by John Delorenzo
When I returned to MacCalman Field on October 14th for the last Nyack High School home football game of the season, I was surrounded by the family that cherished it before me and a host of former teammates whose faces flooded me with the memories of a legacy soon to become history. I was reminded, then, of what makes Nyack so special. It’s not the trendy bars on Main Street or the rich arts and music scene. It’s not the beautiful Hudson River backdrop or the elegant Victorian homes along Broadway. Nyack is defined by one thing that all Nyackers, past and present, will understand: tradition.
Nyack tradition comes in many varieties, and the town’s many traditions have evolved over the years to reflect the ever-changing community. Since 1944, MacCalman Field has been a beacon of tradition, a symbol that has stood tall atop the hill between Midland and Franklin, a local landmark.
A graceful bell tower that once served as the main high school building looms over a dilapidated grass field that, as any Nyack athlete would proudly proclaim, never matches the pristine turf fields at rival Hudson Valley schools. The field’s bleachers are shaky, the structure beneath them built of a decades-old concrete mixture. Its scoreboard is sufficient and the PA system, housed in a shaky old wooden press box, ample.
So, as a former Nyack football player, I can attest that what makes MacCalman field worth the send-off it got from hundreds of students and alumni that Friday night has nothing to do with the field’s quality — that’s exactly the reason why football games will be relocating to the new facilities at the current high school. What makes MacCalman special is the feelings the setting fosters: how it feels to walk out onto that muddy field, under those bright lights and in front of that endearing old tower; how it feels to stare at those concrete bleachers filled with the people you know and love, the very people that make Nyack what it is. Ask any former Nyack athlete what makes MacCalman special and they’ll describe the prideful roar you hear when your name is announced, or the awful silence you feel when the game gets away. You’ll hear what it’s like to have an entire community beating by the pulse of you and your teammates, about how, together, and in those fleeting moments, you feel a part of something so much larger than just a game of football. You’ll hear what it’s like to realize that you are just one tiny piece of a tradition so large, and so powerful, that it has become a symbol for a community’s identity. Those feelings, which you get from the moment your cleats hit the pavement beneath the bell tower, are what make MacCalman field so brilliant.
I felt them when I was eight years old, watching my oldest sisters charge up and down the field wielding their lacrosse sticks, and when I was in middle school, admiring my brother as he helped the football team win a state championship in 2003. Yet, it wasn’t until I took the field myself as a part of Nyack football, in 2009 and 2010, that I truly understood. In a way so unique to the Nyack tradition, stepping out onto that field makes the relatively small bleachers seem four times as crowded and the cheers ten times louder. The lights become all that much brighter as the game slowly fades into irrelevance. In that moment, you never want to leave, never want to depart the sideline or retreat to the locker room. You have been given the awesome responsibility of representing an entire community simply by bearing five letters across your chest: Nyack. Regardless of your skill or your role, your presence in that moment makes you central to the core of the Nyack tradition, and that can’t be taken away by anything – not the modest field facilities or even the score of the game.
I felt that responsibility, that tradition, one final time that Friday night as I was honored at halftime, along with hundreds of other Nyack athletes bonded so strongly by the MacCalman legacy. The cheerleaders, the Indianettes, the crowd, the press box, a muddy field and the familiar smell of ramen coming from the snack stand were all in full force. The mild bite in the air screamed football season as much as the announcer’s voice, when he read the names of many decades of Nyack alumni to a colossal roar of the crowd. I think I can speak for most of us who were out there Friday night when I say that fewer moments could feel more like home. As I say goodbye to this tradition, I will always remember those feelings and that responsibility. I will remember the unrivaled sense of pride I got from standing on that field, gazing back towards that bell tower with the crowd noise fading away, pulling on my helmet and realizing just what it meant to represent Nyack.
John DeLorenzo is a former Nyack High School football player who graduated in 2011. He currently works as a Software Developer at Optum Technology.
Photo Credit: Alison Perry, Dave Zornow