Unsportsmanlike Conduct

The chaotic, unsuccessful, and utterly charming first year of the San Francisco Tsunami of the Women's American Football League

A San Francisco punt attempt is blocked, and Arizona has the ball again.

Susan Wheeler walks along the sidelines in front of her teammates, speaking in a slow, calm chant: "Let's get our heads back in the game. Let's get that ball back to the offense."

Arizona is playing hard, marching steadily down the field toward the goal line. The Tsunami defense is barely holding on. Tension swells.

Gwen Hayes and Tiphon Bryant play both offense and defense on the field.
Paul Trapani
Gwen Hayes and Tiphon Bryant play both offense and defense on the field.
Gwen Hayes and Tiphon Bryant play both offense and defense on the field.
Paul Trapani
Gwen Hayes and Tiphon Bryant play both offense and defense on the field.
Paul Trapani
Paul Trapani
Paul Trapani
Paul Trapani
Paul Trapani
Paul Trapani
Tsunami offensive players (from left to right) Tiphon Bryant, Laury Vegas, Tulani Walker, and Michelle Mitchell take a break during halftime.
Paul Trapani
Tsunami offensive players (from left to right) Tiphon Bryant, Laury Vegas, Tulani Walker, and Michelle Mitchell take a break during halftime.
Coach Alonzo Carter and owner Wendy Brown argued over strategy all season.
Paul Trapani
Coach Alonzo Carter and owner Wendy Brown argued over strategy all season.
Rained out of a practice field, the San Francisco Tsunamis warm up on a basketball court in Berkeley.
Paul Trapani
Rained out of a practice field, the San Francisco Tsunamis warm up on a basketball court in Berkeley.

Finally, the Caliente makes an end run around the Tsunami defense for a touchdown. The score is tied at 12, just before the two-minute warning.

Players scramble on and off the field. Coaches pace, wave, and holler in every direction. "You're beggin' to get into the game, and they're running right past you," Carter screams at a player on the field. "They're running right past you!"

Seconds later, Arizona runs into the end zone for a two-point conversion.

San Francisco gets the ball back but can't gain much yardage, and the clock runs out with the score 14-12, in Arizona's favor.

The Tsunamis form a line up the middle of the field, shaking hands with the Arizona team. Carter and two of his staff walk from the line off the field, away from the team. An announcer thanks everyone for coming and reminds the small crowd about an upcoming fund-raiser. A group of Tsunami players form a huddle and raise their hands in a group cheer: "1-2-3-Tsunamis!"

Certainly the loss hurts. But everyone knows the team played better than it has all season. And played together.

Tsunami players stream off the field, trailed by the fans who are mostly family and friends. A volunteer collects unclaimed paraphernalia along the sideline and yells something about an ice chest. Within minutes, the stadium, still lit by the bright panels shining down on the field, is oddly quiet, virtually empty.

Wendy Brown stands alone, in the dark, at the top of the bleachers, next to a white SUV. After playing both offense and defense in the close, grueling game, it's a wonder she can stand at all.

There is no press conference. No massage. No cocktail party. Brown just pauses for a moment, then pulls off her pads and begins to load up boxes of T-shirts and other team accouterments that were for sale during the game.


Five days later, Coach Alonzo Carter quit the San Francisco Tsunamis, taking his offensive and defensive coordinators with him. The team subsequently drove to Los Angeles where, coached by two remaining volunteers, the Tsunamis lost by a single point to the Los Angeles Lasers. Immediately after the game, at least one San Francisco player was injured during a bench-clearing fight.

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