Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2008 | 2 a.m.
It wasn’t the biggest of crowds — but then, traditions start small.
And so it was that a football game was played Monday night between the College of Southern Nevada and UNLV. And it was more than that. Under bright floodlights on a UNLV practice field, it was the birth of a crosstown rivalry, a battle for bragging rights, in what organizers hope will become an annual tradition.
Even if it was only flag football.
They called it the Desert Bowl, and it attracted about 100 spectators. In the evening chill, some swaddled themselves in blankets. Fans taunted referees — “zebra, zebra, short and stout, find your head and pull it out” — following questionable calls.
At halftime, they queued up for hot dogs.
The CSN coyote posed for photographs with fans. (UNLV’s Hey Reb was missing.)
The game pitted some of the top players in CSN and UNLV intramural leagues against one another. On the field, the schools’ best men faced off, darting across the turf to rip ball carriers’ flags off their belts to achieve the equivalent of a tackle.
“We are just going to whup ’em,” declared Ebony Vinson, a CSN student cheering for her boyfriend. Some CSN players had played high school varsity sports and relished the chance to compete on a field again, she said.
Asked why the game mattered, Jonathan Van Ness, who scored UNLV’s first touchdown, offered a brief explanation: “Just to show we’re the big daddies.” A little crosstown smack talk. Rivalries do that, even ones just in the making.
In the end, the score was close — 27-20, UNLV.
CSN felt the sting. “It hurts,” said Dante Wilson, who scored all of CSN’s touchdowns and was named the team’s most valuable player.
“Any time I step onto a field, I take it seriously ... I take pride in everything I do,” he said.
In a town short on traditions, the Desert Bowl might be a fun one. Monday night, some CSN backers were already calling for a rematch.
The game even had a sponsor — efollett, a college bookstore company — which paid for T-shirts, medals and a trophy whose main component is a football crafted from material finished to look like metal.
The Desert Bowl was the brainchild of Damon Boze, CSN’s intramural sports and wellness coordinator. He and counterparts at UNLV are planning a similar championship for their schools’ intramural basketball teams.
After the game, players gathered on UNLV’s sideline for the inaugural presentation of the trophy, whose wooden base has room for 18 small plaques. One will be inscribed each year with the name of the winning team.
One down, 17 to go.