LYNNFIELD — Be careful what you wish for, especially if you think there is nothing like an old-fashioned Thanksgiving Day football rivalry to kick start your day of thanks.
It appears as though the 59-year Lynnfield-North Reading Thanksgiving Day football game is in for a major overhaul.
The 2018 game is set to be played for the first time at night on Thanksgiving eve at 5:30.
For years, night football did not exist in Lynnfield. All that changed in 2014 with the opening of the new high school turf complex at the high school. Friday night football became the must-attend event in town.
“We had talked about it for a couple of years now and felt it was time for a change,” said Lynnfield athletic director Michael Bierwirth. “The survey response was clear. People preferred to play the night before.”
Lynnfield High principal Bob Cleary said he felt that playing the game on Thanksgiving Day was anti-climatic and that it hinders the ability of some to celebrate the holiday with their families.
“You have the pep rally on Wednesday, and then you say, see you tomorrow, so it definitely is anti-climatic,” he said. “Plus, ever since we started playing Friday nights, you can see how much fun it is the way the community comes together, so that atmosphere is so much more charged than a day game.”
Not so fast, as not everyone agrees with Cleary’s sentiment. The decision has ignited a storm of dissatisfaction within the high school football community, some of whom have taken to social media to express their outrage.
In response to the commotion over the issue, school superintendent Jane Tremblay said she re-sent the survey Tuesday and also posted the survey on the district’s website to encourage more people to vote. The deadline to respond is May 31.
Even WCVB sports reporter Mike Lynch has weighed in on the idea. He stated in an email to an interested parent dated May 15 that it is a “poor idea. Some Catholic schools play Wednesday night but almost no public schools. The attendance will suffer and as the son of a former coach/athletic director, Thanksgiving morning is the biggest revenue event of the school year (and) pays a lot of bills.”
Lynch also expressed his concerns regarding alcohol consumption.
“The night before Thanksgiving is a big travel-reunion night for recent grads,” he said. “The chances for alcohol presence or consumption is far greater (for a night game).”
He closed the email urging the parent to “get them to stop this silly idea.”
Lynnfield superintendent Jane Tremblay said the results of the survey, which contained three questions, were overwhelmingly in favor of moving the game.
“The survey went out to K-12 faculty, students’ parents and staff and the response was a majority preferred to play the night before,” she said. “It was the largest response I’ve ever seen with 770 responses.”
Tremblay said that 38 percent of respondents said they are in favor of a night game, while 33 percent said they were not and 29 percent said they were impartial.
Forty-five percent of respondents said they would attend the game if played Thanksgiving Eve, while 28 percent said they would not and 27 percent said they were not sure.
North Reading superintendent Jon Bernard said he first heard about the idea during a casual conversation at last year’s game. He said there is absolutely no desire in North Reading to follow suit in 2019 when the Hornets will serve as host team.
“I expressed my opinion that personally I was not in favor of changing the game, but that I respect their decision because they must have felt it was in the best interests of their community, and I have to respect that,” he said.
“I prefer a traditional Thanksgiving Day game as I think of North Reading as a bit of small town America, where everyone looks forward to the big Thanksgiving Day game. While I defer to the host school’s decision, I don’t know what factors brought about this change. There are no circumstances here in North Reading that would justify changing a 59-year tradition. Next year I can tell you the game will be played as it always has been on Thanksgiving Day.”