Matt's Memo: Tim Green Defends Skaneateles football

Skaneateles defeats Utica Notre Dame in Chittenango. / Photograph by Matt Mulcahy.

The stadium lights framed the fall twilight as baby faced warriors banged shoulder pads, wiped sweat and roared down the field. Their head coach paced the sidelines with a clenched fist urging his football players to give more. The clock ticked into its final minutes with the outcome of the game hanging in the balance. It was a game Skaneateles High's football team nearly missed because the league's governing body had suspended it from play just over 24 hours before. Tim Green's defensive encouragement stopped Utica Notre Dame short of narrowing the score. Moments later his players smiled from ear to ear as they ripped off their helmets and hugged each other. Their parents stood and cheered from the aluminum bleachers. The undefeated season would be put to its biggest on the field test in one week on the turf of Syracuse's Carrier Dome. The former NFL linebacker, Syracuse University All-American and member of the College Football Hall of Fame Tim Green shook the hands of each opposing player and coach and then came to the 30 yard line where television cameras awaited. He was about to give as strong of a performance as he ever has on a football field. I stood eye to eye as he still wore his blue knit cap with an S for Skaneateles on the front. The fall chill called for outdoor gear as if winter was almost here. I warmed up the coach with an easy question about the relief of winning the game. Then I asked him what this victory meant considering the battle he endured off the field in the days leading up to kick off. One day earlier Green, the attorney, had stepped from a judge's chamber wearing a suit and tie. In a tone reserved for a courthouse he explained the restraining order handed down by the judge that allowed his team to temporarily overcome a suspension from the sports local governing body. That tone felt appropriate for the courthouse, just as the tone he was about to strike on the football field matched the intensity he has felt for this game since playing on the back fields of Liverpool Middle School in the 1970's. Green's eyes locked in on mine as he talked about the mess of this investigation into the use of undue influence to attract out of town players to his small town team. Anger began pouring out as he defended his players, his coaches and himself for doing nothing wrong. He questioned the loss of a presumption of innocence and the burden of proving guilt in America. He praised the justice system for being able to overcome a decision that would have kept his players, including his son, from playing the game of their lives. He stopped short of characterizing the decision to suspend his team, but instead vowed to use every legal tool available to make sure his team returned to the field in a week to play in his beloved Carrier Dome. A hearing on Tuesday will not be the end of legal action if a ruling from the judge does not favor the Skanaeateles team. At one point Tim Green's defense of the American justice system coincided with the next game's warm up music blaring over the stadium's public address system giving the theatrical scene an impromptu film score. Just as all those emotions boiled over for a coach who has been holding them back I asked how proud he was of his players for fighting through the off the field interference and focusing enough to win this game. The football warrior turned into emotional father figure and fought back tears. He refocused and admitted he was proud enough to cry. The same competitive nature that has made Tim Green a winner in so many avenues of life is now firing him up to fend off all comers who would attempt to take away from his team the opportunity to compete for an unheard of championship for this small well to do Finger Lakes community. He plans to use everything in his arsenal to first win off the field, so his players can win on the field.