If you live in Concord, you may want to hold off on your emergencies Saturday. Some of the city's finest will be preoccupied.
With the local chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police (Cabarrus County Lodge 64) and the programs it supports as beneficiary, Concord police officers Lance Brooks and Patrick Merritt organized a benefit flag football tournament with a civil-service flavor.
Teams representing the Concord Police Department, Concord Fire and Life Safety and other area public safety agencies will be at Central Cabarrus High School all day. Players will be competing for bragging rights, but it's the FOP's many causes that will be championed.
Concord police and firefighters are familiar with each other's flag football abilities. They regularly meet in their annual Christmas Bowl in December at Concord High to collect toys for patients of the Jeff Gordon Children's Hospital at Carolinas Medical Center-Northeast.
Last September, officers and firefighters braved the rain to battle at Webb Field to raise money for a fellow officer stricken with cancer. Proceeds totaled $3,600.
Brooks, who has been a patrol officer for 51/2 years, said the idea for a benefit tournament rose out of those single games played between the two departments. It's not unusual, he said, for them to support each other's causes.
"With the economy getting bad," Brooks said, "we thought that people would be more willing to give money when they're playing in a softball or football tournament. This is first time we're doing this, and we thought 'Let's just see what happens.'"
Among FOP Lodge 64's causes are college scholarship programs and its well-known Shop-With-A-Cop event, in which the organization purchases presents for needy children who accompany officers to a local department store. Last year, Lodge 64 raised and donated more than $20,000 to charitable causes.
Brooks started to spread word of the tournament to area agencies in January. His goal was to have at least eight teams. As of Monday, four were registered, including the Monroe Police Department, and at least two others had expressed strong interest.
Another officer, Ryan Corl, will be performing double duty at the event. He's committed to his police department team, but when he's not catching crooks, he plays for an independent flag football team called the Blazers.
The Blazers have been playing in leagues and tournaments around the Charlotte area for about the past five years. The team is fresh off the Weekend Warrior Flag Football Tournament sponsored by the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium last Sunday.
Corl agreed to play for both teams during the tournament. In the event the teams face each other, his stronger loyalty will be to the police department.
Playing for two teams means paying two entry fees. It doesn't bother him though, since the proceeds go to a good cause. Each team is responsible for a $200 registration fee, typically split among each team's players.
Though players will be wearing the standard flags for tackling purposes, game rules will resemble more of what you would see in an NFL game. For example, in most flag football games, you won't find kickoffs, punts and extra points attempted, but you will in this tournament.
Brooks suggested that no one should be surprised if tacklers sometimes ignore a ball carrier's flags.
"That's right, the flags are a target (for tacklers)," he said, tongue in cheek.
Admission is free for spectators, but concessions will be available at a cost. Brooks said some of the supplies will be donated, and proceeds will go toward the FOP's charitable efforts.