noticed the Seahawks uniforms.  Noticed their shoes.  Many Seahawks players wore Chartreuse shoes!  I was shocked.
Seattle Seahawks Chartreuse Shoes.

I switched to the Steelers-Jets game.  Many of the Steelers wore yellow shoes.  Yellow! 

Pittsburgh Steeler with yellow-trimmed shoes.

My favorite team is the Lions. I grew up in Detroit.  They played the Forty-Niners in the late game Sunday.  The Lions uniforms are Honolulu blue and silver.  Many of the Lions wore shoes trimmed in Honolulu blue. 
Detroit Lions Shoes trimmed in Honolulu blue - almost baby blue. 

What in the world is happening?  Football players wearing pastel colored shoes.  How long has this been going on?  What are we doing to what once was the magnificent sport of football?

Before I go on I need to insert a disclaimer.  You know I’m an Outlaws fan.  I love the Outlaws.  I admire the Outlaws.  There are some serious athletes on the team.  They play good hard-hitting football.  They love the game the way I love the game.  They are tough minded individuals, willing to ignore social stereotypes to play a game society says women shouldn’t.  Nothing I say in this blog should suggest anything but the highest regard for the women of football.

I’ve been photographing Outlaws games and practices for years.  I did a featured player thing on their website and now this blog to promote interest in the team and attendance at their games.   

Tiffany's socks - just a few examples.
One of my favorite Outlaws is Tiffany James. In an early interview, Tiffany told me about wanting to wear colorful socks with her uniform. Her story got me noticing socks in women’s professional football and inspired a couple fun blog posts on the subject. 

Deidra Holland in pretty pink shoes with
matching socks.
In the 2012 season I noticed Deidra Holland wearing socks decorated with kitty cats?  And pink shoes.  Pink!  With pink shoelaces. 

Two words you will never see in the same sentence are football and feminine.  When I noticed Tiffany’s socks and Deidra’s shoes, I enjoyed the idea that women can do masculine things while retaining femininity. 
This male/female issue in society intrigues me because I feel strongly both ways.  Women are different from men.  If girls have the strength and athletic ability, should they be allowed to play on the guys football team?  I can think of lots of reasons.  Reasons for, reasons against.  It is the kind of issue that makes life interesting.  It is one reason women’s football interesting.  The novelty of women playing a violent sport, the reality that they play pretty well, thank you. 
The conflict for Tiffany wanting to do something masculine – hitting people and rolling around in the dirt – while doing something feminine – wearing “pretty” socks, struck me as an interesting gender conflict.  Coach Frank said no, you can’t wear those socks.  A natural masculine response. 

Having earlier noticed socks in women’s football, this season I started noticing shoes. 
Pretty red and white.

Pretty red and black.

Pretty blue.

One shoe trimmed in blue, one an odd design...?  I don't
think this photo fits in this discussion but I couldn't resist.

I characterized the pretty shoes and pretty socks as feminine.  It in no way diminished my appreciation of the amazing women who play on the Austin Outlaws full-contact NFL rules football team.  If anything, it strengthened my respect.  People doing what they want in defiance of stereotypes without giving up their real selves. 

Still, I have to admit, I like the down and dirty stuff.  I like seeing the ladies (and the men) with uniforms dirty, shoes dusty.  That’s the essence of the sport.  If you’re going to play football, you’re going to hit the ground, roll in the dirt. You’re going to get your uniform dirty.

Football isn't about fashion or femininity.  It is about getting down in the dirt.
If you play football you're going to get your uniform dirty.  You don't
see any pretty shoes in this photo, do you.  (Somehow Tiffany's pretty
socks got in the photo...)

Dirty is masculine.  Pretty is feminine.  Pretty socks and pretty shoes bring feminine to football.  Kinda cute.  Just fine in a women's professional football league. 

But not in men's football.  Not in the NFL. 

Then I see the Seahawks wearing pretty chartreuse shoes.  And the Steelers wearing pretty yellow shoes. And the Lions wearing Honolulu blues shoes (almost baby-blue.)  What!  What is happening to football?

What is happening to the NFL? 

In one of the games I watched this weekend the runner was out of bounds and the defender gave him a little push.  Two hands, light touch. The runner didn’t even fall down.  But the official threw his pretty yellow flag and assessed a fifteen yard penalty for unnecessary roughness.  Roughness?  Man, that wasn’t rough.   

These are really football shoes.

I played in the years of black shoes, high-top for the linemen, low-cut for runners.  The first face masked were single bars that offered feeble protection against someone stepping on your nose.  But did provide a handy handle for someone who wants to grab you and whip you around a little before dropping you to the ground. 

Pretty?  No way. 

What is this world coming to?

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Profile - Maile Capers-Cristobal

Maile Capers-Cristobal
Third quarter, last game of the 2012 season.  We’re losing and aren’t going to catch up. The Houston center hikes the ball and then a huge hit sends her practically flying backwards into her backfield.  Next play it happens again. Hike, hit. And again.  Like nothing I’ve seen before in a football game.  The center hiking the ball and getting driven violently backwards. 

What was happening? 

Maile Capers-Cristobal. 

Normally an offensive left tackle, Maile is playing defensive  nose guard, lining up nose-to-nose with the center.  Coach Lance told her to “drill the center.”  She did.  After just a few of those big hits I started feeling sorry for the Houston center.  How must it feel having a six-foot three-hundred pound missile driving into you? 


Describing the experience later, Maile said she was just doing what coach said to do.  “It was kind of fun.”  She laughs at herself saying she hadn’t played defense before and “was so busy pushing the center backwards that I forgot to release and tackle the ball carrier.” 

Maile is the biggest outlaw at 6’ 1” and about 300 pounds.  She says she was tall all her life. In  school photos from elementary through high school, she towers over the rest of the class

She competed in air-rifle shooting
but I like this shot of Maile
with a pistol.
She would have played football but girls weren’t allowed. Maile helped the team as assistant trainer.  And water girl.”   She tried out for competitive Judo but they didn’t have a weight class for her.  She participated in ROTC and was a champion in air rifling.

Maile grew up in Hawaii.  She says it was great, “living on beach – any day of the week go to the beach.  We learned to swim before we could walk.”  She says “Hawaii is like paradise, mountains, cool breeze, life is good…”

So what brought you to Texas? 

Hawaii has the highest cost of living in the US.  It costs twice as much to live there as in Tennessee, and almost that much more compared with Texas.  When the cost got too high Maile’s mom booted her out (it was a friendly boot).  Maile joined her father in Austin. 

She was working at HEB when Austin Rage player, KJ Scheib, looked her over.  KJ played in the offensive line for the Rage and later at center for the Outlaws.  She is 5’10” and around two hundred pounds.  Maile had three inches on her in height and nearly a hundred pounds in weight.  KJ  asked me f I do sports and have I ever thought about playing football. 

“What woman wouldn’t want to play football? 

Maile tried out for the Rage and made the team.  She played for the Rage until they folded.  Later she moved to the Outlaws where she plays offense and presents a formidable obstacle to would-be tacklers.  (After the fun she had in the last half of this season’s last game, I’ll bet she’ll play some defense next season.)

Being a little bigger can be an
advantage in blocking.

Maile blocking, protecting quarterback Cookie.

Sometimes reserved, Maile really is a lot of
fun, laughs a lot.
My sense of Maile was that she was reserved.  She agreed.  “I have been burned a lot of times.”  She keeps her guard up when she doesn’t know you.  But “when I have a beer in me – she laughs – I like to make people laugh.”  

She is fun loving and full of mischief.  Remember a craze called “planking,” where you use your body to imitate a board. Lay face down, straight and firm, arms at side. Not moving.  The fun is where you do it. She and friends had “planking wars” competing to plank in the funniest places.  Maile planked garbage cans, golf carts.  She and a couple friends did a three-way planking on a car, one on the hood, one the trunk, one on top.
Planking trash cans.
Planking a golf cart.

Maile’s sister Malia also plays for the Outlaws.  Both cite playing side by side with her sister as a highlight of being Outlaws.  The Outlaws experience has deepened their friendship.

Maile, #56,  and sister Malia, #50,  playing side-by-side.  Both say playing together is
a highlight of their Outlaws experience.

Asked how competitive they are, both sisters said “very”.  Starting with each other.  On my profile information form, both claimed “anything she can do I can do better.”   When do they compete?  Always.  Racing, board games, running games.” Homework was the worst; “I’m done and I can go out and play, you have to stay in …” Car racing – but Malia had the edge because she had a fast car.  Maile “had a Nissan Sentra, not a racing car, but got me from point A to point B."

Not enough chairs to go around?
Maile is there to help.
Who is stronger, I asked?  Both claimed the honor.  Maile offers as proof that she’s the one teammates call when moving to a new apartment and needing help with the heavy lifting.  At parties, if there aren’t enough chairs, teammates will “sit on me.”  She doesn’t mind having a couple friends sitting on her lap no matter how long the party. 

Maile is nicknamed “Tabs” because she collects soda can tabs.  It started when a friend of her mom had a child badly hurt.  Some program offered to pay for a treatment session in exchange for a gallon of tabs.   Maile collected tabs for this benefit and has continued collecting ever since.  How many tabs do you have now?  She doesn’t know.  “I have bags ful, tabs in my purse, tabs in my car.”  Now people like Christine Martinez and Rubi Reyna collect them for her.  It is  addicting. Smiling, “I put them in my pocket and they come out in the dryer.”    

Maile says she is lucky.  Seriously lucky.  She plays bingo at the “Balcones Bingo” and rarely loses. She won $1,000 in a single night.  She also loves free contests, like radio shows where the seventh caller wins.  She has won tickets to Sea World, Spurs games, concerts, Fiesta Texas, Black Eyed Pea, CDs. 

A portrait of sister Malia's dog.
She enjoys drawing and, in my estimation, has some artistic talent. 

I asked how she deals with a losing season, in view of her competitive spirit.  She said she is proud that the team finished the season, never quit.  In spite of losses, they kept practicing, kept fund raising.  And next year, this year’s rookies will return knowing what they’re doing.  Veterans will be back.  “I feel sorry for other teams.”

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Zebras - part 2, Calvin Townes

Calvin Townes inspired this min-series about the officials at Outlaws games.

This is a photo of Calvin Townes.  You'll have to stay to
the end of this post to see "The" great photo, the one
that inspired blog posts about the officials.

I had never noticed the officials at Outlaws games.  Except maybe their professionalism.  Always sharply dressed in clean, pressed, zebra-striped uniforms.  Always business-like in facilitating good clean games.  Always respectful of the players.  Always in the background, where officials belong.


Then one of my game photos captured Calvin Townes in action.  He was in perfect position to monitor the play, seeing live what I was seeing in freeze-frame – one player punching another (the punchee deserved it, she had been sneakily doing illegal things) – and throwing the yellow flag because punching is illegal. The photo perfectly (brilliantly?) told the whole story.  (You can see this photo at the end of this post.)


I asked Outlaws General Manager, Lily Messina, if she could get me the name of the official in the photo.  She surprised me by knowing immediately, that was Calvin Townes.  It happens that Calvin is a part of the Outlaws adventure, a contributor to their success.


Calvin and I have one thing in common, an enormous respect for the ladies of professional football.  When I visited Outlaws practices I was impressed at how hard the women worked at playing the game, how eager they were to learn.  Calvin, too, admires the Outlaws spirit and gives of his time to support them.


Calvin visiting with injured Outlaw
Jennifer Beaumont.  He genuinely
cares about the Outlaw players.
Lily says of Calvin, he's the guy who always makes sure we have a crew lined up for the season. He's always calling to see if we have any questions. He shows up at practices, walk-throughs, tryouts when we've asked him to. He treats us very well and takes care of us as an organization. You can tell he loves us and enjoys making contributions to helping our players”


He knows the players.  I asked Calvin about a pre-game photo of him with one of the Outlaws.  He said “That’s Amber Lyons. She’s number 32.  Amber is a great player.”

Outlaw #32 Amber Lyons posing with Calvin
before a game.

He cares.  When I asked him what the Referee’s job is (the referee is the official with the white hat who lines up behind the quarterback) Calvin said “He makes sure the quarterback doesn’t get killed.” 


Marcus Gravenburg and Calvin.
They travel to Waco to
officiate the annual scrimmage
with a couple Dallas teams.
A part of the Outlaws pre-season practice is a trip to Waco where they meet a couple Dallas teams for a scrimmage.  It is a great opportunity for rookies to get the feel of actual blocking and tackling and for veterans to size up the competition.  Calvin Townes and crewmate Marcus Gravenburg officiate these scrimmages.

Calvin officiating at the Waco scrimmage.  Note #32,
Amber Lyons, leading in making the tackle.  Calvin
says "She's a great player."
Marcus Gravenburg, Calvin's crewmate officiating at
a Waco scrimmage.

After the scrimmage they meet with the players and “answer questions about the rules, discuss how we’d handle certain situations, what they can and cannot do.”  Football is a complicated game with lots and lots of rules.  The Waco trip is a great opportunity for player learn.    

Calvin recently has been the timer at Outlaws games so you don’t see him on the field.  Before retiring to the timer desk he was an umpire.  The umpire lines up behind the defense, about ten yards off the line of scrimmage.  I consider that the most dangerous position for an official because the flow of the play is coming right at him.

Calvin is/was the umpire lining up behind the defensive line and linebackers.  In my mind this is
the toughest job for the officials because the action is going to come his way and he has to know
how to avoid getting involved but still make the call.

Lily tells about a time when running back Monica Gauck used the umpire as a blocker. “ After the short little pass to get just past the line of scrimmage, Monica scooted around the Ump.  The linebacker who thought she was going to tackle Monica ran into the Official instead.”


Calvin says he knows the game and knows how to position himself so he doesn’t get in the middle of the action.  But the officials are part of the field and running into them doesn’t stop the play.


In spite of his connection with the team, Calvin is every bit the professional during games.  Lily says of his love for the team, Unfortunately, that ceases at the coin toss and he treats us like any other team.”


Which leads to my favorite photo.  Where Calvin is in the perfect position to see what is going on.  He notices one of the Outlaws punching an opponent.  Even if the opponent deserved the punch, punching is illegal and Calvin throws the flag. 

On the field Calvin is professional, unbiased.  If an Outlaw breaks a rule, he'll throw the flag.
This is one of my all time favorite photos because it captures the whole story.  You can almost
hear the whistle blowing.  Well, it does omit whatever the Houston player was
doing before to incite the wrath of the Outlaw.


I first met the Outlaws when I retired from my day job and decided to pursue a lifelong ambition to be a sports photographer/writer.  I’ve found this team attracts a lot of really nice people and I’ve even done a couple posts to the blog labeled “nice people.”  Calvin Townes is one of them.  A really nice guy.  I’m happy I got to meet him and I’m happy to introduce him to you.