Several years ago I put together a father son Thanksgiving Day football game hoping to fill those empty morning hours and hang out with my son.
I succeeded beyond my wildest dreams.
Celebrating its 6th year, the tournament, christened "The Amherst Bowl", has swollen to 127 players spanning 6 football fields and 12 teams playing 5 continuous football games in authentic AFC or NFC team jerseys.
The trash talk begins on Labor Day and echoes through our Township’s lunchrooms and playing fields with kids wearing prior years’ jerseys like badges of glory.
During Thanksgiving’s wet early morning hours, we map out and line the fields and set up tables overflowing with cakes, water, hot chocolate and coffee.
The horde shows up at around 8:00 a.m. eager to see to which to team they have been assigned, whom their teammates will be, and exactly how gloriously muddy the field is.
Shirts are distributed, rules are gone over, and at 8:30 a.m. the carnage begins.
During the ensuing rigidly timed five games, fathers put their middle aged bodies at risk while relieving their youth and playing football with their sons.
Throughout the morning soccer balls, cleats and shin guards are collected and donated to "Heads Up Soccer" which transports and distributes them to impoverished third world youth.
Additionally, monies raised are donated to "Katie at the Bat" (http://www.katieatthebatteam.org/), improving inner-city youths’ lives through athletics, literacy, nutrition and health, and the arts, and "Adam Spandorfer Memorial Fund" (http://www.adamsfield.org/), raising monies for Variety Camp where children with disabilities can play baseball.
Although, at the Tournament’s end, some dads needed help getting off of the field, Thanksgiving tables were abuzz that evening with boasts of heroic plays, grudges revisited, and glorious victories.
Until next year, when we do it bigger and better and raise more equipment and money.