Outlaws Training Camp

To answer your burning question a few weeks too late: yes, I watched “the big game” a couple Sundays ago. Hey – roll your eyes if you want. I’m not going to be the one the NFL makes an example of. I can already see the headline: “Budding Blogger Ignores Super Bowl and Owes NFL 10% of Income Until Further Notice.” (Of course, you and I both know that would make the joke on them.) Anyway, all things considered, I enjoyed the game. And it was a surprise finish too! (For me, anyway.) I mean, dousing the winning coach in clear Gatorade? Guess the bookies in Vegas really know what they’re doing, because clear Gatorade only paid 2-1. I rooted for the 16-1 underdog, purple Gatorade. (Guess there’s always next year, huh kid?)

I do have some good news for football fans feeling the harsh sting of the end of the NFL season, the Austin Outlaws are starting their 2008 campaign April 19. Michael Jordan – the Outlaws quarterbacks and offensive line coach – greeted this year's squad with the following words of advice: “Within the first 15 minutes of practice, you should be dripping wet. Run everywhere. No one walks on our football field.”

Considering the players raise the $50,000 each season costs through sponsorships, share one 55-seat charter bus for games, and buy all their own equipment, I’m guessing his advice won’t fall on deaf ears.

The Outlaws have been a nonprofit, player-owned, full-contact women’s football team since 2000. Currently, they’re members of the National Women’s Football Association, and have been since they left the Independent Women's Football League back in 2003. They switched leagues after tier requirements within the IWFL restricted competition and a poorly ran championship between the New York Sharks and the Austin Outlaws back in ’03, which was held in Oregon for some reason, led to some “disputes” between the two cities’ players. (Evidently there’s more than one good reason why teams are usually kept on opposite sides of the field.) Strangely, traveling to a previously selected locale for the IWFL championship game proved too pricey for our hometown girls. (I guess our Outlaws’ sponsors haven’t come through with the team’s private jet yet. Weird.)

At any rate, roughly 15 new players made the 2008 squad. After speaking with offensive and defensive line(wo)man and general manager Lily Messina, I think the new players’ raw passion (a few travel bi-weekly from San Antonio and Marble Falls for practice) coupled with the offensive leadership the team holds in its returning rushers (Monica Gauck and Shadana Hurd, who both average 10 yards per carry) will prove enough against the Houston Cyclones come April.

I asked Messina how she became so passionate about a sport generally run sans women. She told me that her love of football started in high school. She was on the yearbook staff, and whenever an opportunity to cover their football team arose – she was there. She played in the Powder Puff games, but, not surprisingly, that was the extent of her high school football career. In college, she took up kickboxing and while watching a UT game back in 2000 the omission of women from other full-contact sports, but especially football, hit home for her. She said it just looked like so much fun, and she couldn’t help herself. She blurted out to her friends: “It just sucks that girls can’t play football.”

At a subsequent Austin Ice Bats game she and the same group of cohorts heard an announcement over the loudspeaker that the Austin Outlaws were looking for players. Her friend pointed out that she was just complaining about not being able to play. So the next Saturday she was on the line at a winter practice – and she's been with the team ever since.

“It was cold and raining. I came in late so I got in where I fit in. I was put on the line and I was hitting. It was so much fun. I was sore, but I kept going back. It was the best and worst experience all at once.”

Their first home game is May 10 against the New Orleans Blaze. You might as well save the date. They already paid for the refs, lights, and ambulances.

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Monica Gauck, Shadana Hurd, lily messina

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