It’s opening Sunday for the National Football League, and even better, I survived the first game of the year in the long-running “old guy” touch football game that’s been playing in Princeton since the mid-1990s.
In my mid-60s, I was a rookie last season. Now I’m hoping to avoid the sophomore jinx, although I’ll settle for playing without injury. Assuming we can get at least seven guys to come, we play most Sunday mornings on a shorter-than-regulation field from the weekend after Labor Day up until Memorial Day weekend or maybe a bit later.
My friend Joe Seldner, who wrote the article linked in the first paragraph, recruited me to play. If you don’t count tossing the ball around with my kids when they were young, I hadn’t played football since high school in the mid-70s, and that was only weekend-at-the-park stuff.
To my surprise, I actually was able to play last year. I wasn’t the oldest guy on the gridiron, as many of us qualify for Medicare. The younger guys are probably in their 50s, although occasionally somebody’s son or nephew or friend in his 20s or 30s shows up. If women wanted to play, I’m sure we’d let them, and they’d probably run circles around us.
It’s obvious that some of the guys have experience playing the game, but that’s not a prerequisite to play. Being ambulatory is pretty much the only qualifier.
If we have an odd number of players, one guy usually plays quarterback for both sides and no one rushes. If it’s an even number, one guy rushes opposite the quarterback on a varying 1-1,000 or 1-Mississippi count.
We use an NFL-regulation football (“The Duke,” as shown above) and play two-handed touch. One team is in pinnies, and there is an assortment of NFL, college and high school replica jerseys and caps on display.
Today, as the oldest and slowest guy on either side and in an Alameda Hornets T-shirt, I rushed on defense. I had a hand (literally) in breaking up one or two passes, and I managed to catch one on offense on a down-and-out pattern.
I have had games when I’ve been shut out, but I’ve also had a few games with multiple catches and even a touchdown or two. Those are exhilarating, but the real pleasure is simply being outside, running around with vestigial memories of how I’d dash about in my teens, and hanging out with a group of guys who are on the field for the fun of it (and, yes, to make fun of each other).
We typically start play at 10:30 and end at noon or a little after, with a short half-time break in between. Today, we played for the equivalent of three quarters under increasing rainfall and called it off when the QBs (and everybody else) could no longer reliably grip the ball.
I am resuming my Sunday routine of playing in the morning, coming home to shower and have lunch, followed by plopping on the couch to watch the Philadelphia Eagles’ game, during which I’ll typically zonk out asleep in the second quarter.
My muscles will ache tomorrow and probably for a day or two after, but I’ll be rarin’ to go again at Marquand Park by next Sunday.