Originally posted on KFFL, because that's where I learned about this annual event. KFFL in-jokes deleted.
So I went to the game between the Patriots players and Acton town firefighters, with my 10-year old nephew.
Current Patriots participating were Gostowski, Alexander, Spann, Cassell.
Ex-Pats were DeOssie, Francis, Brock, Clayburn, Zolak, Smerlas. Zolak and Clayburn are the two who seemed in decent shape, although Clayburn admitted to getting stiff afterwards.
I spoke very briefly with all of them at autograph time except DeOssie and one of Smerlas/Brock. The particularly memorable ones were Spann, Francis, and Cassell (more on that in a moment).
The game itself was 7-on-7 flag football, clock running in 12-minute quarters. A few plays were pure clowning, but most of the game was at least semi-serious.
Since there didn't happen to be any great football talent in the Acton Fire Department, with the exception of one guy who had speed and wiggle, it was a blowout. The most competitive aspect was the "tackling" on both sides, as the Patriots didn't have any special talent at flag-grabbing, so that bringing "down" runners was a semi-worthy challenge for them.
All the current athletic ability on the Pats' side was shown by the current players and Zolak. Alexander had 3 interceptions and Gostowski 2. When the Pats wanted to give the firefighters a chance, they did something like put DeOssie or Smerlas at QB, both of whom immediately threw interceptions. Gostowski and Spann, however, were almost as effective at QB as Zolak.
Placekicking was an adventure, despite the lack of block attempts. Francis and Cassell each shanked at least one of their tries. (Gostowski definitely wasn't kicking and DeOssie I think wasn't snapping.)
Spann got my attention by competing hard throughout, the occasional gift excepted (e.g., on an Acton 2- point conversion he didn't make any real defensive effort). Afterwards, as he was bending over and being great with the kids, I complimented him on competing hard even here. He responded with a quiet, warm, and obviously heartfelt "Of course." I'm rooting hard for that guy to make it now. He's the real deal in character and personality.
I'll miss Spann.
Cassell was VERY polished in the meet-and-greet. On the other hand, he played the fewest downs by far of any of the Pats, despite obviously being uninjured. The other one who was astonishingly gracious afterwards was Francis, but then I'd warmed to him anyway because he was playing barefoot.