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Friday, July 11, 2008

Ironman

Jim Cryns on Sports

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In the culturally vapid ’70s, Black Sabbath wrote a cheerful little ditty titled “IronMan.” The lyrics include:

Has he lost his mind?

Can he see or is he blind?

Can he walk at all,

Or if he moves will he fall?

Is he alive or dead?

Has he thoughts within his head?

Well just pass him there

Why should we even care?

The poignant lyrics reminded me of a uniquely American sport, football. The Ironman Football League was created by Chris Chudada of Pewaukee, in 1996. The league refers to itself as the‘working man’s NFL.’

Has he lost his mind?Any young man who puts his physical well being on the line without being compensated financially has lost his mind to some degree. While I admire the effort, I couldn’t do it. I prefer striking an innocent golf ball.

Can he see or is he blind? Well, yeah they can see, but vision is impaired. These guys play for the love of the game, but the long-term vision is slightly tainted. How do they explain the bruises, busted limbs, bloody faces without admitting to be members of Fight Club. However we all know the first rule of Fight Club is you don’t talk about Fight Club.

Can he walk at all? After a particularly brutal game, no.

If he moves will he fall? Probably, if the players follow their blocking assignments..

Is he alive or dead? After a rib-shattering hit, put a mirror in front of his face and see if he’s breathing.

Has he thoughts within his head? Not many of consequence after his noodle is tossed around like a proverbial prison salad.

Well, just pass him there. Ok.

Why should we even care? Because these guys are doing something we don’t have the guts or talent to do. If that doesn’t garner your respect, go back to your crochet patterns.

The league was designed to give guys fresh out of high school or college the chance to play organized competitive football. While I understand it’s a tough game, I respect the effort of these guys willing to do this week in and week out. It’s like college sports where they’re in it because they want to be, not because they’re paid to do it.

Luke Kujath plays left tackle on the Wauwatosa Spartans and is a spokesman for the team. Kujath played high school football at Northwestern Prep in Watertown, but didn’t play any college ball. “My brother Adam talked me into the sport,” he jokes, adding he’s glad he did as the sport has provided Kujath with a lot of ‘good times.’

“You meet a lot of new guys, practice and play together.” Kujath says he’s played alongside and against former NFL players and other highly skilled athletes.

The Spartans are a new team and Kujath says they are still working out new ideas and opportunities. “We’ll try to increase our visibility in the community, put on some youth football clinics.” Kujath says the team plans to make visits to Children’s Hospital in an effort to lift the spirits of the patients. The Spartans played their first game last Saturday with about 200 fans in attendance, a good number of those were family and friends, Kujath explained.

Each of the players pays a fee to help cover the cost of uniforms and other basic essentials. As most have played at some level before, they have a lot of the helmets and pads.

“We definitely encourage our guys to have health insurance,” Kujath says. “We play with professional guys.” It’s high-speed, full-contact, leave-it-on-the-field football. “You’re definitely going to feel it on Sunday. We encourage guys to take it easy after the game and ice-up.” Kujath says the team tries to have a trainer on the field in case something goes wrong or seems out of whack.

“To be honest, we’ve had some fairly significant injuries. But that gives you something to talk about at the bar. I sit at a desk all day, and I can’t wear short sleeves anymore with all the bruises.”

The league wants fans and potential players to understand this is not your typical bar league. This is the equivalent of AAA baseball. Just like the Army, the IFL is always looking for professional and dedicated individuals to join, guns are optional. For questions about the IFL please contact the league office at (262) 544-6468 or (414) 281-7903.

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