For the 37th Thanksgiving weekend in a row, members of the Oceanside High School class of 1984 and their families hit the gridiron at the site of the alumnas’ former junior high school on Saturday for their annual Turkey Bowl game.
“We’re getting older now, so it’s harder to get on the field — especially in the cold weather,” said Joe Cuomo, 52, who hosts the game with his childhood friend Mike Tricarico, also 52. “We do a countdown on social media each day which makes it a little more fun.”
The Thanksgiving week tradition began when Cuomo and Tricarico were in middle school at Oceanside Union Free School on Merle Avenue, which is now the site of the Oceanside Kindergarten Center, where the game was played. While in middle school, Cuomo, Tricarico and some of their friends organized a pick-up football game around the holiday. In the years that followed, no matter how busy their lives got, most of the crew returned to the field every November for the game, and now some of their children are lining up to play. It originated as a tackle football game but is now two-hand touch.
“It’s become a big event, which is cool,” Tricarico said. “People come out of the woodwork from high school to show up to the game.”
Tricarico and Cuomo’s friendship spans decades. They first met when they attended Elementary School No. 5, and their neighborhood group of friends expanded when they reached middle school. They both went on to become attorneys and said they like having the game as a yearly tradition to keep in touch with old friends.
“It’s really become a brotherhood, even sisterhood now,” Cuomo said. “This is a group of friends who were really close since second grade and this gives us a chance to see each other, to see our kids and see our kids grow up, so it’s been great. A lot of people can’t say they still have 20, 30 friends from their second grade years, but we do. Old classmates somehow find us and they just show up.”
In the lead up to the game, Cuomo posted a photo of an athlete wearing a jersey number that is equivalent to the amount of days left until the contest.
Tricarico said his former classmates have their sons, nephews and cousins come to play. This year, Tricarico’s nephew, Christopher Tricarico, 20, and Cuomo’s nephew, William Lovelock, 10, played in the game.
“We’ve infused a lot of youth into it,” Tricarico said. “It’s become a multi-generational thing, but we haven’t gotten to the first grandchild yet.”
This year’s game featured about 20 players who were divided into a blue team and a white team in honor of the Oceanside School District’s colors. The white team won 5 touchdowns to 2. After the game, about 40 people met for lunch at EGP Oceanside. Cuomo said Tricarico goes all-out for the game each year.
“At 52, Mike Tricarico will still dive over the goal line with the ball if it helps his team,” he said. “He’s probably the only one our age who is willing to do that anymore.”
Tricarico and Cuomo said they hope that adding their family members in will help carry on the tradition. “It does add a lot,” Cuomo said. “It also gives us hope that this will continue when we’re too old to do it.”