THE GAME: An Experience Like No Other

I can still feel it. September 27, 2008. The air is thick with the smell of firing grills. The ceremony we are about to participate in is even bigger than Thanksgiving or Christmas. Even though I hardly slept last night I feel as if I have enough energy to move this massive, maroon jersey-wearing player…

Published October 11, 2011 4:10 PM
5 min read

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s-rossithumbI can still feel it. September 27, 2008. The air is thick with the smell of firing grills. The ceremony we are about to participate in is even bigger than Thanksgiving or Christmas. Even though I hardly slept last night I feel as if I have enough energy to move this massive, maroon jersey-wearing player at least five yards – enough for a first down. But I know my will alone won’t stop him.

 

By Ryan Rossi

 

I can still feel it. September 27, 2008. The air is thick with the smell of firing grills. The ceremony we are about to participate in is even bigger than Thanksgiving or Christmas. Even though I hardly slept last night I feel as if I have enough energy to move this massive, maroon jersey-wearing player at least five yards – enough for a first down. But I know my will alone won’t stop him.

s-rossiI see blood, spit, and green Gatorade seeping from his mouth onto his white numbers. If there were no whistles or zebras on the field, we would go at each other like battering rams. Winner gets the forest.

 

I have ten brothers at my side feeling the same intensity, salivating to cross the goal line at Nugent Stadium. All 22 men on the field feel this savage instinct like never before. We will risk tomorrow for victory today. I just want to snap the ball and explode with brute force into the opponent. I can hear the hearts of my teammates beating to let loose. We suffer to conquer each week, but this is Saturday afternoon and we will exceed our limits.

 

We are from Rye, they are from Harrison, and this is “The Game.”

 

“The Game” has been the premier high school game in Westchester County since 1929. In a world full of inconsistencies, the Garnets and the Huskies have been ready to rumble every year, documenting memories on the walls of our homes, honoring names like Bedini, Garr, Friedgen, and Troilo, the men who have led the heated battles of past decades. And have you ever heard of any other high school game that has a Las Vegas line each year?

 

When you are a student at Rye High School, nothing else but “Harrison Week” needs to be said. In the next town over, not even five minutes away, everyone knows when it’s “Rye Week”.  Signs made by mothers, cheerleaders, girlfriends, and booster clubs bombard the towns. The book clubs are discussing not weak plots, but which team has a stronger defense this year. Come Monday night, all anyone can think of is Saturday’s possible outcome.

 

Even though the State champion is crowned at the end of the year, the victor of the game is regarded as the real king of New York. Frank Sinatra should have been allowed to do the coin toss.

 

If a fan wants to experience the game from the seats, they best get there at least four hours before kickoff, or else they’ll be standing on their toes to see who is driving the ball into the end zone. Each coach knows the other’s tendencies, but it’s impossible to replicate the sheer grit of “The Game” on the practice field.

 

The tailgates begin way before most attendants are getting up for breakfast. Team colors of Garnet and Black flood the parking lots and streets. No matter what the weather is like, there is no question a minimum of 5,000 will be there watching (although the newspapers will say 10,000).

 

The winner doesn’t get a trophy, golden horseshoe, or any of the silly tokens they give away in other rivalry games. The team with the most points at the end of the day earns the right to be baptized by the Brook. It’s a tradition that’s been the main attraction of the Rye-Harrison game for decades, and – after the clock hits zero and hands are shaken – the side that isn’t crying sprints for the water. The winning coach gets a special baptism. Best for last.

 

The water may be frigid, but beating the town you have been thinking about standing over since you heard its name — is truly numbing. If you’ve never played in “The Game,” or been fortunate enough to attend, it’s something that needs to go on your bucket list.

 

I believe that life is an experience and not a one-act show. I never want to be the type of man who has to look back to his football days for a certain satisfaction. But I would be lying if I didn’t reflect on one of the greatest events I have ever been involved in. It was the tradition of “The Game” that got me to Rye High School as a transfer student from Iona Prep. I was so fortunate to be a Garnet and play for two years. I remember every snap. Being at Rye High changed my life for many reasons. As a senior, on our home field as a Garnet, I felt that I was in the present, but also part of the future.

 

Last year, as a sophomore in college when I was packing to leave for “The Game”, my friend Ken Kayama asked me if the game I always talked about was taking place that Saturday. We had a brilliant idea. Ken taught me about his life in Japan and aspects of his culture that are valued. As he painted pictures of Asian harbors I made a PowerPoint of the greatest players in the rivalry’s history. By the time we finished reviewing, Ken didn’t know if Dino Garr was a head coach or a hard place on Mount Rushmore. By the time we arrived at Nugent Stadium, Ken was craving “Husky Meat”.

 

The game lived up to its hype. With a final two-minute drive capped by Brian Pickup’s “The Catch”, and then Dino going for two to win the game, I don’t think I have seen many NFL games that were as riveting. And Ken, who has lived all over the world, said he had never experienced – in any culture – an event like “The Game.”

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