Thirty years ago, Jim Todd showed up at Northgate Park with less than a dozen people for a pickup flag football game the day before Thanksgiving.
He never thought that it would grow into a tradition that brings out as many as 500 people every year and draws people from as far away as the Bay Area for a morning of fun, fellowship, and football.
On Thursday while most people were prepping their Thanksgiving turkeys, Todd and a crew of more than 100 volunteers were busy making sure that everything for the 30th annual Turkey Bowl – a flag football game at Woodward Park that has morphed into an annual Manteca staple – was in order to ensure that the hundreds of games being played would go off without a hitch.
It also brought back former Manteca football standouts like East Union quarterback Jack Weaver, who is currently playing at The College of Idaho, that appreciate the opportunity to get back together with friends and playing together one more time.
“I don’t get a chance to see a lot of these guys during the year because I’m gone, and it’s good to be back here and playing football with them again,” Weaver said. “This is one the things that I looked forward to every year when I was in high school, and that’s probably even more true today.”
For all of the work that goes into planning the morning-long gathering – Todd spends months organizing everything from the field rentals through the City of Manteca to the delivery of portable bathrooms to the schedule of fields for both the recreational and competitive games – there is a payoff for the volunteers that mostly come from Crossroads Community Church.
As the Outreach Pastor for the longtime Manteca worship center, Todd uses the halftime break as a chance to minister to the group of mostly young men about various facets of their life.
This year it was East Union softball and girls golf coach Brian Goulart that gave the address, urging those in attendance to be better men – whether that means as a husband, or a father, or just as a young man who will one day become one of those two things.
While he hasn’t had anybody come up to him at church and say that they’re there because of the Turkey Bowl, specifically, Todd says he’s still holding out hope that one day that will happen.
“This year we asked everybody when they registered a couple of questions like where are they from and what church community they belong to,” Todd said. “And in looking at the data of that census I’m going to pay close attention to the church community they belong to and let all of them know that they’re welcome to come and be a part of ours.
“That’s why we’re all here today.”
Even those who make their living playing football – like former East Union quarterback turned College of Idaho standout Teejay Gordon – make it a point to come back and play with their old teammates.
Gordon, who is preparing to go to Germany to play football in March, reunited with members of the 2011 Lancer football team for another chance to relive the glory days and revisit the bonds that they shared working together in the hot Central Valley summers.
“I always look forward to getting together with my boys,” Gordon said. “You get the chance to see a lot of people you don’t normally see and that’s what brings a lot of people back here.”
To contact reporter Jason Campbell email email@example.com or call 209.249.3544.