This Sunday, following the Dynamo vs. Portland Timbers, firefighters and police officers will descend onto the field at BBVA Compass Stadium. There is no fire, no pitch invader to be arrested, only two soccer teams from the Houston Fire Department and Houston Police Department taking part in the 2nd Annual Guns and Hoses match.
“Oh, it’s awesome,” HPD officer Bobby Romano said of the chance to play on the Dynamo’s home turf. “We’re used to playing on bad fields. We’d have to climb fences to get into Memorial Park to play because the gates are locked. We’re city employees and can’t even get in the field.”
City employees or no, neither team receives assistance from their respective departments to put together their squads. That hasn’t stopped them, though, as HFD has a team that plays regularly in a local indoor league as well as in competitions such as last year’s World Police and Fire Games in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The HPD has scaled down since Officer John Huston came aboard in the early 1980s, but still compete annually in the Texas Police Games, who inducted Huston into their Hall of Fame last year.
“Days off are scattered, we have manpower issues just like HFD,” Huston said. “We went to play at Padre Island with 18 committed but because of conflict of shifts, only 12 showed up to play in 100-degree heat.”
So why continue with these teams, with everything stacked against them? “We’re too stupid to stop,” says HFD’s Michael Bingham.
Bingham manages the HFD team, and he sees the competition as an outlet after a grueling 24-hour shift.
“If you talk to Kicks Indoor [where the team plays], we have a reputation of being really aggressive, and I think that’s just our nature,” he said. “A lot of that is a release from what we see on a day-to-day basis.”
The biggest draw of the police vs. firefighters matchup isn’t the on-field result, however, it’s the off-field impact it has back in their stations and offices. Proceeds from the Guns and Hoses ticket package go back to Assist the Officer and Firefighters Helping Firefighters—two organizations that help injured officers and firefighters or family members of those killed in the line of duty.
When the teams head down to the field on Sunday afternoon, there’s sure to be some jarring tackles and over-the-top physicality due to the interdepartmental rivalry. But that’s nothing out of the ordinary for these firefighters and officers putting their bodies on the line for the city’s safety every single day.
“It helps that we're firefighters and cops,” Bingham said. “We give back to the community as our job, but when we’re seen doing it on our own outside of the job it’s an added bonus.”