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Once were, yet will never again be

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So I’m insanely late to this, but tonight I was tooling around Facebook when I stumbled upon some videos and pictures of a football game at my alma mater, Mahopac High School, that took place three months ago.

For the current students, it was just another game. But the school also decided to use the night to honor the 30th anniversary of the 1988 Indians, who, eh … won something big. Maybe went undefeated. I think. Possibly. Eh … ah … hmm.

Anyhow, I watched a clip of all the 2018 players darting onto the field, past the boys-turned-men from my generation. Some wore their old jerseys. Some found Mahopac T-shirts or pullovers. Some merely sported jeans and jackets. They were, mostly, a bit larger than they were back in 1988. Which is no crime—I’m larger, too. A good amount of gray hair. Also a good amount of shaved heads.

And in many ways, I loved it. I’m a super sucker for nostalgia, and names like PHIL MAZZURCO and KEVIN DOWNES and MARK DERASMO and RAY MAHOSKY take me back in time, to being 18 and walking the sidelines covering games for the school newspaper, The Chieftain. In many ways those experiences brought me face to face with a love for writing/reporting.

And yet … a part of me hated it. Because with nostalgia comes the realization that—in a sense—our time has passed. To those kids sprinting onto the field, players from three decades ago aren’t really players at all. They’re old men, not unlike their fathers and uncles and (gasp) grandfathers. The year 1988 could be 1888 for them, just as 1960 was 1860 to me. It’s no different than when I speak to journalism classes at my old haunt, the University of Delaware. When I returned in the mid-to-late 1990s, I was “Jeff” and “Hey, man.” Now it’s pretty much “Sir” and “Mister.” Sigh.

The trippy thing about homecomings and reunions is they’re designed to allow us a trip back in time. They let us remember what it was to be young and clueless and adventurous and free of the stresses and pains of middle age.

Yet they also hammer us across the foreheads with the reminder that our time has come and gone.

That we are ghosts of football past.

Of another age.

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