Powder Puff Football, 1972; need I say more? Imagine it, college freshman girls, out to have a good time and prove themselves to be tough young women of substance. Really, we just wanted to join the team because the coach was super hot as well as all of his friends who came out to “assist.”
Lots of guys showed up for practices and hung out at the field, volunteering their services. They taught us how to pass and catch the ball, how to block and run, dodge and dive. We were accompanied as we ran around the track, encouraging cat calls spurring us on.
It wasn’t long before we were referred to as “the cute team,” every one of us slim and fit and showing up to practice in full makeup with our long hair in sleek pony tails. They swished over our shoulders and swung back and forth as we ran, turned, and threw the ball. We didn’t have uniforms so bellbottom jeans and sweatshirts had to do. Somehow we managed to make it all a little sexy.
It was fall and the air was crisp with skies crystal clear. We rose early and went to classes all day, studied all afternoon, and still had energy to spare. Might as well use it up on the field flirting our way through the rigors of powder -puff football training.
We practiced every night until it was too dark to see the football and too cold to feel it in our numb fingers. We went back to our apartments tired and hungry. Dinner was a toasted cheese sandwich, a hot shower and bed. Not a day went by that we didn’t wake up sore, and proud of it.
It didn’t take long for our team to learn the necessary skills to play a decent
scrimmage. We were faithful to our practices and diligent in learning our plays. Much to everyone’s surprise, this group of girly girls transformed into a real team. We’d started out just to have some fun and ended up loving it so much we’d actually gotten pretty good.
It was soon time for the league games to start and for us to make our coach proud. We had our first game. It was a little confusing with the other team running every which way all over the place, while we ran our plays in perfect formation, exactly as we’d been taught. We noticed they weren’t nearly as cute as we were and they certainly didn’t know their stuff very well. We won by a mile, feeling proud and energized. A small crowd had turned out for the game and cheered both teams on. It was great to be in the spotlight, especially the winning spotlight.
The season was short and went surprisingly well until the last game where we were going face to face with the toughest team in the league. We were terrified to play these girls. They had a bad reputation for bullying on the field. It was, after all, flag football, so the idea of body slams and flat out tackles discouraged us. Coach called a special practice the night before the big game, the final game of the season and the one to determine the champion.
“They’re a team of big girls and they intimidate and play dirty,” Coach said. “I’m going to teach you how to defend yourselves. First,” he demonstrated, “I want you to run with your elbows out, like this.” Coach looked like he was doing the chicken dance and we all laughed.
“You think it’s funny? You think you don’t need to know this stuff?” He looked ready to cry. “This team hasn’t lost a game either and they don’t plan on losing to a bunch of prissy girls like you.” Coach pointed at us like we were standing there in dresses. “They’re tough, they’re mean, and they want to take first place in the league. You want to win, you need to pay attention and take this practice seriously.”
By the time the game rolled around the next evening, we were terrified and ready to run for our lives. But we pretended to be tough and prepared to take on the worst of the worst.
Looking toward the horizon, we spotted a gang of enormous women. They swaggered across the field in our direction. Each one of them were taller, wider, and thicker than all of us put together and they were dressed head to toe, in black. Every one of them had black lines under their eyes and wore their hair cut short to the scalp. They looked at us and sneered. I was suddenly afraid my pony tail was going to be pulled out at the roots. I looked around for a hat but couldn’t find one.
“Coach,” someone gasped in a whisper, “Are they all really girls? I mean look at them.”
“That’s why we had the special practice,” Coach reassured.
The whistle blew, the game began and we shook with fear. They threw giant elbows into our sides, massive forearms into our throats and size ten sneakers kicked our legs. We wanted to go home, but not one of us did. We ran back to Coach at half time, wondering how we were going to survive the second half. The score was, miraculously, tied. They may have been twice our size, but our skills were much better and we were swift.
Coach was busy yelling at the ref for not calling penalties and yelling at the other coach for teaching his “ladies” to play so incredibly dirty. We were yelling to Coach to come coach us! We needed to know what to do.
“Use your elbows like I showed you, just like they’re doing to you,” Coach yelled. “Kick em in the shins, trip em, go for the throat! Now get out there and win this game!”
Our mascara was smeared and our hair was flying out of our ponytails and we were scared to death, shaking in our little sneakers. The other team was laughing, jeering, and taunting us, telling us they were going to kill us. Who were these women anyway? Where were their manners?
It really wasn’t as good a day to die as any, we insisted. After all, we’d just joined the league to have a little fun. It was late, it was cold, and it was getting dark. All we wanted to do was go home; not die.
Our opponents were anything but normal eighteen year old females. Seriously, were they all on steroids? Yet, we had to consider all of Coaches time and efforts. He really had put his heart and soul into our team and suddenly it was important to us to do our best, make a statement. We were petite by comparison, but we were fast and skilled.
Coach called the play. You could hear our bones rattle as we charged ahead. Suddenly, Prissy Missy, our team ballerina, intercepted a pass. We formed a shield around her and tore down the field, dodging and darting, elbows flying, feet kicking, screaming and yelling at the top of our lungs. Missy flew gracefully over the line and took a bow. We’d scored. The few team members left on their feet jumped up and down while the rest of us picked ourselves off the cold muddy ground. We grinned proudly at each other through tears of sheer terror and relief. The game was over. We’d not only won, we’d taken the championship.
When the next fall rolled around, oddly enough, not one of us signed up to play Powder-Puff Football. We’d come to the conclusion that enjoying getting beat up on the field was kind of a freshman thing. Now that we were sophomores we were sure to find something more sophisticated to do. Yet we couldn’t help showing up at the field every now and then to cheer on Coach’s newest team of freshman girly girls. Wow, we chuckled. The guy sure knew how to pick em!