Bob Shaw knows about playing football under difficult conditions. During a pickup game inside a combat zone in Vietnam a few years back, a high, foating pass was thrown.
"A Viet Cong sniper show the ball right out of the air," said Shaw. "That's when we decided to go to a ground attack."
Shaw now coaches the Virginia State Chargers of the newly formed Atlantic Seaboard League. Although the Chargers have not had to dodge bullets, they have ran into difficulty on the unfriendly road.
"We had a game against pittsburgh," said Shaw. "The players mostly coal miners, were out to kill us, dealing cheap shots and not even thinking about playing football. The spectators were no better, throwing whatever they could get their hands on, including other spectators. The referees finally walked off the field. The league threw the team out after three games."
Hard times for the Charges have not been limited to out-of-town trips. Job frequently conflict with the one or two weekly practices and some weekend games. The team practices on the Germantown Elementary School field in Fairfax, sharing the field with several peewee teams.
The team has no public relations man, no written roster, no salaries, has numerous player turnovers and meets expenses out of the players' wallets. Shaw purchased the uniforms and pads out of his pocket.
"We do our trainer's work," said Shaw. "About all we have is a water jug."
With these problems, it is a positive factor that most of the Chargers are old friends. Many played under Shaw in the Fairfax County League for three years. The squad compiled a 55-0 rark as an 18-year-and-under bunch in that league before going independent in 1974.
The independent version played several semipro and college club squads before joining the ASL this year.
"Its an uphill fight," said Shaw. The league is going through growing pains. The old World Football League killed minor league football and it's just starting to come back."
Next season the players will be paid commissions based on gate receipts, Shaw said. The Chargers draw crowds of 600 to 800 (free admission) for their home games, most of which are played at Whittier Intermediate School in Fairfax.
But the players are happy to compete anywhere. Some played ball in the service and joined the team to stay in shape and because of their love for football.
Other played in high school and never had the chance to play in college. Many go on to college after a couple of years playing amateur ball.
Several Chargers commute to games from the compuses of Rutgers, James Madison and Pittsburg. Several will make the late-season games after their college varsity eligibility ends in the autumn.
Charger guard Alan Little, a former cornerback for Annandale High School, said, "This is the last place the National Football League."
Center-tackle Bruce Moser, an architect, found out that the team from a veteran Shaw disciple, linebacker Rich Bernhardt. Moser, who had never played contact football before joining the team, explained his reason for playing: "Its a way to take out my frustrations from driving around Washington all day."
Vocations represented on the Chargers include hospital technicians, salesmen, firemen, engineers and a pet-store clerk.
"We could always use more players, especially offensive linesmen," said Shaw. "Ours are constantly getting hurt. We are working on getting more players for next season."
Shaw said that with the Chargers' average age being 21-22 years, the team is the youngest in a league that average 30 years per player.