The Savannah Striders tied one on for New Year’s Day, but it’s probably not what you think.
Instead of drinking to excess, the local running club met at Lake Mayer on New Year’s afternoon to set up a football grid on the grass, having to clear off a group of reluctant hang abouts who flew off the field squawking and leaving quite a mess behind.
The hang abouts were a group of seagulls, nearly 150 of them that left behind piles of bird poop, but a little bird poop was not enough to deter the spirits of over two dozen players who tied or clipped yellow and blue flags to their middles to partake in the first and hopefully annual flag football game at Lake Mayer.
Teams were chosen at random, but the blue team seemed to get the bum end of the deal with mostly females and young boys, who actually proved to be pretty good flag pullers, but got a little disgruntled that they weren’t included in the ball play more often.
Some Striders were reluctant to actually play, having just recovered from stress fractures and injuries, but others tried their hand and played defense while praying no one threw the ball their way.
There were a few collisions, some loud ones that caused onlookers and players alike to cringe and exhale in unison, "ahhhhh," as players enthusiastically blocked and dove to capture a dropped ball or ran into one another full force while guarding their own players, and few people almost lost their pants as well as their flag belts, but it was all in fun.
The yellow team beat the blue team 35 to 28 in the end, but for a while it looked like the two might tie and spirits were high.
Pam Manuel, who chose to watch from the sidelines said if they did it next year, she was going to have to get those not playing to dress in cheerleading outfits.
Mary Jo Geiger who was refereeing the game found herself cheering for players on either side, even if it wasn’t appropriate.
The players mostly refereed themselves and Geiger said it was kind of hard to keep up with the action since no one told her what was allowed and what wasn’t.
Apparently some first downs counted and some didn’t and rushing the quarterback was allowed, but limited, so no one blamed Geiger for the confusion.
The game was a little too rough for some, with one young player taking a football to the face that sounded like a small explosion, and several older players landed face first in the grass and the poop or slid sideways sending grass, dirt and duck poop flying.
The bottoms of everyone's shoes looked as if they had spent a day in the subway not at the lake.
A few visitors to the Lake asked to join the game, but club president Tharon Lambert turned them down for insurance reasons mainly, but partly to keep the game friendly and give everyone a chance to play who wanted to play. A few older adults who weren't sure they still had it in them, found out they actually enjoyed it and were grateful when opposing team members cut them a break on the bone crushing body blocks the younger players were taking.
Striders said it was fun to see the people they ran with in a different light and to get to know them better and that it was fun to be on opposite teams facing down opponents who were normally friends and trying to guess their moves and pick which players were most likely to be given the ball and make the plays.
There was a fun rivalry with lots of chest thumping and high fives and cheers for gutsy plays and taunts when plays went wrong.
There was no better way to ring in the New Year and have family friendly fun while running off some of the Christmas and Hanukah overindulgence.
If getting fit and meeting new people is on your list of resolutions for the New Year, check out the Savannah Striders or ask around at your local gym or hang out at a tennis or basketball courts and see if anyone needs a spare player or start your own group and invite others to join you.
It can be a great way to stay fit and meet new people and share a fun afternoon feeling like a kid again.
Exercise does not have to be boring and exercising with friends makes it seem more like fun instead of punishment.
If you want to get into a fitness program, meet new friends, have fun and share good times, visit the Savannah Striders website or stop by your local YMCA and see if they have any adult leagues or check out the aquatics center and take an adult swim or aerobics class. There is something for everyone no matter what your age and ability and you may discover that you are never too old to have fun, even if you just walk instead of run or sit on a reclining bike reading a magazine while you pedal in place.
Get out this year and get active, meet people, share stories, form new adventures. It doesn't cost a thing to enjoy the great outdoors and the memories and friendships can last a life time, even if you just stand still and feed the birds and hope they don’t poop on your head, you can still have a fun outdoor adventure that will make you feel like a kid again and remember how fun it is to play not just work out on a treadmill with your earphones on.