Adding Yeshiva football to the Cobb’s Hill series

Adding Yeshiva football to the Cobb’s Hill series

These Talmudical Institute students live in Brighton. About half are local and about half are boarding. 12/29/17

During the warm months, Cobb’s Hill is alive with sporting events: softball, high school baseball, basketball, tennis , croquet and ultimate Frisbee.


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.

1993 cropped

January 14, 1993 Rochester Democrat and Chronicle


The Institute boys were also seen at Cobb’s Hill during last March’s fluke blizzard. From Adding a March blizzard to the Cobb’s Hill series

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.


This goal line play required an extended discussion on rules interpretation. 12/29/17

calling play

This was one of the few times a set play was called.


The play resulted in a long bomb touchdown.


A tackle on the far sideline

tackle fumble

Bruising tackle knocks off a yarmulke

close up

Incomplete pass


Complete pass


The quarterback eluded this pass rusher, but then threw an interception.


David “Luckman” Kramer about to launch a long bomb touchdown pass. [Photo: TIUNY student]


Sid Luckman is often considered the greatest Jewish football player of all time. Eugene Kramer’s 87th birthday gift from the Yankee Clipper in the Village Gate.


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The Graffiti Towers of Washington Grove: A Photographic Gallery

Adding a wooded haven to the Cobb’s Hill series with a stroll through Washington Grove

Adding a March blizzard to the Cobb’s Hill series

172 years ago when the Millerites trudged down Cobb’s Hill

42 years and counting for the Kick Ass Kro-Kay Club of Cobb’s Hill

Once more into the breech on the banks of Lake Riley

Flowering Upper Monroe

Ultimate spring fever at Cobb’s Hill

On a mound at Cobb’s Hill! And how the City of Rochester handles its loose leaves.

Cobb’s Hill welcomes the Ninth Cobb’s Hill Cyclocross

Diehards and the Cobb’s Hill Tennis Courts

Back to normalcy at Cobb’s Hill basketball

Rochester’s own street ball Rucker League

The 8th Annual Festival of Softball: After 800 Innings the “Tribute to Noah” nears $100,000

That Championship Season thirty five years later

The Cobb’s Hill tragedy of an “invisible man” ten years later

On the 22nd of October, 1844 on top of Cobb’s Hill

About The Author

Welcome to Talker of the Town! My name is David Kramer. I have a Ph.D in English and teach at Keuka College. I am a former and still active Fellow at the Nazareth College Center for Public History and a Storyteller in Residence at the SmallMatters Institute. Over the years, I have taught at Monroe Community College, the Rochester Institute of Technology and St. John Fisher College. I have published numerous Guest Essays, Letters, Book Reviews and Opinion pieces in The New York Times, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, the Buffalo News, the Rochester Patriot, the Providence Journal, the Providence Business News, the Brown Alumni Magazine, the New London Day, the Boston Herald, the Messenger Post Newspapers, the Wedge, the Empty Closet, the CITY, Lake Affect Magazine and Brighton Connections. My poetry appears in The Criterion: An International Journal in English and Rundenalia and my academic writing in War, Literature and the Arts and Twentieth Century Literary Criticism. Starting in February 2013, I wrote for three Democratic and Chronicle  blogs, "Make City Schools Better," "Unite Rochester," and the "Editorial Board." When my tenure at the D & C  ended, I wanted to continue conversations first begun there. And start new ones.  So we created this new space, Talker of the Town, where all are invited to join. I don’t like to say these posts are “mine.” Very few of them are the sole product of my sometimes overheated imagination. Instead, I call them partnerships and collaborations. Or as they say in education, “peer group work.” Talker of the Town might better be Talkers of the Town. The blog won’t thrive without your leads, text, pictures, ideas, facebook shares, tweets, comments and criticisms.


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