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Beach football in stride with SoCal lifestyle

The Fan of the House columnist finds that a coed league in Huntington Beach offers an attractive combination — sun, sand, postgame suds.

November 07, 2012|Chris Erskine

Really great columnists use all five senses. Guys like me use maybe two — taste and thirst.

So when I heard about this beach football league, with a 10-game season and postgame bar bashes featuring free food, I said, "Sold." Journalism should always be so clear-cut and obvious.

We live in "a great and mostly boring world," noted the late Ray Bradbury, a writer I always turn to during haunted times like these. Had he stooped to being a sportswriter, Bradbury would have loved this beach football, evocative as it is of the L.A. lifestyle. He was smitten with SoCal — as am I, as are you. See it as redemptive, life's last call.

In this party-oriented beach league, the deep Huntington Beach sand swallows you to your ankles, something Bradbury would've liked too. To watch it is to see 16 people — some of them female — flail around as if without feet.

There are no speedsters in beach football, no Willie Gaults. Nor are there Fred Biletnikoffs. The soft sand doesn't just swallow your feet, it consumes your somewhat delusional, weekend-warrior acceleration.

As you may have noticed lately, caveman behavior is a given in modern sports. Got into it with a foul-mouthed knucklehead last week at a high school football game, and we had a total sideline meltdown at our recent AYSO match — the adults, of course, not the kids, who always manage to keep it together. As you may have also noticed, adults are ruining the world. The kids are the only thing that gives us hope. Not my kids, necessarily. Just kids in general.

And this beach football league is mostly kids, in the 20- to 30-year-old range. It's a coed league, which at first gives me pause. Like most sportswriters, I am repulsed by even the hint of sex, but that doesn't keep me from pretending to be an expert. I think that's why the editors here won't let me cover lingerie football or any other overtly sexualized American sport. The NBA, for example. Or mixed martial arts.

Anyway, despite the coed component, this beach football league seems a pretty wholesome endeavor. Caught a few games last week down in Huntington Beach — 14th Street and Pacific Coast Highway. Made me want to be 25 again. Then again, except for the hideous music, almost everything makes me want to be 25 again.

On the Saturday before Halloween, players showed up in costume. And the league organized a separate party for 1,000. Such sports clubs/leagues are popping up all over the country, organizers say.

"Happy girls make for happy guys," explains Peter "Gus" Mundth, who brought the concept with him from his native Baltimore seven years ago.

Now Mundth's league, NLA Beach, offers all sorts of these sports-related social clubs in Huntington Beach and Long Beach: dodgeball, night golf, beach soccer, ultimate Frisbee. It's what seventh-grade PE would've been like had there been no teachers.

Among its most popular is the 10-week touch football league, which costs $60 for the season and includes postgame drink specials and a free buffet. Last I checked, you can't park at a USC game for that.

Rules for the touch football games are basic weekend-league stuff. Five-thousand count on the rush. Crossing midfield is a first down, as are two pass completions in a series. One of every three plays must involve one of the women, either as a quarterback or receiver. Teams are made up of five men and three women. Games consist of 20-minute halves.

The league is broken into two levels of competition. The more mellow Super Social is competitive but not overly intense. The Social League cranks up the competitiveness just slightly.

For 2013, the league is looking to expand across Southern California. Its winter football league begins in January.

Injuries? "Mostly hamstrings and bruised egos," says Sa Dao, one of Mundth's business partners.

"I've been invited to five weddings of couples who have met in beach football," Mundth says of the league's romantic component.

On this day, a team called Baby Got Backfield is playing Multiple Scoregasm (another team, not a board game). So you get the idea. Typically, there are no huddles.

"We actually have a playbook," says Marconi Lopez, who comes from Irvine for the games. "We're one of the few teams that has a playbook.

"I just wish the season was longer," he says.

Easy to see why: sun, sand, skin and postgame suds.

"I like it on the beach because you can dive," says Sarah Beck, a scrappy four-year veteran with a smile that lights up the coast.

"I've lost two toenails," she says proudly.

Yep, sometimes life is so obvious.

Info box:

The league is enrolling teams and sponsors for a Dec. 8 charity tournament. Teams will be made up of seven starters and must include two women. The $20 per person entry fee goes to Toys for Tots. Info:

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