Sports at their best have the ability to bring people together and those who still cling to the importance of a high school football game on Thanksgiving will often point to that as one of the main reasons why the dying tradition should continue. While I disagree with the need for these games I do at least understand why in some communities it is still somewhat relevant. With that said, recent developments in Middletown have turned a longstanding town rivalry into a folly that is hard to imagine. In full disclosure, the main source of my information comes from the Middletown Patch although I have managed to dig up some information on my own.

I was first directed to a Patch article that was published Monday afternoon with the headline “Middletown Cancels North-South Thanksgiving Game Due to COVID.”  The article kind of made it sound like people did not know the annual football game between the rival schools was moved from Thanksgiving Day to this Friday, October 30th. I found that surprising since our Shore Sports Network and other media outlets have known this since schedules were released in August, and they have been posted ever since.

Regardless, all of a sudden not playing this year on Thanksgiving became an issue in Middletown even though other traditional holiday matchups like Wall-Manasquan and Asbury Park-Neptune have also been moved off the day. The reasons are fairly obvious. You want to make sure these games have the best possible chance of being played in the COVID world we live in so you move them a few weeks earlier. In addition. since you can only have 500 people in attendance it’s not like a normal year when several thousand people from the town would gather at the field. So with all that said, the Lions and Eagles are playing this Friday night at what is affectionately called “The Swamp” at Middletown South.

However, that is not good enough for some parents who have somehow made this into an issue that includes political overtones. They rallied support for a petition drive and shouted loud enough for Superintendent Mary Ellen Walker to announce Monday night that the Thanksgiving Day game was back on…oh and they will also play this week. This is one of the all-time head-scratchers because the second meeting (like the first) will have limited attendance. So the talk about the importance of the game to the community is just that because outside of some parents and students there won’t be anyone else there to see it in person. I wonder if the teams split the two games will there will be a petition to play a third, “winner take all” on Christmas Eve?

And if that’s not enough, the mayor is working on a resolution that in the future the game has to be played on Thanksgiving Day. Like I have always said…if you want to screw things up get parents involved and if you want to make it even worse bring in politicians.

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