A Strange Sport’s Saddest Season
Circle rules football was just a lighthearted game with a bizarre set of rules and a yearning for mainstream acceptance. Then it got deadly serious.
Photos by Arion Doerr
The Wednesday of the circle rules football season opener in May 2013 is blue and cloudless. The bright sunlight bouncing off the East River is almost blinding. Like most circle rules games, this one will be played at Bushwick Inlet Park in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The official start time is six p.m., but when I arrive a couple minutes early, there are only two guys and a girl hanging out, chatting. One of the men is Colin Weatherby, twenty-nine, the captain of Aristocracy/Flying Mordecais—a combination of what used to be two teams. Today, they face off against the Slow Polks.
Weatherby is sitting with the only female player here today, Mairin Lee, a small brunette, who is executing a deft switch from her work dress into athletic clothes. Circle Rules is a co-ed game, but it’s hard to recruit women. I ask Lee if the guys treat her nicely. “They do at first,” she says, grinning. She’s developed a reputation as a player to fear. “I played a lot of sports growing up - s…