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Are you ready for some football?

I hadn’t been to a real football game in I don’t know how many years. I don’t watch it much on TV, but I love to watch it live. Now, here I was with great seats right on the sidelines, waiting for the games to begin!

Red and white jerseys were scattered across the field, kick-off was about to take place. The referees stood ready on the sidelines and the tension was mounting. Balls hurled back and forth on the sideline, as the teams warmed up their throwing arms. Both teams lined up, staring each other down, yellow flags proudly strapped to their waists.

The ball was hiked and I watched Zoe Speelmon’s red pigtails waving in the wind as she put her game face on to take down the opposing team member. I could almost hear an audible "grrr." The ball was thrown wild, but Max Icardo managed to hold onto the football anyway. Conorey Vogel blocked for Max, who swerved to the left, then to the right, finally running several yards before being stripped of his flags.

Running back to the team huddle, coaches encouraged the kids to continue with each play. Again the ball was hiked and thrown to another team member, straight into his chest. Wham! I could almost feel the pain myself! Then I heaved a sigh of relief; the ball was a brightly colored nerf ball! Whew! No damage; these are only 8- to 9-year-olds playing here.

When my own son, Dustin, was playing football, I can remember the coaches yelling at him, but the Sandpoint coaches are evidently playing a whole different ball game. These coaches are supportive and explain to the kids why they are required to trade out players, so no feelings get hurt. It’s not unusual to see a coach on his knees, eye level with a kid, talking about a play that the child thought may have not gone quite right. The kids are taught good sportsmanship, even picking up the other team’s flags after ripping them from their waists. I did hear a few parents—only a few—screaming for their kids to "take em’ out," but I am sure they were just caught up in the heat of the moment. Flag football can be quite competitive for parents.

I loved listening to the kids talking to each other on the sidelines through their mouth guards: "diya seme knocktha dude dow?" It was like listening to a patient at a dentist’s office.

Even the rain couldn’t stop these kids from flying across the field, although at one point, I thought my own seat was in jeopardy—the kids don’t always know where out of bounds begins and ends! Who cares if a little mud gets slung, it’s all a part of the game, and puddles are just a positive bonus. Whistles blowing, refs screaming, "one alligator, two alligator, three alligator," (evidently the kids can’t cross the line until the third count). Rules are not always explained well during games.

Two games per Saturday, fifteen minute halves and 30 minute games from beginning to end, and pure innocence. Siblings bouncing up and down on the sidelines, impatiently waiting for either their turn or a McDonald’s trip at the end of the games. I voted for the Mickey D’s trip. If you get a chance, check out the games played on Saturdays at Travers Park in Sandpoint. It just might turn into a football game you never forget!

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Jinx Beshears Jinx Beshears is a southern transplant to North Idaho, and shares her confusion with the Pacific Northwest Lifestyle in her column, Jinxed. When not writing, or living, her outlandish stories, she's generally lost somewhere in the mountains with her dog, Aspen.

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