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The Holiday Football Game

Dec 9, 2008 | By David Savona
Every year around this time, I get together with a bunch of buddies from the neighborhood and we beat the tar out of one another.

It’s a Thanksgiving tradition, a flag football game (which, inevitably, always includes a fair share of tackling) organized by my good friend Mark. He typically recruits about 20 guys for the game, and we gather on an elementary school field on a cold day not long after Turkey Day, clad in all manner of odd outfits aimed at protecting us against both weather and injury. By the time the slugfest is over, everyone is bone-tired, but happy. The guys slake their thirst at a keg and then fire up cigars provided by yours truly.

This year included a slightly different angle, however, and its name was Andy.

I’m 40 years old, and the guys in this contest usually range from age 33 to around 43. Now Mark, who is a competitive sort, doesn’t really enjoy losing, so he stacked the deck a bit this year by bringing Andy, a coworker of his imported straight from Manhattan. I walked onto the field with my buddy Rick, and saw Andy doing a few stretches. First impressions: Andy weighs 200 pounds (OK, I can handle that, a lot of guys on the field are 200 pounders), 6 foot 3 (that’s kinda bad); and carrying, by my amateur estimates, absolutely no body fat and what can only be described as slabs of muscle on an athletic build. (Uh-oh).

And now for the truly distressing part: he’s 25 years old.

I wasn’t overly concerned at first. I warmed up as usual, stretching as much as I could to make sure I didn’t tear anything other than my pants. We traded good-natured insults. I made fun of Tim for wearing golf shoes instead of cleats. Tim, Jay and Mark dared me to try kicking off (I never will again, after what can only be described as the low-hook debacle of ‘06.) And we all expressed our thanks that Russ didn’t break out his lime-green tights.

I pulled on my hat, tried (unsuccessfully) to catch a few warm up passes from Tim, our team’s QB, then dug my cleats into the muddy gridiron to prepare for the kickoff. 

Mark’s team kicked first, and they belted a beauty. I prepared to block, which is my specialty. I looked over my head, saw a teammate catch the ball, and turned to face the onslaught. Something gray and black whizzed by me at a speed I thought could only be achieved in a motorized vehicle.

What the heck was that?

Ah. That was Andy.

Tim was closer, and he tried to get a hand on him. Didn’t go so well. Down goes Tim. Andy got to our man and grabbed his flag deep in our territory.

This might be a long day.

We lined up on offense, and I was playing center. Andy lined up to my right, fist on the ground, a look of determination in his eyes. Tim said hike. Andy counted a “onemississippi/twomississippi/threemississippi” and then he was off, tearing into me and the rest of the offensive line.

Now since I’m the author of this blog, and none of you were there, I’d love to tell you that I threw Andy around the field like my old man used to toss flapjacks on a Sunday morning. But that’s not the way it happened. Andy was a different kind of player, sort of the way a Cohiba is a different cigar than a Phillies Blunt. Here’s a little idea of how tough this guy was to block: on one play, one of my teammates was trying to stop Andy and was being pushed back faster than the Dow Jones on a Friday afternoon. I got behind my teammate and started to push his shoulders, hoping that two guys could stop the Andy onslaught.

We learned a few things on that day. Andy is strong. I’m not very fast, and I’m certainly not fast enough to try to catch Rick, the opposing team’s quarterback. People can be made airborne if you shove them hard enough. And perhaps the football field isn’t the place for 40 year-olds to see just how big a difference 15 years can make.

We ended up winning the game (nice quarterbacking under pressure, Tim!) and then we got to the really important stuff: cigars and beer. I brought a mixed box for the guys, ranging from more easygoing Carlos Toraño Exodus and Rocky Patel Autumn Collection cigars to bolder Alec Bradley Tempus smokes. I also had a couple of La Flor Dominicana Cheroots, which seemed appropriate for the gritty day: I fired one up to pair with my frosty Sam Adams Winter Ale.

The damage from the day was minimal—by our standards. There was one pulled muscle (my buddy Dave; he’s taking some time off from running but will be fine) and a bloody nose (that was Russ; he’s OK now). Most of the guys are pretty achy. Mark, summing it up for everyone, wrote “it hurts to type.” Personally, my left foot feels like it was stomped by a water buffalo and my left shoulder doesn’t want to go higher than a McCain wave. And yes, I tore my pants. But I survived.

And Andy? He was well enough to go out in the city that night after the game. In fact, he didn’t look much different after the bout than he did before.

Ah, to be 25 again.
"Sure, David, I know that they are not part of Procigar organinization but i think that the festival is not completed without Fuente cigars.Thanks a lot for your information and best regards, Armando" —January 14, 2009 22:37 PM
"DOMINICAN CIGAR FESTIVAL 2009Dear friends, could you pls lt me know why Fuente Family is not going to participate in this festival?Fuente Cigars are one of the most famus Dominican brands and it`s very strange for me that they will not be present in the festival." —January 14, 2009 02:17 AM
"Sure, Armando, it's because the Fuentes are not part of the organization throwing the festival. It's the Procigar Festival, and the ProCigar members are General Cigar (Macanudo, Partagas), Altadis USA (Montecristo, H Upmann), Davidoff (Davidoff, Avo), La Aurora (Aurora, Leon Jimenes), Matasa (Fonseca, Cubita), and Tabaquisa (Juan Clemente). Hope this helps." —January 14, 2009 09:28 AM
"Micky, you can play next year--but only if you're on my team. I'm not blocking you." —December 11, 2008 15:23 PM
"Alex, I prefer your version of events. Sage advice." —December 10, 2008 14:23 PM
"Dave, Next time bring Mottola to even out the Andy factor. You may not be able to reach him by phone, but I think he's still taking emails. Another great blog that kept me laughing. Regards, Alan" —December 12, 2008 18:44 PM
"Thanks Alan." —December 16, 2008 16:47 PM
"Dave great job representing the 40's (the new 30, I am told). Brains over brawn is the gift of age. The game-apris is always the best part. I would love to get into the "MIX" next year. Cheers, MP" —December 11, 2008 11:45 AM
"David,As your colleague and fellow scribe, I must insist that next time you reconsider the privilege obtaining from being the author of the first (and likely the only) draft of history. Next time you report on this type of sporting event, you will be a 40-year old cyclone with the strength of the Incredible Hulk after he gets pissed off that Mark brought a ringer.There, that's better already, no?Aloha,AB" —December 10, 2008 12:16 PM

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