While much of the working public looks to the next few weeks as vacation time – August being the month when many if not most take vacation – the coming of the end of July traditionally spells the end of the summer for this writer, as things begin to move toward the beginning of the new academic year, and the beginning of fall sports.
When I was a working official – all of two years ago in football – summer was here, but it had many other connections with the beginning of football Whether on a collegiate or high school level, July meant clinics, rules tests, rules reading. Notes from commissioners and interpreters and discussions on how this rule or that rule will be implemented made up the bulk of the last two weeks in July and the rest of August.
Of course, games began in the last week of August or first week in September, depending on Thanksgiving and/or the dates of the NCAA playoffs. College teams would begin in the last week of August sometimes so they could put in a bye week in the middle of the season.
High school teams began practice the third week of August and had to have 10 days in before they could scrimmage. That’s all changed now with the mandatory bye week in October (either the first or second week) as determined by medical staff. So, there are fewer scrimmages and less time to prepare.
For professional fans, training camp begins in the third week of July, and the 14-days of practice ends with exhibition games. It’s too bad about those exhibitions games. They are getting fewer and fewer. Last week, it was revealed the NFL wants to go to an 18-game schedule, further biting into exhibition season.
It’s hard to believe but it was 50 years ago next month that the first Giants-Jets game was played in Yale Bowl. It was a hot, steamy day in the Bowl, as the Jets, who would took the 1969 Super Bowl, topped the Giants.
I thought about that game because of a trip I took near Long Wharf. The game was part of a series begun a year or two earlier in Yale Bowl to benefit the Albie Booth Boys Club. The game eventually raised the funds for the club, and it was built on Sargent Drive, and is still there. Unfortunately, Boys and Girls Clubs around here are like hen’s teeth. The club closed a few years after it was open.
That’s too bad. Booth, known as Little Boy Blue, passed away in 1960. His heroics for Yale, particularly his senior year, are legendary. He beat Army with a field goal on a drop kick, and was a scat back that bedeviled opponents.
The professional game saw the lucrative nature of the exhibition games and by the end of the 1970s, the benefit game in a place like New Haven was a memory. Now season ticket holders have to buy their tickets – including exhibition games – as part of the package.
While I’m not on the field anymore since taking over as the assigning commissioner of the Vincent J. Reilly – New Haven Football Officials Association – these weeks are the beginning of the season even now. The national conference call for rules was conducted this week, the state high school officials clinic is in three weeks, and I still have exams and meetings to conduct.
The point is that while the summer is only half over, for many, these weeks are like an ante-room to the tasks that will take us into the fall and not end until the turkey is on the table in November. The assigning tasks will be a bit easier this year as state high schools have gone onto the same assigning platform as officials.
Last year, the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference had one platform to publish its high school schedules in all sports. The different sports had to take the games and import them into the assigning platform in order to schedule games. There was always the possibility a game was forgotten or missed either by the school or the assigner.
This past year the CIAC went over to Arbiter.com, a platform that has been around for two decades. The schools put the games right into the system, and the assigners see in real time the changes made. Last year, with the weather, myself and many other assignors had to spend hours making changes and alerting officials. This year it will be much easier.
Schools are inputting games and still making changes. Assignments will begin in a couple of weeks. Then the mind-set really changes. The weather might say summer, but football season means autumn.
The arrival of commercials on radio and TV for “Back to School” sales means the kids, too, are beginning to shift their attention. We wait for summer all year, especially after Christmas, and it is made shorter by the things we find ourselves doing as the weeks inexorably move forward.