Monday, November 03, 2014

Staten Island: Sea/St. Peter's

St. Peter's in the rain
I've previously explained why I was going to broadcast a football game on Staten Island (short answer: for friends, and because I wanted to). Now it was time for the game.

Rain and raw temperatures hampered our efforts only slightly, as any hope of doing an outside pre and postgame show were dashed. That's about the only thing that held us back.

Oh I have nitpicks. I always have nitpicks. Overall, I'm hoping they weren't important.

I'll nitpick myself: I didn't have good pronunciations. I almost felt slightly over-prepared. I felt like I couldn't find a good rhythm with the call, which could be because I was trying too hard. But this is just me ripping on myself.

Mahopac to New Brighton on Staten Island isn't a short hop, nor is it direct. For my morning trip, I worked my way across the George Washington Bridge and down the Goethels Bridge. I let my phone's GPS do the rest, and it took me through areas that the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce would prefer I never see.

Arriving at St. Peter's a little after 9:30, I set about getting to know the place. Head coach Mark DeCristoforo wasn't anywhere to be found, but I met with several people who were kind to offer a cup of coffee, and even a warm place inside the Christian Brothers' 1859 house, behind the press box.

Eventually, I sat with Coach D and his staff in their office where they made me feel more welcome than perhaps any other football program has, with the exception of my friends at Greenwich High School.

John Kovach and Chris Erway arrived within seconds of each other around 11, and we set up the broadcast, testing the equipment before meeting with Coach D's office again for a pregame chat.

A side note: as I'm checking things out on the field, Coach D walks over to me - I'm a good 20 yards away - to tell me that it would be OK if I wanted to move the banner somewhere else for better visibility. Here's a guy running his team through drills, and he's thinking about our banner?

The broadcast went pretty much the way I wanted it to. I was trying make this about New York and, particularly, Staten Island, a place where Rodney Dangerfield would feel comfortable, given it's lack of respect from the world at large. Sea was up to the task, playing the Eagles tough. When it looked like StP would pull away, the Vikings came back. In the end, the Eagles survived, 35-28.

In the booth, it was a family affair, as Chris's father-in-law Ed Yates (a St. Peter's alum) stopped up for an interview. Mr. Yates brought the school's principal, John Fodera, on as well. Susan Shultz (sister of Coach D, and our friend), brought her dad up to say hello. Eventually, Susan returned with her daughters, as well as Coach D's little girl. Father and daughter were able to talk to each other on the air, as John Kovach interviewed Mark on the field.

Genna Erway and Genna's mom also made cameo appearances.

With the broadcast over, it was time to experience the "true reason" for the visit: Staten Island pizza!

Susan's aunt Kathy invited us to the beautiful house just around the corner from St. Peter's. John had to get back to Connecticut, and Chris left with Mr. Yates to join their wives. Me? Pizza? Um...

So I joined the whole crew for the big moment. The tension was off the charts. The moment built...what would the "pizza snob hick from Mahopac" think of the cuisine?

OK, only Susan watched as I took my first bite.

Then I feigned spitting it out.

It was actually wonderful. A little different from what I'm used to (thinner crust, sauce-to-cheese ratio leaned towards more sauce) but the flavor was outstanding. Knowing they were dealing with a pro (or freak, your choice), mozzarella sticks were also presented.

I sat and and took the whole scene in, talking with Susan's dad quite a bit as the female-dominated room laughed. The prevailing notion was that they scared me away (the women, not Mr. DeCristoforo), but despite my often quiet demeanor, I enjoyed the atmosphere. I'm not one who will fight to be heard, so I sit, listen, watch, zone out, etc.

The kids climbed on me, covered me with cheery ice pop, and I thought about how - at this very point in my life, on this very day - I really needed it.

Family, cousin Tara says, is everything. At least, she wants the credit for that quote, and who am I to dispute it? I think I would be bruised if I tried to. Family does, indeed mean a lot, but where would I be without the friends that I've made in my life, many of whom might as well have been family?

I drove home via the Verrazano Bridge, up the BQE before crossing the Brooklyn Bridge on my way to The Bronx and home. Familiar territory for me, and I was reminded that, although traffic moved, I haven't missed it.

But I enjoyed the day. I love calling games, and I'd do it again.

That night, I watched my friend Scott rock Baldwin Place, as I sat with old friends Greg and JoAnn. I tumbled in and chilled.

I didn't want to be alone but I was glad it was a good day.

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