The Home Team / Thanks for the Wrecker memories
I watched Tuesday's quarterfinal football game against West Haven from the fence right along the track at Staples Stadium. I meant to arrive by opening kick-off, but I was a minute late, and Staples was already up 7-0. That happens a lot these days: Blink, and the Wreckers score.
These days, the fence is my spot. I'm not really a Wreckers parent anymore. I had a lot of years as a Wreckers parent. If you define the term as "having at least one son playing in the Staples football program," I was a Wreckers parent for 11 years -- 16 if you count the years between son number two and son number three. I guess I'm still a Wreckers Parent. Let's just call me a retired Wreckers parent.
I don't sit in my accustomed spot in the bleachers anymore -- top row, 50-yard-line, right under the press box. I have a little more freedom now. In the Wreckers parents section, you stay till the end -- no matter what. These days, I leave when the game seems well in hand -- which is often well before halftime.
On Tuesday night, desspite raw weather in the mid-30s, I was toasty. I learned my lesson at a freezing, snow-blown game at Wilton, circa 1997, when I was not dressed for the weather. Never again. Now I'm actually known among Wreckers fans for the generous number of layers I wear. Tuesday was a five-layer night, topped off, of course, with my Wreckers wool cap. The key layer was a thick, warm hoodie, given to me by the parents of my youngest son's teammate and good friend. On the front, it says "Staples Wreckers," with a picture of a football. On the back: "tHANKs for the Memories: 1999 Matt; 2002 Greg; 2011 Robby.
Out on the field, I see No. 5 running a sweep toward the Staples bench. My oldest son wore No. 5. I often tell the story of the time my wife, who was wearing that son's varsity jacket several years after he graduated, was stopped at the Shell station and asked, "Are you Jimmy Hughes's mom?" Jimmy played for the Wreckers with my middle son, and was one of Staples' all-time great running backs. The current No. 5 is Nick Kelly, also a running back and a senior captain. My No. 5 was no slouch, either. The lightest player on the roster, he was an All-FCIAC cornerback. That was plenty good enough for me.
The game Tuesday night was the first playoff game ever to be played under the new permanent lights at Staples. We were supposed to have lights when Matt played, but that never happened. Then, when Greg played -- but no. Definitely by Robby's time, but still no lights. As Tuesday's game starts, Matt is working at his office in Manhattan. Greg is at his desk in Purchase. For Robby, out at USC, it's only 3:30 in the afternoon. No doubt he's working on his tan. I'm the only Herman male to be enjoying the lights -- but better late than never.
I look around for No. 1. I'd gone to the Thanksgiving Day game with Greg, my middle son, who wore No. 1. He joked that since he stopped playing, they'd retired his number. Greg was an All-FCIAC wide receiver, and 10 years later, he's still got the bumps and bruises to prove it. Just last month he broke his nose on a diving play in flag football.
I spot No. 2 -- junior wide receiver Will Johnson. My youngest son wore No. 2. He was also a wide receiver, and a cornerback. He saw his two older brothers play for Staples from the time he was in a stroller; we assumed he chose No. 2 because of two Staples greats he grew up watching who were also named Rob: Rob Rice and Rob Krauss. While he doesn't confirm or deny this, I know at least part of his motivation was to have the lowest number on the roster so he could burst through the Staples banner during pre-game introductions. Like his oldest brother, he was All-FCIAC at corner. If I sound proud of my three boys, I most certainly am. All three played a part in Wreckers tradition, and none ever weighed more than 140 pounds in a Staples uniform.
I left Tuesday night's game at halftime. One of the perks of being a retired wreckers parent. We were up 35-0. That was good enough for me.
"The Home Team" appears every other Friday. You can also keep up with Hank's adventures with his dog, Ricky, on his blog, "Beagle Man," on the Westport News website, at: http://blog.ctnews.com/beagleman/ To reach Hank, e-mail him at DoubleH50@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @BeagleManHank.