I saw a post on CNN’s web page last week about old alums from rival high schools in the Lehigh Valley getting back together to settle an old football score.
The official story goes: In the fall of 1993, Phillipsburg (NJ) and Easton (PA) played to a 7-7 stalemate in their regular season-ending game, which has been held every Thanksgiving for more than a century.
Guys from the two blue collar towns, which are just across the Delaware River from each other, have been beefing over who should have won all these years.
Only a few players from that game ever suited up again after high school. And since, as Al Bundy taught us all, life after high school football is never as good, a tie was a lousy way to end things.
So, the old teams had reformed and were going to go at it once more.
That’s a story line that will make millions of lousy old high school players weak in their already feeble knees.
So I started reading articles about the game from the Lehigh Valley papers.
The real story, alas, isn’t anywhere near as heartwarming. Turns out the event was totally controlled by Gatorade. The sports beverage marketers conceived the idea, which is brilliant, for their Mission G advertising campaign.
And by the time the game was played yesterday, before 10,000 fans in Easton, damn if Gatorade hadn’t taken things way too far.
From when the thirtysomething players began practicing again months ago, Gatorade demanded that even the local papers submit question for approval before interviewing the hometown players. (Gatorade did, however, provide Valley reporters access to pro players to talk about high school, and one of those, Eagles great Brian Westbrook, admitted he’s never gotten over his last game for DeMatha, a 27-26 upset loss to MacNamara in the 1996 WCAC finals after a late extra point miss.)
Peyton and Eli Manning — both sons of New Orleans, not the Valley — were brought in as honorary coaches and to wear Gatorade towels.
Fans weren’t allowed to bring any video devices into the game.
And, to top it off, the star of yesterday’s game, a Phillipsburg QB who threw for over 300 yards and will no doubt be coming soon to TV commercials near you, didn’t even play in the original game.
But, again, the idea is genius. So look for replay games, not Replay® games, to start popping up all over once the ads start airing, with no camera or media restrictions and no NFL vets walking the sidelines.
Doctors and lawyers, get ready.