Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Pop Warner & Pee Wees [J. Mark English]

As miserable as the last three home games have been at Giants Stadium, the half time shows have been plenty of fun.

Usually at Giant games, they roll out the high school marching bands. Its impossible to hear them, and I've never been understood the purpose of the flags they wave around. (If anyone could explain what possible function that flags have in conjunction with a marching band, please explain in the comment section.)

The only good half time shows occur in the pre-season where they feature frisbee catching dogs. One can hear sarcastic cheers from the crowding crowing "sign up that dog."

Finally, the Giants have given the fans something to enjoy during the regular season. Every week they have a Pop Warner match up of little kids playing football.

To get a whole game in during half time (which only lasts fifteen minutes) the offense and defense of both teams face off at different ends of the field.

The music on the loudspeakers features classics from NFL Films, as you see these little kids running around as if they are pros. The fans, instead of racing to the bathroom stalls, actually hang back to watch kids playing not for the love of money, but for the love of competition.

This year marked the 50th Pop Warner Super Bowl, which took place in Orlando. Sports Illustrated had a great write up about the annual event. Here are some highlights:

Welcome to the world of big-time peewee football, which is what the Pop Warner Super Bowl has become. Last weekend more than 8,000 players, cheerleaders and dance-team members were on hand as the youth league celebrated the 50th playing of the Super Bowl with title games in four age groups. It was a far cry from the first Pop Warner championship, in 1947, when some 2,000 fans showed up at South Philadelphia High to watch the local Palumbo's Clickets beat the Sinatra Cyclones, a New York City team sponsored by Frank Sinatra, 6-0. (No title game was played between 1953 and '58 or from 1979 to '82.)

"We've come a long way," says Jon Butler, the executive director of Pop Warner youth football. "Fifteen years ago we had 180,000 kids playing Pop Warner. Now we have 400,000, and there's lots of room for growth. But what really amazes me is how sophisticated the kids are getting in both the techniques and the terminology they're learning at such a young age."
No team at Disney World last week ran a more complicated offense than the Jaguars. They line up in an archaic double-wing offense (somewhere, Pop Warner was smiling: He created the formation in 1912) that features two tight ends, two wingbacks and a halfback. The backs constantly spin and flip the ball to each other on handoffs and reverses. To learn their 30 offensive plays, the kids used a decidedly 21st-century tool: the video game Madden 2007.

"I programmed our offense into Madden to help me memorize our plays," says halfback Aveontay (Sumo) Armstrong, 11, who returned a punt 63 yards for a TD -- one of SportsCenter's Plays of the Day last Saturday. "It was easier than homework."

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