The following letter was sent to Jeremy Ginsberg, Darien planning and zoning director, and then sent to Darien Patch as a letter to the editor:
I graduated from in 2005, and at the conclusion of the 2004 football season, I was asked by the coaches to speak at the annual banquet on behalf of my teammates, which I believe reflected my role as a vocal and collaborative team leader.
I would like to again represent my teammates in this note in support of temporary practice lighting at DHS, as I believe I can offer two unique anecdotes which underscore the central issues behind the need for lighting: safety and competitive parity.
I came into my sophomore year as an undersized 15-year-old, and after battling for playing time over the first half of the season, I was finally named a starter at Wide Receiver for an upcoming game against Brien McMahon.
This was just after Daylight Savings Time, so it was the first week of practice under the 20’ temp lights. This was, as every year, a major adjustment, and made for a POOR quality practice with very low visibility.
In one of the final plays of practice on my 16th birthday three days before my first Varsity start, when playing linebacker, I stepped up to fill the hole on a running play and prepared to tackle the ballcarrier, which was just about all I could see.
What I could not see, however, was a pulling guard, who emerged out of the shadows and absolutely crushed me. I was knocked on my right shoulder and broke my collarbone. I did not cry until I had to tell the nurse in the hospital my date of birth, at which point she told me she was sorry that my season had to end on my 16th birthday.
I know as well as anyone that football is a violent sport and that participants are constantly subject to blind-side hits, but I am confident that I would have been able to react more deftly, if only in breaking my fall, with the extra split-second that would have been afforded me had the visibility been better.
The second anecdote is much more recent. I ran into former Blue Wave and current New Canaan Football coach Tom O’Donnell at a charity event thrown by one of my ex-teammates in New York last fall. Coach O’D’s presence at the event hosted by a player he had not coached in ten years speaks to his integrity and passion for Darien sports and its participants.
Of the number of topics we covered over a 45-minute conversation was his view of the difference between Darien Football and New Canaan Football, a sore subject for me as a player that never beat New Canaan.
I was embarrassed and sad to hear him argue that the quality of athlete and quality of coaching are identical between the two schools, while New Canaan’s support for its team is significantly more palpable than that of Darien, and is the primary competitive edge every Thanksgiving.
He spoke about vocal fans that show up in the thousands, youth programs teeming with kids who dream of playing on Dunning Field, and an infrastructure that ensures that the team has proper equipment, access to fields, and training resources to sufficiently prepare every player for every game.
As I read about past hearings and the arguments against an initiative that would make for a safer and more productive practice environment, Coach O’Donnell’s words keep coming back to me. I wonder how this process would have played out in New Canaan (or Greenwich, Staples, Wilton, etc.).
Most of my classmates and I are early enough in our careers not to have the flexibility to be able to make an 8 p.m. hearing on a weeknight in Connecticut, but I wanted you to know that on June 26, the DHS Football Class of 2004 (all of whom were DJFL players as well) will be hoping that you and the P&Z commission vote in favor of the DJFL’s proposal, which is a vote in favor of safety, a vote in favor of competitive parity, and a vote in favor of demonstrating that no town in Fairfield County supports their team like the Town of Darien.
DHS ’05, DJFL ’00