FORWARD OPERATING BASE PROSPERTIY, Iraq (Army News Service, Feb. 5, 2007) - With the Super Bowl still a day a way, by Saturday afternoon the biggest game in Baghdad had been decided.
Dubbed the "Baghdad Bowl," two 15-man teams made up of Soldiers assigned to the 2nd "Black Jack" Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, donned Indianapolis Colts and Chicago Bears jerseys and squared off in a flag-football game sponsored by CBS Sports Feb.3.
On hand to referee the game was CBS football analyst and three-time Super Bowl winner Randy Cross.
CBS provided the game jerseys with a team of Soldiers based in the International Zone representing the Colts and a team of Soldiers based at FOB Falcon, located in southern Baghdad, representing the Bears.
Footage from the game was aired during CBS' Super Bowl pre-game program.
Before beginning the game, the players gathered mid-field where Cross performed the traditional coin toss with a coin specially minted in commemoration of the San Francisco 49ers Super Bowl XVI victory 25 years ago over the Cincinnati Bengals.
"I'm a fan, I've got to be honest," joked Cross, who won his three Super Bowl rings with the 49ers.
After winning the coin toss, Team Falcon opted to begin the game on offense and drove down the field for the first score. However, their touchdown was quickly negated by Team IZ, who scored on their first play from scrimmage.
On their second play Team IZ pulled ahead and never looked back after a long touchdown pass put them up 14-7.
"I'm having a good time," Team IZ's Capt. Craig Gary said at halftime. "This is an awesome opportunity for Soldiers."
For all the Soldiers involved, both the players and spectators, the game offered a much welcome break from their daily combat missions.
"I think it's a really great thing," said Staff Sgt. Michael Rathbun, 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, who played for Team Falcon. "Many of us are living out on combat outposts, so it's the first time we've been on a FOB for a while."
During the game, t-shirts and hats provided by CBS were passed out to the crowd by Team Falcon cheerleaders, Spc. Erin Braun and Spc. Shaunette Buntain, both medics with the 15th Brigade Support Battalion.
"We are the Falcon pride," Buntain said. "We got together and we figured this would boost the morale a little bit."
Not even the support of their cheerleaders, however, could help Team Falcon overcome Team IZ, who won handily, 32-25.
After the game, the players once again gathered midfield, where Cross presented both team captains with a game ball. Another ball autographed by CBS' entire NFL Today crew, to include NFL greats Dan Marino, Boomer Esiason and Shannon Sharpe, was accepted by Black Jack Brigade Commander Col. Bryan Roberts on behalf of the entire brigade.
"At the end of the day, we'll all leave here victorious because we're all members of the Black Jack team," Roberts told his Soldiers. "And we've got a heck of a lot of people out there depending on us to wake up tomorrow morning and get back out there into the fight."
According to Cross, the event was all about doing something for the Soldiers who are out every day in the fight.
"It's not about us or CBS," Cross said, "It's about you guys and getting a chance to come out here and do this for you. We appreciate everything you guys do."