As a long-standing Jacksonville Jaguars fan, and even longer-standing West Ham United fan, I’m not used to winning titles. In fact the only heart-warming title I can recall in my lifetime was when Billericay Town FC won their league in 2012 and were promptly relegated again in 2013. Unfortunate state of affairs, of course.
This Saturday our Academy Under-17s are playing their final tournament of the season and the big prize up for grabs is winning the division and an automatic place in Britbowl as the South Eastern Champions.
That’s quite a win for our amazing fifteen and sixteen-year-olds, quite a lot of whom hadn’t actually seen a real American Football ball this time last year.
It’s hard to explain how proud we are of them without turning into their mothers. But having said that, I watch them from the sidelines with bated breath and heady fear, remark at how ‘little and sweet’ they look in their kit (if Warriors / Exiles are reading this, they’re not little or sweet. They’re like mean machines tearing out of their school uniforms and into football jerseys like Hulks, capable of destroying buildings. So beware) and kind of hover around hoping they’ve all got lifts home and plenty to drink.
But I really needn’t do any of that because actually, they’re not little boys. They’re proper, seriously, grown up men with mega fire in their souls and they could win the Division on Saturday, because they really are that good. It’s taken a lot of people – the world over – a long time to realise that teenagers don’t need patronising just because they’re young.
Every team they’ve faced are made up of similar stuff to ours. In this quite miserable time of peer pressure, academic struggle, constant to-ing and fro-ing of Education policies that impact the biggest part of our Academy players’ lives at the moment – their education – we’re just glad that, as an organisation, we’re able to provide a bit of transatlantic escapism, a bit of fresh air and a runaround once a week. And of course, we’re thrilled that so many other organisations do the same thing, to give us some others to play against to make things interesting.
If they don’t win the title on Saturday, which is a possibility, our boys still go off to the play-offs with a shot at making Britbowl after all.
And blimey, even West Ham won a few play-offs.
Fancy coming to watch the tournament? See our website main page, or the Academy Facebook page, for the venue address and all details.