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The Zak Zone

November 2, 2011

Early Sunday afternoons this time of year, you can usually find me curled up nice and warm on the couch at my parents' house, preparing to watch the Steelers in the one o'clock round of NFL games.

Last Sunday, though, with the Steelers meeting the Patriots, the game was given a prime-time slot, and I instead found myself at work — well, sort of.

The nice thing about my job is that a lot of what I am lucky enough to cover doesn't feel much like work. So, when I found myself at the alumni football team's practice at Bell Township Elementary School, it was the kind of work I look forward to.

I saw familiar faces there, from young men who played football with my brother (Class of 2003) to not-quite-as-young men I knew from other areas, like church or past jobs.

It was fun catching up with some of those guys as we awaited some of the stragglers arriving at practice so we could take a team picture, but what was really fun for me was seeing the beginnings of their practice.

The members of the alumni squad, ranging in age from late teens to late 30s, all had one thing in common that stood out: A love for the game.

Talking with David Rotsch, one of the team's organizers and captains, I had the opportunity to pick his brain a bit about why in the world someone would come out of retirement, devote hours of practice and suit up one last time.

But in reality, I knew the answer.

I grew up playing roller hockey, and every time I drive past the old roller rink in Reynoldsville where Doc and Grace Snyder and a slew of others, including my mom and my aunt, taught me to skate and to play hockey, I can't help but think, "I really wish I was still able to play."

Of course, the truth is, I could still play. Some of my childhood friends I played hockey with own the rink now, and they have an adult league, but there's a level of risk that goes with playing the game, now.

One injury, and I could miss time at work, which of course means missing pay- checks and paying health care bills.

So, I admire these gentlemen who are taking the field against their rival, and mine growing up, this Saturday at Jack LaMarca Stadium in Punxsutawney.

Rotsch told me that there's something different about this match-up with the Raiders, though.

He said that the Brookville team and the Punxsy team have been in contact and even handed out flyers together at last week's Route 36 Rivalry game, and he said while the desire to win is still there, it's different as a "grown-up."

Saturday, when the Chucks line up nose to nose against the Raiders, there is no doubt in my mind that every one on both sides of the line will want to win just as much as they did in their glory days at their respective high schools.

But, there's also a respect that goes with knowing the guy lined up across from you has his own nine-to-five that he deals with every week, a wife and kids at home and his own concerns, as well.

In high school, I remember being so much more carefree. I didn't have to worry about going home and paying the bills; just going home and feeding the dog and doing my homework.

These men are putting more on the line Saturday, and for that I give them kudos, from the Greek word that means "glory."

I hope that everyone involved gets to bask in the glory of their playing days, and I certainly hope that everyone stays healthy. But of course, the Punxsy-faithful in me also hopes the Chucks bring home a win.

Stay safe, and good luck, boys.

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