My readers from my neck of the woods know just how big a deal Thanksgiving Day football is. It is a tradition that goes back to about 1895 for the rivarly between Falmouth and Barnstable. I cover Falmouth High sports for the The Enterprise, the newspaper I work for. I went to Falmouth High School. When you read "Season On the Brink" you'll notice that the Eastport Cannons wear maroon, that's because I have maroon blood.
It's hard to believe, but yesterday was my 21st Falmouth v Barnstable game as a reporter. The Falmouth Clippers dominated and won for the fourth year in a row. A kid that I've known since he was about 10-years old, Kyle Connolly, ran for 303-yards and three touchdowns for Falmouth. He's the quarterback, and has always been one of my favorite kids in town. He's got one of those infectiously positive attitudes that makes you smile. He's also built like a Weeble, low to the ground and impossible to bring down.
Anyway, Barnstable may have been the coldest spot in the world yesterday. It was 18-degrees at game time with a wind chill factor of about zero. It was about as cold as I've ever been as a reporter. In fact, I could only think of one other time that I've been as chilled as yesterday when I was doing my job.
I wish that I had a hard date for you, but I just know that it was in February about a decade ago. The game was an ice hockey game at the old Kennedy Ice Arena in Hyannis. That rink was usually a great one for players because it had very hard ice when it was cold, which they say is the best playing surface. That night it was incredibly cold -- I don't remember the exact temperature -- and windy.
Now I know what you're thinking. Why does it matter that it was windy? You were inside a hockey rink. Yes, but when you were at Kennedy you were only mostly inside. The walls around the rink -- for reasons I never quite understood -- were never completed on one side. It was open to the outside. If you crouched down you and shimmied you could be outside just like that. When the wind blew, it found its way inside.
That night I shivered from start to finish. I had a hot cup of coffee in my hand when I braved my way into the old press box (you had to go up a sharp set of steps and watch you head because a beam was right at eye level as you rose. I bumped into it almost every time). My friend Rob Duca, who used to work for the Cape Cod Times, was covering the game between Falmouth and Barnstable that night as well. I put the coffee down while we caught up. Then the game started and I forgot about the coffee.
About a half-hour later the first period had ended. I reached for my coffee, went to take a sip and found that it had frozen over. No lie, it was a slushy.
I laughed about that and made my way with Rob to the lobby, where a roaring fire was going. Unfortunately everyone else at the arena had the same idea, so we weren't able to get close enough to really enjoy it, but the proximity of that many bodies in the small area certainly helped warm us up a little bit.
When we got back into the press box, and hit our heads again on the way, it was about time for the second period to begin. I grabbed my notebook off the table and prepared to watch the game. Someone on one of the teams took a shot on goal. I grabbed the pen to write down who it was, and add the shot to the running total. Nothing came out of the pen. I started to do that thing you do with a pen that won't write, by scribbling madly on the back of the page. Still nothing would come out.
The ink had frozen inside of the pen.
Thankfully I found a pencil and was able to get through to the end of the game. By the time it ended the cold had reached the marrow of my bones. My feet hurt, my hands hurt and my face ached. I turned on my tape recorder to interview one of the coaches and my hand began to shake uncontrollably. My teeth chattered.
Scott Nickerson, who was my brother's boss when we were kids at New Seabury Country Club and an old friend, was the Head Coach of Barnstable back in those days. He looked at me like I had two heads. "Richie, you okay?" he asked.
"Just a little hypothermia, Scott. I think I'll live. Now about that goal in the second period ..."
As I walked up and down the sideline of that game yesterday, I thought of that night. I survived the first half and retreated the beautiful new heated press box at BHS for the second half. I regaled the other writers of my peril for the previous hour as I peeled off some of the extra layers.
I enjoyed the second half more, but I'll remember the first forever.