Wrecker ruminations

My youngest son makes fun of how wrapped up I get with Wreckers football. Don't get me wrong: Everyone in my family roots hard for the Wreckers -- but he thinks my obsession with the FCIAC standings, my daily monitoring of the league and state playoff outlook, and my detailed knowledge of the opposition's big-time players is a little bit excessive.

The explanation for my enthusiasm? Just look at the other teams I root for: the Jets, who've lost four of their last five games, all of them in plumb-ugly fashion; the Mets, who blew both 2007 and 2008 in the final week, and who didn't even show up for 2009, and the Knicks, who haven't had a winning season since the Napoleonic era.

Need I say more?

I never thought I'd see the day I'd be rooting for the Greenwich Cardinals, Staples' archrivals -- but that's exactly what I'll have to do this evening. Chalk it up to poor planning on my part.

This past summer my wife began plotting a special getaway for a big birthday of mine coming up later this month. She asked me to take a careful look at the calendar and come up with a good weekend for the bash, which would involve air and hotel reservations for several couples. Obviously, I steered clear of all Staples football games that appeared on the schedule -- but I told her the weekend of Nov. 21--22 looked good. What I failed to consider, my Wreckers fetish notwithstanding, is that the weekend before Thanksgiving is the FCIAC championship game -- always is, and has been for quite some time. Though nothing is ever certain in sports, we're certainly hoping to be part of that event -- and I might have to miss it! Fortunately, there is a scenario in which we'd be playing for the FCIAC championship on Thanksgiving day, rather than the weekend before, but a lot of things have to fall just right for that to happen -- and one of them is that Greenwich has to keep winning.

So -- go Cardinals!

I love it when one of those good old, time-honored, corny, sports cliché situations comes to life, and we get reminded of a positive lesson.

You've all seen the NFL sideline reporters stick a mike in front of the backup quarterback, who'll undoubtedly say, "I just keep practicing all week as if I'll be the starter. I always stay ready, so if I'm needed, I can step in and help the team."

Well, as everyone knows, the Wreckers' starting quarterback and team leader, Brandon Pacilio, went down with a broken ankle in the Harding game two weeks ago. Backup senior quarterback Keith Gelman, who's been "staying ready" for quite some time now, stepped in amidst a torrent of articles hinting that there could be trouble ahead for the Wreckers. ("Lots of luck, Mr. Gelman. Lots of luck," was how the Connecticut Post put it.) And all he did was lead Staples to a 38-0 thrashing of Fairfield Ludlowe. Turns out he didn't need luck; hard work on his part and an inspired team effort did the trick. Way to go, Mr. Gelman -- and the Wreckers.

Speaking of Pacilio (Good luck for a speedy recovery, Brandon!), as we made our way to our seats last Friday at the Ludlowe game, another mom asked my wife how Brandon was doing, making the assumption that my wife was Brandon's mother. The reason for the confusion? Carol was wearing a Staples varsity jacket with a No. 1 on the back, the number our middle son Greg (SHS '02) wore in his playing days -- and the number Pacilio wears now.

This type of mistake wasn't new to us. A few years back, when Jimmy Hughes was breaking Staples and state rushing records pretty much on a weekly basis, my wife would frequently be seen around town in a Staples No. 5 jacket. One Saturday morning a man ran up to my wife at the Shell station and breathlessly asked, in an awed tone, "Are you Jimmy Hughes' mom?" It seemed he was on the verge of asking her for her autograph. I almost think she should have played along, because he looked so crestfallen when she told him the truth: Our oldest son Matt (SHS '99) also wore No. 5, and it was his jacket, not Jimmy's, that she was wearing.

Anyone remember the one-woman Broadway show Lily Tomlin did way, way back in the '70s -- Appearing Nitely? There's one memorable sketch in which Tomlin, playing a teenage girl, overhears her parents, Lud and Marie, talking slowly, deliberately, repetitiously and seemingly forever about the ingredients in a birthday cake. Finally, unable to take it anymore, about to burst, she screams down the stairs at the top of her lungs to her parents, "PLEASE STOP TALKING ABOUT THAT CAKE!" Brings to mind our own local cake-baking controversy involving Staples cheerleaders and football players that raged recently on Channel 12 and the Fox News network, not to mention all the local papers. I think we need to bring in Lily to scream out, once and for all, "Please stop talking about that cake!"

So there we were, circa 1996-2001, watching our two older sons play football for Staples, as our third son -- a very little kid at the time -- bounced rambunctiously around the bleachers. The parents back in those days would grouse about the fact that we had no lights at Staples, and then they'd chuckle, "Well, I'm sure we'll be able to watch Robby play under the lights by the time he's a senior." It was all a big joke: That day seemed so far off -- nobody thought it could possibly take that long for the lights to be approved and installed.

Well, Robby's a junior now. And we're still waiting ...

Westporter Hank Herman shares his Home Team column every other Friday in the Westport News.