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Bucs host world’s largest girls flag football tournament during a pandemic

Florida invited hundreds of girls to compete in a flag football tournament.

Florida invited hundreds of girls to compete in a flag football tournament.
Image: Shutterstock

I’m all for girls’ flag football tournaments, but hosting the “world’s largest” anything in a global pandemic may, I dunno, not be a great idea?

Over the weekend, the Buccaneers wrapped up their third annual Girls Flag Football Preseason Classic. Instead of hosting the event at Tampa’s indoor practice facility, the tournament was moved outside “due to COVID-19 concerns.” And, according to the Super Bowl champions, the tournament “kicked off without a hitch.”

That’s good. I’m glad a youth tournament with 1,200-plus athletes from around the state started, and presumably ended, well. But inviting that many players, coaches, and families to one area didn’t concern… anyone?

Well, this is Florida, after all. It’s the state that deemed the WWE an essential business in April and volunteered to host the Olympics in January. So if the world’s largest anything were to be staged during a pandemic, it would certainly be in the Sunshine state.

Tampa Bay Mayor Jane Castor, who criticized the thousands of maskless Bucs fans after the Super Bowl, spoke to the hundreds of girls at the tournament. “The only thing that you need to ensure that you build up is that belief in yourself and that confidence that you can do anything,” Mayor Castor told the girls. “Do you think the coaches here when they grew up watching football on TV thought they would have an opportunity to coach [an] NFL team? They didn’t know that because they didn’t see it, they didn’t see any women standing on the sidelines but now you get to see them standing on the sidelines, you get to see them as coaches in the NFL and you can be the first players in the NFL, if that’s what your dream is and you’re committed to work hard enough to get there.”

The coaches the mayor mentioned were the Bucs assistant defensive line coach Lori Locust and strength and conditioning coach Maral Javadifar. Locust and Javadifar were the first two female coaches to win a Super Bowl last month.

“If you look around right now there’s probably coaches right beside you, there’s a GM, there could be the first woman head coach of the NFL sitting right beside you right now,” coach Locust said to the competitors on Thursday. “What [Maral Javadifar] and I have done is going to pale in comparison to the promise and potential of anybody that’s here, if this is what you want to do. So, keep pushing.”

The sports world is loosening restrictions nearly a year after Rudy Gobert’s positive test. Fans are slowly coming back, youth sports are happening. And normalcy? Whatever that means now, may come at some point in 2021. Hell, one Deadspin editor recently went inside Madison Square Garden to cover the first limited capacity Knicks game. Despite the horror of the past year, things are, dare I say, starting to look better.

But I’m tired, I know you probably are, too. We’ve done these stories for almost a year now. Sports are great but they’re just not essential in a pandemic. And I’m sorry if that sentence upsets you more than our nation’s COVID-19 response.

I’m glad girls got the chance to compete in a flag football tournament. I’m glad attendees got to learn from new role models. I’m glad the Bucs have women on their staff. But I also think hosting the world’s largest anything in 2021 isn’t something to applaud.

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A pioneer in the flag football community, Travis helped co-found the Flag Football World Championship Tour, FlagSpin and USA Flag. Featuring 15+ years of content creation for the sport of flag football, creating and managing the largest flag football tournaments on the planet, coaching experience at the youth and adult level as well as an active player with National and World Championship level experience.

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