Fly ball

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Playing football is great - except for the tackling. And the standing around. And all those pads.

To the rescue comes Let It Fly, a traveling flag football tournament that will hit 27 cities during fall and winter and Hilliard's Spindler Soccer Complex this Saturday and Sunday.

There, you'll get the chance to play several fast-paced games in your sweats. And those on the other side of the ball won't be attacking your face, only a pair of streamers Velcro-ed to your waist.

"Games are a half-hour, and the clock doesn't stop," said Eric Goodrich, who will organize the Columbus tournament for the company, which also puts on the popular Hoop It Up and Kick It events. "You've got 30 seconds to snap the ball, and then the quarterback has seven seconds to get rid of it. There's no standing around."

In addition to the quickness and lack of impact, games are played between two teams of four in men's, women's, co-ed and youth divisions. The first to 28 wins, with touchdowns and extra points the only ways to score. Blocking's prohibited, so speed, technicality and trick plays reign supreme.

Official registration ended earlier this week, but slots will remain open in most divisions, which cater to players of different skill levels. Entry fees start at $160 per team (up to six players) and include at least three scheduled games.

The top four teams in each division at each event qualify for the national final in Daytona Beach. Yes, there's a national final.

Flag football - following every other game you played in your backyard - has experienced a resurgence in recent years. (Dibs on starting Go Four Broke!, the world's largest competitive four-square competition.)

"It's on its way," Goodrich said of flag football. "Right now, if you went to Florida, it's huge. It looks like it's going to catch on in towns like Columbus and Indianapolis, cities where there's a football state of mind."

As cash tourneys gain prominence, semi-pro teams in Miami, Tampa and other hot-spot areas have taken their game to a level likely never imagined by those who wanted to play football but not get hurt.

Top teams practice daily. They hit city leagues during the week, money events on weekends. They have playbooks.

This weekend, during the inaugural Columbus stop, that kind of action will be found in the Top Gun division, crowded with beasts who can run 40 yards in 4.3 seconds. Sometimes even ex-college players can't hang in the top tier.

There will also be Competitive and Recreational divisions, as well as a Couch Potato category for those who find pleasure in trying as hard as they can.

"Those are the guys who show up hung over on the morning of and come out just to have a good time," Goodrich said with a laugh. "Those are the ones where you don't have fights over the game."

For more outdoor adventures, click to The Riot Act at Blogger John Ross quarterbacked the Chesterland Hawkeyes to a co-city league championship in sixth grade.

What: Let It Fly

When: Saturday-Sunday, Nov. 15-16

Where: Spindler Soccer Complex, Hilliard