Flames on 3, Family on 6!

On warm Saturday nights in the summer when others go to the movies, hit the nightclubs with their friends, or hang out at the mall, I go to the football stadium. Everyone there is wearing head-to-toe red and black. Kids have numbers painted on their faces, and their moms carry the handmade “Go Daddy!” signs. Someone is always getting a hot dog or nachos from the concession stand, and music blares between the plays while the fans cheer wildly. The radio newscasters give exciting play-by-play description and analysis throughout the game.

Under the stadium lights, this place is like no other in my city. The Colorado Springs Flames, a semi-pro championship football team, bring life to this perfect picture. First known as the Olympians, the Flames have been around since 1987 and are the longest running semi-pro football team in Colorado. Existing for over 20 years, and now under head coach Fred Reese, the Flames have embraced a reputation of excellence and family. The Flames’ motto, “Flames on 3, Family on 6,” truly embodies the essence of this one-of-a-kind sports team. The community-driven Colorado Springs Flames are a true hometown treasure.

The Semi-pro football phenomenon is not new or small. The first semi-pro championship was recorded by the Manitowoc Chiefs in 1940. Today, there are over one thousand football teams and over sixty leagues in the semi-pro/minor league football circuit. Some states, such as California with 92 teams, Florida with 98 teams, and Texas with 138 teams, are expected to have national ranking. Still, the state of Colorado, with only 14 teams, should not go unnoticed. The Colorado Springs Flames make the national rankings almost every season. Players from Texas, Mississippi, and Wyoming, to name a few states, flock to Colorado to try out and play for the Flames.

Being the original Colorado Springs team, the Flames have embraced the idea of diversity. Athletes range from military servicemen to great college athletes to just the average dad. The Flames also feel they need to give back to the community. Numerous Flames players coach children’s football camps, participate in Relay for Life, are active in the annual Springspree festival, and regularly team up with the Susan G. Koman Foundation to help fight breast cancer. The Flames organization also has military appreciation night every season to honor those who serve our country.

Flames players doing "Skills and Drills" with kids at Springspree

Flames players doing “Skills and Drills” with kids at Springspree

Demonstrating the need to help and serve the community takes the Flames’ organization to a higher level of excellence and illustrates that the athletes and staff members are greater than themselves. Many sports teams make community appearances, but rarely do a number of athletes oblige themselves to these tasks because they want to. The Flames players feel a need to. Many of them find time to play football with children while others help spread the word about the team, but most of all, players remain loyal to the team because what they do directly impacts the community. Whether or not the players get something in return doesn’t cross their minds. They’re merely there to serve the community they hold dear.

Along with serving the community, players and staff members alike value family. Without family, everything the team has accomplished would be meaningless. Almost every aspect of the Flames organization is family run. The Head of Operations is Lynn Reese, wife of head coach Fred Reese. Richard, Dana, and Vicky McNamar are active as the manager, assistant manager, and team trainer. Also, Coach Brad Kellen and his wife Pam Kellen, Entertainment Director, are very involved in keeping the organization running smoothly. One of the most loyal couples in the Flames organization is Dave and Kathy Hogeboom, field manager and gate admissions staff. Several other families are heavily active in the Flames organization as well. Whether it’s biological family, a brotherhood of players, or a comradeship among the fans and staff, the family atmosphere is very much alive. At the Flames’ games, little boys run around with Nerf footballs, playing catch with their friends, while mom is getting hot dogs and soda. Grandma and Grandpa watch their son with tears in their eyes, proud of the man their son has become. The little girls watch the cheerleaders in wide-eyed awe. The older sister has the raffle ticket in hand, hoping her number gets called for a prize. Everyone cheering. Everyone laughing. Everyone having a good time.

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Quarterback James Everett with his son

The Flames have demonstrated excellence on and off the field by never relocating to a new area or taking seasons off while fully submerging themselves in the hometown community with their families firmly behind them. On the field, the Flames have proven to be one of the toughest and most recognized teams in the region. Since 1998, under the direction of Head Coach Fred Reese, the Flames have had 140 wins and only 26 losses. The team has won ten Colorado Football Conference championships. The most recent championship came on the tail end of a three-peat — three championships in a row, from 2011-2013. In fact, the Flames have had two three-peat Colorado Football Conference championships, the first starting in 1999 and the second beginning in 2011. The team has also gone 8-0-0 for the 2010, 2011, and 2012 seasons. Needless to say, the athletes establish fine reputations because of this success. Many Flames get recognized on the national level as “All Stars” from the Colorado Football Conference.

Some people not familiar with the Colorado Football Conference hear about men’s football and think about it as guys just throwing the ball ten yards and playing two-hand touch with their buddies. That idea is far from the truth. The Flames, as well as the other CFC teams and teams across the country, are full-contact teams. The Flames are nationally known and get athletes wanting to try out from all across the country. From well-known players like Bobby Purify to military men or guys who just want to play, these athletes are superb. Contrary to minor league baseball, almost all of these athletes don’t get paid to play. They play for the love of the game. It’s their dedication to excellence that allows them to accomplish what they do.

With a strong desire to help the community, support the troops, remain family centered, and continue a winning tradition, the Flames are a one-of-a kind sports team. After each game, the players make it a point in their final huddle to say, “Flames on three, family on six!” This captures the essence of the Colorado Springs Flames. It says that together we are a team, but as a team, we are family. One can make a strong argument that the Flames are one of the best sports teams in the nation in terms of athletic excellence and a willingness to serve and be a part of their community. One, two, three, FLAMES! Four, five, six, FAMILY!

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The Flames after winning the CFC championship 2012