There are several hundred deaf football teams in the US. But few succeed. The NBA also has a deaf team – the American Deaf Basketball Association.
What’s really unusual about the Deaf Football Team is that it is physically represented by five men. But they play with three deaf women, and their sound cues for the noise-cancelling headsets worn by their fellow team members. This makes for a noisy team, but also a totally wired one.
Last Sunday, the Deaf Team played an all-male league called the Loudmouthed Braves. “It was a lot of fun,” said the team’s cheerleader, Montrel Barrett, “And there was a lot of football thrown.”
Football is the sport for deaf people, although it can be played in other parts of the world by mobile teams of adults who have no parents or neighbours who speak English. But deaf people are no longer confined to the smallest American-occupied countries, and outlier Far Eastern states have joined the Deaf Football League.
The club in southern California has gone against all odds. Strict sex segregation is illegal in this country, but in many states, including California, like-minded officials would get the team thrown out. The team has also faced a strike from the players’ union, and they had to play the season without a chief coach. This was down to a brouhaha over a loan, claims of unpaid taxes and a number of lawsuits – yet they won every game.
They train several times a week on an 8-yard field and are sponsored by Pepsi Cola.