Because of Tradition
Each year, the Rowan Television Network, a student service organization at Rowan University founded 1993, puts on a large Thanksgiving Dinner as a member-bonding event. Seniors bring main dishes, juniors bring sides, sophomores are in charge of dessert, and freshmen bring utensils and flatware to this friend-gathering potluck event. There was something missing though… something that has been associated with Thanksgiving for many, many years.
And so began the Annual RTN Thanksgiving Football Game.
“Of course in many households across the country, Thanksgiving is synonymous with football. At some point in the history of RTN Thanksgiving, some of the sports guys though it would be fun to do an RTN football game on the same day as RTN Thanksgiving. After covering Rowan football for so many weeks, there was an itching to actually play some football,” explained the current advisor of The Rowan Television Network, Chris Winkler.
It is unsure of the exact year that The RTN Annual Football Game actually started, but it was before Winkler began working at Rowan in 2006. Anywhere from 15 to 30 Rowan Television Network members and friends of members come out and either play or watch the football game. It is a day were the students and members can forget about school work for a little while, and have a casual day out with friends and even make new friends.
Considering this isn’t a real sporting event with actual football coaches or trained referees, it’s played with two-hand-touch. Two captains are picked at the start of the day. From there, the captains flip a coin, or do the old rock, paper, scissors to choose who picks their first teammate or instead gets the ball first. They obviously can’t do both. As for referees, volunteers who aren’t playing attempt at referring. Like mentioned before, these are not trained referees, so they do the best that they can which whatever knowledge of football they have. The game isn’t exactly taken very seriously at all either. Since there aren’t enough people to do a full team with all positions, there’s just a bunch of kids running out for passes. “We are a bunch of goof-balls,” said current RTN Sports Producer, Antimo Ferrilli. There is a main quarterback and occasionally there will be a run play or quarterback sneak.
Former Rowan Television Network President, Joe Ponisi played in the game all four years he attended Rowan. To him, it was much more than a sporting or bonding event. It brought members out that maybe were a little shy or not as outgoing. Ponisi went to the event his freshman year, and realized that the game was actually the starting point for some of his strongest friendships throughout college.
“I saw it as a way to get out and see people that I worked with on a daily basis in a different aspect. It gave us an opportunity to get to know each other on a more personal and casual level as opposed to working on RTN projects,” said Ponisi.
It’s amazing how sporting events can bring the strangest of groups together. Athletes or in this case, used-to-be athletes and non-athletes, are put into situations where they have to rely off one another to be successful in the game. This one bonding event teaches the members not only how to work together better but to also be open to situations they may be out of their comfort zone. “Football is one of our biggest productions here at RTN. This is the one shot we have to play the game instead of broadcast one,” said RTN’s Programming Director, Cody Decker. “It is one form of competition we have between each other and it’s exciting. Plus, since we are only good enough to put on a production of football games, we can show our skills in this game. It is RTN’s Super Bowl.”
“Every person there will have an affect on each-other one way or another and even an impression as small as a laugh or a smile will make a memory that will last a life time. That is the case for me at least. I played football for six years, and to this day I can remember every second of it. So, for RTN football, I hope that later in life I can look back on every second and smile at all of the fun and laughter,” commented Ferrilli.
A lot of members, like Ferrilli, have noticed that other RTN bonding events tend to be very clique-y. With The RTN Annual Football Game, the members don’t have the opportunity to separate into their comfort zones. They are forced to play and interact with people that sometimes they normally wouldn’t.
The current President, Margaret Forde wasn’t able to play this year, but she remembered her favorite moment from previous year’s game. “Rachael Williamson absolutely destroyed our play by play guy from last year, Benny Panella. That was amazing. I’m pretty sure that’s when I knew I wanted to work with her a lot more,” exclaimed Forde. The game was still two-hand touch, but Williamson and Panella accidentally collided. Forde said, “It was still no less epic.”
In the most recent RTN Football Game that was held on November 8, Decker had six receiving touchdowns and he believes his best play was a halfback pass to Williamson. He also compared himself to Cam Newton and Tom Brady, two of the greatest players currently in the NFL. Williamson is RTN’s present Vice-President. Something she enjoyed most was that this football game didn’t serve as just a man’s sport. “I really enjoyed seeing more girls becoming present in the RTN Football Game. I was the only girl on the field last year, and I was joined by two more this year. We were some of the best players on the field. Last year, I have five of the ten touchdowns on my team. Pretty cool,” said Williamson.
This event has continued over the years because of the tradition. “It is an event that has been going on for a long time and is something that regardless of when you were in RTN, you can talk about the annual RTN Football game,” said Ponisi. Many of the members that have played in the game or have been apart of the day in some way have expressed how much they hope this event will continue in the future. With over 15 years of history, it seems to be something that will stick around.