When you think of football, you probably don’t think of a quiet, soft breeze carrying subdued cracks of shoulder pads and a sporadic yet muffled clap from the bleachers. No, you think of fat, sweaty men dressed as female-pig hybrids screaming their tonsils red. Or a bald man painted black and silver with spikes coming out of his veiny neck, feeding off the spine-tingling crash of two football players colliding together.
But what happens when none (or at least the vast majority) of the players and fans can’t hear and many can’t produce noise? How do they communicate? How is football different when something so fundamental is out of the equation?
These are the questions I’m currently trying to answer with my latest story for the Gazette. I’ve gotten the opportunity to spend a couple afternoons with the Wisconsin School for the Deaf football team, and it’s been really interesting and challenging at the same time.
Challenging because the absence of noise is hard to convey visually. The games are, for the most part, completely quiet except for the colliding of football pads and the occasional grunt or two. Unfortunately, my camera can’t capture sound waves. Instead, what I’m focusing on is how the players and coaches communicate with each other. What I noticed immediately on the first day was the players and coaches use their facial expressions to make the noise for them. I don’t even need to know sign language to tell exactly the tone they are trying to convey.
I’m also trying to show that, despite what I would consider I huge obstacle, deaf football teams are still competitive and still play the game well. And in case you’re wondering, the Wisconsin School for the Deaf plays more than just other deaf football teams, they play other 8-man teams around Wisconsin…and win.
I’m hoping to go back for one more game and one more practice, just to fill in a few holes I still have left in the photo story. I have more photos than what I’m posting on here, but I forgot to move them from the computer at work…so this is all I have for now.