When the idea of reinstating the Police vs. Fire football game was first brought up, I was a no. I thought of injuries, no interest in the game and a bunch of old dudes like me trying to relive the “glory days.”
I was wrong. Completely wrong. This was an amazing event. I have a few reflections as I look back on it.
The guys who played on our team were young (for the most part), talented and motivated. They practiced, prepared, stayed fundamental and played hard. It brought back fond memories of when I played and coached football. I was not silly enough to even consider playing in my 50s, simply because I got injured when I was young and played the game. Despite that, being on the sideline again was a great time for an old man.
The men who did choose to play on both sides represented the first responder spirit. They played full speed from bell to bell. Players popped up again and again after hard hits. They ran full-speed into full contact again and again. Even when the police side opened up a large lead, the fire guys continued to play hard until the final bell. Both teams were an example of the spirit, determination and full-speed-into-the-fray mentality that I have observed since coming into this profession in the late 1990s.
I was able to see the age-old competition between police and fire play out on the field. Little-known fact: I was a firefighter before I was a police officer. In the early ’80s, I worked as a firefighter in the Phoenix, Arizona, area, but I literally couldn’t stand holding short. I wanted to go down the street every time I saw the LEO guys go, and I got tired of medical calls. We had LEOs on my wife’s side of the family, and in 1998 I switched over to the dark side. It was fun to see the Metro guys beat the fire guys, but I respected the way the fire guys played hard right to the end. It was amazing to watch two groups I have been involved in career-wise play a game I love.
The connection and impact on Bonanza High School and its football program was amazing to see. Through the game, we were able to make a significant financial donation to the program, and we were able to secure and donate some strength and conditioning equipment through a private community donator, Dick’s Sporting Goods. This is one example of how we used the event to connect two community partners to benefit the community in general. There were too many of these connections to list here, but that was one I personally participated in facilitating, and it was very rewarding.
The final impression I will share from the game is one I remind my fellow officers of all the time: Despite political or media-driven opinions on the police, the reality is that most people support LEOs. The turnout for the game was amazing, and noticeably larger on the police side. The stands were full and spectators were standing around the fenced area circling the field. Not only did the community come out to support first responders, but they also made significant contributions to our charities. The LVPPA raised over $100,000 for our charities. Once again, this was a clear win over the fire side, as they did not raise a quarter of that money. The support, both from donations and from fans at the game, proves what I always say. In general, the public supports us as a whole. Unfortunately, sometimes these same well-meaning folks are susceptible to the persistent anti-police rhetoric that is currently part of the American life experience. This game gave the community an opportunity to come out and cheer for us, to laugh with us, to appreciate us and to celebrate with us. Both teams represented all that being a first responder means, and this event was an amazing time for me to appreciate a game I loved playing, being contested by two significant titles (firefighter and police officer) I have been blessed to bear. Being wrong never felt so right.