Super Bowl LIII (that’s 53 in English) was played in Atlanta a few weeks ago, with the famed Vince Lombardi trophy going to the New England Patriots for a record sixth time. But that was nothing compared to the rough and ready football players who came to South Florida a week after the Super Bowl to battle for the coveted trophy of South Florida LGBT flag football: the Sunshine Cup.
Held each Presidents Day weekend, this was the ninth year for the prestigious flag football tournament, held over two days on six fields at Lauderhill Municipal Stadium, Feb. 16-17.
About 324 players on 21 teams competed in men and women’s divisions, with teams coming from as far away as New York, Denver, Detroit, Philadelphia and Atlanta, along with six local teams from South Florida.
The 14 men’s teams competed in a round robin format the first day. The eight best teams advanced into the ‘A’ bracket, while the remaining six were relegated to the ‘B’ bracket. The ‘A’ winner gets a spot to compete for the National Gay Flag Football League “Gay Bowl” championship tournament in October. The female teams have their own Round Robin bracket of six teams.
The tournament has grown from six to 21 teams over the last decade. Commissioner Dominick Grasso said he has big plans for Sunshine Cup X next year. “Our goal is to get 25-30 teams and to have more teams from the west, including Los Angeles, San Diego and Phoenix.” Grasso said the league is already looking for new, bigger and better venues. “It’s a big stepping point for us. We’ve put in a lot of work and we have great sponsors.”
Local LGBT businesses contributed strong sponsorship for Sunshine Cup IX, with support from Hunters, Gym Bar, McSorely’s, Drynk and State Farm among others.
In case you didn’t make i out to see the teams play in person, it should be noted that this isn’t your “school days” type of flag football. “Some of them were college or semi-pro players,” noted Grasso, who also said many teams practice 2-3 times a week.
“Most of the A bracket teams are highly organized, memorizing plays or writing them on wristbands, while the B bracket players tend to show up and draw plays on the quarterback’s jersey,” he said.
Each game has two 25-minute-long halves. There is no tackling, but there is quite a bit of contact. Anyone can catch a ball, and only one foot in bounds is needed to make a catch. The quarterback can only run one time per series. Overtime is like college rules, with each team getting a chance to score.
The women’s bracket was won for the second straight year by the Denver Mile High team. Look out Tom Brady. Four more titles and the Mile High ladies will match you trophy for trophy.
Sunshine Cup IX Final Results (held Feb. 16-17)
A-bracket winner: DC Supremes
B-bracket winner: New York’s Finest
Winner: Denver Mile High