Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Sad Goodbye: 2012 Football

Austin Longi running for Greenwich.  Photo courtesy MSG Varsity (I'd add more info but the MSG Varsity website wouldn't allow me to access it).  Notice the WGCH banner in the background.

I drove to meet Ryan DeMaria yesterday afternoon in Danbury with a thought in my mind:

Is this the last football game I will ever broadcast on WGCH?  Is it the last game at all?

It's tenuous every year, of course, since we go year to year.  But this year feels more tenuous than ever.

I let the feeling go, met Ryan, and drove to Palmer Field in Middletown (thanks to Ryan for letting us use his car).  Chris Erway and Max Barefoot joined us there, and we prepared to call the Greenwich/Xavier state quarterfinal game.  I'll spare you the story of how we worked how to set up a phone line, only to be told TEN MINUTES INTO THE BROADCAST that we were using someone else's phone line, from the guy who was watching us set up for an hour!

The setup there was unlike anything I have ever experienced.  We were situated in the back row of the press box, behind the public address announcer and virtually everyone else.  Our choices were: 1) Go to the roof and freeze or 2) Sit in the back of the booth and stay warm.  Plus, we thought, we would have a hard phone line.  Sigh...not so much.  But our cell phone turned out to be good, so no worries.  We stayed warm - partially obscured by the fans and the building, which took parts of the field out of our view.*

* On a somewhat warmer night 12 years earlier, Sean Kilkelly and I did do a game from the roof of Palmer Field.  The view was better.

Look, I'm not going to get into a breakdown of the game.  Xavier took advantage of turnovers, and what we thought might have been a tired Greenwich team, coming off the Thanksgiving game.  It wasn't for lack of effort.  Xavier was the better team on this night.  Injuries didn't help, but that's not an excuse, because Xavier lost a key player in the second quarter.  Xavier won - plain and simple.  Greenwich had a chance to keep things close at the end of the first half, but Boston College-bound Tim Boyle found a wide open Kris Luster for a big score.  Even then, Greenwich had a shot to open the second half with a touchdown, but a very questionable fumble call gave the ball back to Xavier, and the Falcons took advantage.

As the third quarter came to an end, the Cardinals were trying to keep the Falcons out of the end zone again, when Boyle ran the ball into the end zone.  A late hit by Greenwich led to retaliation by a Xavier player, which led to a scuffle out of our view.  That, of course, was bad enough.  Police and coaches jumped in immediately to stop that, and of course, the striped shirts threw flags.

Nobody was tossed from the game.  Despite the hyperbole, for the most part, the on the field theatrics were over.

In the stands, well, it wasn't the proudest moment.

OK, let's start with Palmer Field itself.  It's a fascinating place, with a baseball field to the far corner of our view in the press box (in other words, the football press box is in right center field).  It's fun and charming in that regard.  But for reasons I'm not sure of, the VISITING (Greenwich) bench is right near the bleachers.  Xaviers' bench is on the opposite side, with no bleachers behind them.  Only the baseball field is at their backs.

As you can imagine, this means that BOTH sets of fans - home and away - are sitting on the same side, separated by a set of stairs.  So...

Xavier fans began to bark at Greenwich fans.  Greenwich fans barked back.  These are the adults, who are supposed to be, you know, the role models.  At one point, I spied a vehement argument between a female Xavier fan and a male Greenwich spectator.  They were fairly close together before the woman was pulled away.

Let's be clear.  I'm not accusing or defending anyone.  I'm telling you what I saw.  Now let's discuss what I heard:

- That Greenwich players were flipping off the Xavier fans (inexcusable, if true, but that speaks to the location of the GHS bench also).
- That Xavier fans - THE ADULTS - were throwing water at the Greenwich bench.  This one isn't hearsay.  I spoke with someone who got hit by it.
- Of course, the usual "class" discussion..."Greenwich is rich.  All about money."  "Xavier is tough.  Blue collar."  Please, people, find something original.

Mostly, in the end, it's much ado about nothing.  But...this shouldn't be happening in the stands.  Under any circumstances.  Things did die down, but a black eye was given to the night, and I'm only telling you the little bit that I heard and saw.  I guarantee there was more.

We finished the game and packed up and left.  Their was an air of sadness (maybe even bitterness) at the end of the broadcast.  It is always rough to say goodbye, and CJ, Deemer, Kato, Max, Killer, and the Captain gave it our best.

Hopefully there's more to come - hockey and basketball.  Spring sports after.  Then back to football.

I hope.

But this 2012 team gave us thrills.  Great captains.  Very good players.  People who became friends to us.  They deserved a different finish to the season, but that's not how the script goes.

I thank them all.  Players.  Coaches.  Families.  Fans.  Listeners.

I just wish it had ended differently.

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