SEE THE WHOLE COBB’S HILL SERIES AT END
But the cold weather doesn’t deter everyone. For example, in the open area next to Culver and Norris, during the winter scores of players gather to play football. Local police officers can often be seen setting up red cone yardmarkers and putting on flag belts. Members of the District Attorney’s office were there for a game the Friday after Thanksgiving. As seen in the (staged?) picture of me scoring a goal, diehard disc players come out in the snow.
Yesterday was the customary day — actually every Friday — for students of the Talmudical Institute of Upstate New York (a Yeshiva school) on 769 Park Avenue. Unlike the other games, this one features old time tackling, rather than flag or touch football.
I asked the boys how long this old time game has existed. They weren’t exactly sure, but thought it is decades-long. One boy said his father played; the student even remembered his father mentioning a newspaper account back in in the 90s. According to the January, 1993 article I found, the game had been played for 6 or 7 years. So, today, that makes the game over 30 years old.
Since 1993, the school and game haven’t changed that much, although the headline mentions punts, but I didn’t see any yesterday.
25 years ago, students at the Institute (then numbering, 55 now about 200) have a hectic schedule between studying traditional Jewish texts and taking NYS Regents classes. Then as now, Friday afternoon is a rare free time. And the boys take full advantage, playing this marathon game that can last 2 and 1/2 hours. The biggest difference is that in ’93 the game was played from October to March. Today — outside of summer vacation — it’s year round, regardless of weather. (Sometimes, pictured above, the boys also sled down Cobb’s Hill.)
Despite the chilly air, yesterday’s placid and sunny conditions were ideal. The boys quickly acclimated themselves to the cold, and the layer of snow made tackling less dangerous. This was a picnic compared to other weather elements and field conditions they have endured: high winds, thick snow fall, sleet, icy rain, downpours, blazing heat and humidity, and — the worst — mud. But the game always goes on.
The game itself is mostly improvisational and freelance. Only occasionally are pre-set plays called. The players say the rules seem to change every game, occasionaly resulting in group huddles to discuss what is fair play. After all, these boys study the Torah all day so they want to get the rules right. When I was there, the game was high-spirited but not contentious. After all, these are nice Jewish boys.
THE COBB’S HILL SERIES