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Thread: NY Cops Blank FDNY in Annual Football Game

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    NY Cops Blank FDNY in Annual Football Game

    NY Cops Blank FDNY in Annual Football Game

    Associated Press Writer

    EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- The New York Police Department's football team again dominated its annual meeting with the fire department, beating the firefighters 10-0 in a game that blended rivalry and camaraderie.

    "This one feels the best,'' said Kassiem Pope, a police department receiver. "After everything that happened, to come out here and play in front of all these people and win, it feels great.''

    An estimated 15,000 spectators attended the game at Giants Stadium, including the police and fire commissioners and the families of the 22 active and former fire department players lost in the World Trade Center attack.

    The crowd watched in near silence before the game, dubbed the Fun City Bowl, as the Bravest Football Club presented the families with the lost players' jerseys framed and bearing plaques with the words, "Forever a hero on our team.''

    The teams waged a defensive battle, with the police missing a field goal early but leading 3-0 at halftime. The police wrapped up it up late in the fourth quarter when Steve McGuire scored on a 9-yard run, capping a nine-play, 71-yard drive.

    "We just couldn't move the ball,'' said defensive back Steve Orr, the fire department MVP. "They were the better team.''

    The police team leads the bowl series 21-9. The fire department hasn't won since 1993, and last year it lost 25-0.

    "Nine in a row. It don't get much better than that!'' police department coach Peter Moog yelled after the touchdown.

    Seven players from the fire department team were among the 343 firefighters killed at the trade center, including top quarterbacks Patty Lyons and Tommy Cullen, team captain and offensive lineman Bronko Pearsall and kicker Billy Johnston.

    The NYPD team did not lose any members in the Sept. 11 attack, in which 23 NYPD officers were killed.

    Both teams play in the National Public Safety Football League.

    A few weeks ago, the firefighters lost to the Orlando Guardians, 14-12, because they had no kicker.

    Last week, Gerry O'Riordan stepped in and kicked a field goal and two extra points in his debut with the team against the Department of Corrections football team.

    Proceeds from ticket sales will go to Sept. 11 charities.

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    May 20, 2002 --

    New York's Finest copped a victory from the city's Bravest 10-0 in their annual gridiron battle yesterday - a game given added poignancy by the Sept. 11 tragedy.

    "It was an incredibly emotional game," said Fire Marshal Woody McHale, playing in the charity match for the 13th time.

    "Everything that we went through in the past nine months, and the task that still has to be attended to, made this so much more powerful."

    More than 12,000 spectators watched the 30th Fun City Bowl at Giants Stadium in New Jersey, including the families of the 22 FDNY team members lost in the World Trade Center.

    The game, carried live on the MSG cable channel, followed a moving ceremony in which commemorative jerseys were presented to Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta.

    The Bravest Football Club also presented the families with the lost players' jerseys framed and bearing plaques with the words "Forever a hero on our team." While the NYPD fought hard to win bragging rights for the ninth year in a row, the purpose of the game - to raise funds for the Widows and Children's Funds of both departments - was first in everyone's minds.

    "What happened on Sept. 11 gave me an extra push to play," said Detective Kevin Deegan, of the Bronx Homicide Task Force, who made the starting lineup for the 15th season.

    "Every year we played, we supported the widows and orphans. This year was more important than ever."

    After months of unity, the cops and firefighters rekindled the rivalry of the annual matchup for 30 years.

    For the first three quarters, both teams' defenses hit hard, causing a number of fumbles, sacks and hurried passes.

    Almost 23 minutes into the game, NYPD kicker Tony Balcan nailed a 31-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead, and the score stood that way until there were only five minutes left in the fourth quarter. That's when running back Steven McGuire ran in for a touchdown.

    Running back Eric Spezio, named MVP for the NYPD, chewed holes in the FDNY's defense to set up McGuire's dash to glory.

    "This year was a little different, because it was on our minds that guys from the team last year aren't with us now. But once you start playing, you're pretty much playing to win," said Brooklyn firefighter Steven Orr, who was named the Fire Department's MVP for his defensive play.

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    Emotions High as NYPD Tops FDNY in Annual Gridiron Game

    Emotions High as NYPD Tops FDNY in Annual Gridiron Game

    Daily News Staff Writer

    As New York's Bravest and Finest squared off yesterday at Giants Stadium, the battle for gridiron glory was secondary to honoring the heroes lost from both departments on Sept. 11.

    The annual Fun City Bowl is usually a rough-and-tumble grudge match, but cops and firefighters focused more on playing for their lost colleagues.

    At the end of the hard-fought 10-0 NYPD victory at the Meadowlands, players on both sides shook hands and hugged.

    "There's a lot of competition, but there's also been a bonding," Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said of the teams. "There's been a tremendous loss for both departments."

    22 Teammates Lost

    About 15,000 fans, including the families of police and firefighters killed at the World Trade Center, filled Giants Stadium with cheers and tears.

    "A lot of the guys we lost, I played with," said Firefighter John Rosati of Engine 247 in Brooklyn after his team's loss. "We just wanted to do it for them, but we couldn't."

    Of the 343 members of the Fire Department killed while responding to the attacks, 22 were members or former members of the FDNY team. The NYPD lost 23 officers Sept. 11, but none played for the football squad.

    In an emotional pregame ceremony, relatives of the fallen FDNY players were given framed jerseys with a plaque reading, "Forever a hero on our team."

    Ernest Bielfeld was presented his son Peter's No. 3 jersey. "Something like this makes you realize that they were appreciated," he said.

    Proceeds from tickets were earmarked for charity. And Giants owner Bob Tisch and the National Football League donated a $50,000 check.

    The 30th annual game was shown on the MSG television network. The NYPD, which won for the ninth straight year, is 21-9 in the annual competition.

    But Midtown South Officer Tom Davis, who plays the trumpet for the NYPD band, said yesterday's game was not about winners and losers.

    "It's two departments getting together to make us feel more as one," Davis said.

    Original Publication Date: 5/20/02

    FDNY's John Mooney holds photos of pals Lawrence Veling (l.) & Charles Mendez. Both died Sept. 11.

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    NYPD Won The Game
    FDNY John Mooney photos Brothers Lawrence Veling & Charles Mendez

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    FDNY VS NYPD 2002

    FDNY's Flip Mullin brings in a flag to Nick Scoppetta before the start of the FDNY vs. NYPD football game at Giants Stadium.
    (Photo by Jennifer S. Altman

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    Game Broadcasted

    NBS Sports will broadcast the Bravest vs. Finest football game
    on Saturday, May 25th at 8 pm EDT.

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    For Devastated FDNY Football Team, A Season Of Reflection, Rebuilding And Tribute

    Playing Hurt
    For Devastated FDNY Football Team, A Season Of Reflection, Rebuilding And Tribute

    June 23, 2002
    By MICHAEL LUO, Associated Press

    With game time approaching, Coach Sterling Alves asked the reporters crowded in the locker room to leave.

    About 80 large men, New York firefighters suited up this day for football, gathered in a semi-circle around him. Alves, a 23-year fire department veteran, still lithe and athletic from his days as a cornerback on the team, kept his remarks brief. He told his players to play hard but to keep the game in perspective. He reminded them of what they had been through in the last eight months.

    "Be proud," Alves said, win or lose.

    They were there, playing in Giants Stadium, because people wanted to honor them as firefighters, not football players.

    "It doesn't take much courage to play a football game," he said, glancing around the room. "It takes courage to be on the 40th floor of tower one, when you know tower No. 2 just came down."

    As the players filed out, they reached up to touch a replica of the "Play Like a Champion Today" sign, from Notre Dame, which hung over the doorway. It once belonged to Durrell "Bronko" Pearsall, of Rescue 4, a team captain last year. Now, it was decorated with 22 memorial cards and photos, including Pearsall's, mementoes of team members who'd been lost.

    Some players just slapped the bottom of the sign for luck; others picked out individual faces to touch more reverently.

    It helped, knowing they were playing for them.

    'Always In Control'

    On Sept. 11, Engine 216 from Williamsburg, Brooklyn, rolled up to the World Trade Center soon after the second plane hit.

    One of the firefighters who jumped off was Danny Suhr, a 5-11, 250-pound linebacker who manhandled blockers for 11 seasons on the team.

    "I always looked up to him," said Steve Orr, a childhood friend who was a team co-captain with Suhr. "He never lost it on the field. He was always in control."

    But Suhr became the department's first casualty. As he rushed toward the north tower lobby, he was struck by a falling body.

    Orr couldn't believe it, remembering his sturdy friend who had shrugged off so many hits on the field. He went looking for Suhr's younger brother, Chris, also a firefighter. En route, he ran into Mike Stackpole of Squad 1, the team's defensive coordinator. He was dazed and covered in dust. Orr had grown up on the same block in Brooklyn as Mike Stackpole and his older brother, Timothy, a fire department captain who'd played on the team as well.

    "I lost Timmy," Mike Stackpole told him, "and 12 men from my house."

    Orr was reeling. "The first two people I heard were killed," he said later, "I knew my whole life."

    As the day progressed and news of the department's losses spread, FDNY players compiled mental lists of missing teammates.

    Among them: Pearsall, an offensive lineman and the team jokester; Pat Lyons of Squad 252, a quarterback and the team's fiercest competitor; Tarel Coleman, also in 252, a defensive back who played football in the same carefree way he lived.

    And Tommy Cullen of Squad 41, who played quarterback and used to bring his infant son to practice; Tommy Foley of Rescue 3, a defensive back and once one of People Magazine's "Sexiest Men Alive"; Keith Glascoe of Ladder 21, tight end, a gentle giant who'd nearly made the Jets roster in the early 1990s; and Billy Johnston of Engine 6, a soccer player brought on to resurrect the FDNY's kicking game.

    Ultimate Team Sport

    Firefighting is perhaps the ultimate team sport, requiring stamina, strength and coordination. Everyone has to execute, or the fire wins. Losing can mean dying.

    Within the FDNY, there are firehouse softball and basketball teams. Rugby, lacrosse and boxing enthusiasts have clubs. Then there are the department-wide all-star teams in baseball, hockey and football, that match up against police and fire teams across the country.

    Of all the department's teams, football suffered the most grievous losses on Sept. 11. Of the 343 firefighters lost, seven were active players and 15 were alumni.

    Most of the players lost were members of the department's elite rescue and emergency squads, dispatched right away to the towers. Football players, agile, tough and aggressive, are perfect for such units.

    Suhr's funeral was the first. Pudgie Walsh, the team's founder and coach for almost three decades, delivered a eulogy, poking fun at how slow Suhr looked on the field but calling him "a man's man."

    Bronko Pearsall's service was probably the largest. Pearsall had lost his parents early in life, and he'd made the 11,000-member fire department his adopted family. He joined the football team as soon as he got out of the academy and quickly became its biggest personality, regaling teammates with his imitations of "The Honeymooners" and leading them after every game in singing "The Wild Rover," an Irish drinking song about a ne'er-do-well who changed his ways.

    Hundreds of firefighters lined Fifth Avenue as his coffin was marched into St. Patrick's Cathedral. Linebacker Mike Meyers told mourners that Bronko, a devoted Notre Dame fan, had played like a champion on Sept. 11.

    In the weeks that followed, players attended so many more services, often as a team.

    Football didn't seem to matter much in those days.

    Phil Tufano, of Ladder 154, a defensive lineman, thought, like many others: "This was the end of the team for a while."

    At Tommy Foley's funeral, a group of players found themselves together outside a packed church. Orr, whose prematurely graying hair made him one of the team's "Silverbacks," told his teammates that he didn't want to play anymore. Coming from such a fiery competitor, it might have sounded strange. But they understood.

    Tradition Shaken

    Time passed. As the military campaign in Afghanistan geared up in October, the team was invited to Giants Stadium for a ceremony where a group of players met Gen. John Keane, the Army vice chief of staff.

    Woody McHale, 39, a fire marshal and the senior man on the team with 13 seasons, handed the general a memorial card, for quarterback Tommy Cullen. He asked him to give it to someone heading overseas, so "they know what they're fighting for."

    A resolve had begun to form. Not playing would be like surrender, McHale and others began to think.

    "Somebody shook our tradition," said McHale, a muscular 270-pound tackle, one of the team's most emotional players. "Somebody came in here and tried to change our way of life because they don't like our way of life. So playing football is like thumbing our noses at them."

    On Oct. 28, at a Knights of Columbus Hall in Queens, team members and alumni assembled.

    "Tonight, we're going to ... decide if this club goes on after 30 years," said a somber Neil Walsh, the club's president.

    The room was crowded with old-timers, some of whom had played on the club in 1972, the year when Pudgie Walsh, a firefighter and semi-pro coach, first got a call from a police officer friend, asking if he'd like to organize a game between departments. The alumni, many in their 40s and 50s, said they'd suit up again if that's what it took.

    No vote was really necessary.

    "It's not an option," said Alves. "It's almost like a responsibility."

    The football team always had raised money for the department's widows' and children's fund. This year, they set a goal to raise $5,000 for the college funds of each of the approximately 30 children who'd lost fathers on the team.

    Orr was still privately torn. After the attacks, he had been designated a liaison to the parents of kicker Billy Johnston, tending to their needs.

    One day in November, shortly after Johnston's funeral, he asked them what they thought about him playing again.

    "You have to," they said. Billy would have wanted it.

    "We're going to come to every game," Joy Johnston said.

    Looking For Talent

    In January, coaches dropped by the Fire Academy, looking for talent. In normal times, few "probies" are willing to risk injury and their chance of staying on the job to play football. But this time, out of a class of 300, more than 40 cadets signed up.

    Team members also spread the word in their firehouses, pestering talented players who had never come out before.

    February brought the first workout, and more than 110 firefighters filled the brightly lit gymnasium - stunning the team's 25 returning veterans. Orr, a captain last year, ambled about, introducing himself - and reading the young players' minds: "They're thinking, who's this gray-haired short guy?"

    The new team had 15 offensive and 15 defensive linemen, more than double the usual number.

    As the offensive line assembled for drills, McHale felt a surge of territoriality as he glanced around at the unfamiliar faces. "Don't think you can replace a Bronko Pearsall or a Brian Bilcher," he thought to himself.

    Continued in next post

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    Twin Beams Of Light

    On a foggy evening in late March, it was time to see what this new assemblage of players could do: the opening game, against a semi-pro team in Brooklyn.

    As players lined up for the national anthem, the twin beams of light from ground zero glowed faintly in the distance.

    The game had special meaning for defensive coordinator Mike Stackpole. His brother Tim used to come to the Brooklyn game every year. Their kids would play on the sidelines together. The children would do that again this game.

    On the team's second drive, Joe Harris, a former college quarterback who rejoined the squad after an eight-year layoff, threw a fade to a wide open receiver in the end zone.

    It was the game's only score, but a promising start.

    McHale, fighting for a starting position against players 15 years younger, was upset at his own performance. He might have been distracted, he said later, not hearing Lyons' familiar cadence at the line, Bronko's barking on the sidelines.

    Alves presented the game ball to the father of quarterback Tommy Cullen. Tommy's brother, Sean, played that night on the opposing team.

    McHale, his voice breaking, told the Cullens: "If there's anything you need, you call on us. We'll get it done."

    Healer And Coach

    From the beginning, Alves felt a responsibility to be a healer, as well as a coach.

    He had lost six men in his house, Squad 252. He acknowledged seeking counseling after Sept. 11 and urged his players to do the same. He also encouraged them to speak up about their feelings. Healing emotional wounds doesn't come by just playing, he said later. It comes in talking things through with teammates who become as close as brothers.

    "Football is just an extended family," he said. "It's like a big firehouse."

    Road trips were when players bonded. After playing mostly locally, the team joined the National Public Safety Football League in 1996.

    This year, the team traveled first to San Diego. Mike Meyers brought a picture of Bronko and stuck it up on the mirror in his hotel room.

    "I wanted him to be there with us," he said.

    The FDNY team trounced the South Bay Blue Knights, law enforcement officers from Los Angeles, 26-0.

    The team lost the following week against the Orlando, Fla., police department, turning the ball over seven times. Even so, the score was close, 14-12.

    Next came a narrow win over the Orange County (Calif.) Lawmen, with Orr getting two interceptions. On the sidelines, players talked about last year's game, when Lyons came off the bench with a 14-0 deficit and delivered victory.

    The rebuilt team was holding its own, but the coaches knew they badly needed someone who could boot field goals and extra points. No one had been able to replace Billy Johnston, last year's kicker. They sent a message out to the firehouses.

    In years past, mortgage payments and side jobs had kept Jerry O'Riordan, a Division III All-American placekicker at Wagner College on Staten Island, from playing. This time, he called his wife from his firehouse in the Bronx.

    "I gotta go," he said.

    Against the New York City Corrections team, O'Riordan was the center of attention, chipping in a 22-yard field goal early and booming a 40-yarder into the wind to end the game. 20-0.

    The team had a 4-and-1 record, with one game left, against the NYPD.

    Finest Vs. Bravest

    The police-fire football game - the Finest versus the Bravest - was always a grudge match.

    This year, the usual competitiveness had an added edge. Animosity lingered from clashes in the fall between police officers and firefighters at ground zero.

    On a bright afternoon last month, the teams met in Giants Stadium, in front of 15,000 fans. Before the game, the FDNY team gathered to present framed jerseys of each fallen player to his family.

    The game turned out to be disappointing for the firefighters. Orr and the defense again played well. But the offense never really got on track. Final score: NYPD 10, FDNY 0.

    Afterward, the mood was subdued. Several veterans, including Orr, who was named the game's most valuable player, addressed the team. They had no regrets, they said. By resurrecting the devastated team, they'd made new friends and honored the memory of their old ones.

    Then it was Alves' turn to talk. It doesn't have to end here, the coach said. "We can become a better team, a better family" next year.

    He was proud of how they'd pulled together, he said later, proud to be a part of it.

    "We've learned to move on together," he said. "We wound up being a better team."

    The players gathered in the center of the locker room, arms around each other. Tattooed on many biceps was "343," the number the FDNY lost on Sept. 11, and "5-5-5-5," the code for firefighter down. One player held up the "Play Like a Champion" sign.

    Once again, they sang "The Wild Rover," Bronko's song. They'd sung it all season, after every game. It had taken on new meaning. Part celebration. Part therapy. Part tribute.

    "For Bronko, boys," one player said, and they belted out the words.

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    More than a game: FDNY vs. NYPD has extra meaning

    More than a game: FDNY vs. NYPD has extra meaning

    May 19, 2002

    By Kevin Gleason
    Times Herald-Record

    Tim Sommerlad awakes each day to shortness of breath from months of digging out friends at Ground Zero. Don't forget, the particles being inhaled were once solid matter inside the World Trade Center towers.

    Glass, metal, aluminum

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