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Back in the 1950s and 1960s, it was not uncommon for thousands of people to jam McCoy Stadium for the Tolman-SRA Thanksgiving Game. In the 1970s, the R.I. Interscholastic League engineered a playoff system that evolved from two teams participating from each division to four in the current era (with eight in the 16-team Division II).
One of the effects of these playoffs has been the diminished appeal of Thanksgiving games to local football fans. When the Tolman-SRA rivalry died 10 years ago, crowds had fallen to less than 1,000 per game. The Shea-Tolman rivalry draws about half that many.
There are other factors in play when it comes to analyzing why Thanksgiving football crowds have fallen off. Many modern students work part-time jobs at night to make ends meet in a world where even teenagers need 10 or 20 dollars in their wallet. 50 years ago, a kid could get by with a few quarters. Most of us didn't even work for a living back in the good old days.
Teenagers today have many more entertainment options, too. We had television and that was about it. Kids today have their computers, computer games, cellphones, smart phones, I-Pads, e-books, and Facebook to keep them occupied. Who needs to go outdoors with all this activity available in the palm of one's hand?
Football fans have a chance to reverse the tide on Tuesday night when St. Raphael Academy and Tolman meet in the Division II playoff semifinals at Max Read Field. There are many alumni of both schools who could fill the stands if they want to skip the NCIS television shows. We can expect a few hundred students to show up, too. The Tolman students came out en masse for the regular season game between these two schools and they were very noisy and supportive of their team.
It should be a fun night for everyone who comes to Max Read Field. Maybe we can pack the place and bring back memories of when Tolman and SRA filled McCoy Stadium.
Hey, maybe these are the Glory Days again.