WORCESTER, Mass. -- The only problem with homecoming football games is they invariably get around to playing a football game.
Which isn't to say the scrum being contested in the next lot wasn't a good one, Holy Cross rallying in the second half to beat Dartmouth, 21-10.
It's just that when the band played the national anthem calling everyone from the station wagon pig-outs for the opening kickoff, most of the old grads were just getting their second voice.
"Best homecoming I ever attended wasn't even ours," offered a gent with "HC '56" on his cap. "It was between Boston College and Boston University and darned if the BU kids didn't kidnap the BC eagle a couple of days before the game.
"I remember how much we all admired that stunt, because we all wanted to do it. But once we got word on what kind of a bird the eagle was, forget it. They kept it in a kid's garage, tied up and under guard, and it was a fearsome beast.
"The kidnapping was all over the papers, the president of BC was furious and the president of BU was right behind him, promising everything short of death if the thing wasn't returned.
"A bunch of us took the ride down to Boston for the game at Fenway Park and, just before the kickoff, this plane flies over and it isn't hauling a message banner. They must have had a World War II bombardier on board because he dropped about a 30-pound Butterball turkey right on the 50-yard line.
"The BU side went into hysterics while the BC side just sat there steaming. It wasn't the eagle and everyone knew that, but still . . ."
A man introduced his son to a couple of his classmates and he was asked if he had followed in his old man's footsteps at the 'Cross.' He answered, "Northwestern. But I know something about homecomings.
"I worked for the school paper all four years there and it was during the 34-game losing streak. We were always somebody's homecoming opponent, one year serving as the loser in no less than six homecoming weekends."
A story was told by a man whose college fielded no team and of how cross-city Brown University had to be adopted for homecoming purposes during the fall.
Brown featured a playing field with a huge replica of a bear, perhaps 50 feet high, behind one end zone. At the other was a civil war cannon, which used to be fired when the home team scored.
The night before, nefarious forces slipped onto the gridiron and arranged for all the guide wires to be controlled by one wire running under a nearby bush. On cue, Brown scored a touchdown, the cannon went off at one of the field and the wire was snipped at the other.
Down crashed the bear and you should have seen the folks at the proud Ivy League institution: Astonishingly, they saw no humor in the situation.
Returning to this past weekend, an announcement was made over the public address system that the most valuable player of the game now under way with Dartmouth leading, 10-7, would receive the Johnny Turco Memorial Award.
"Hey, remember the run by Johnny Turco in the '52 Fordham game?" a gent in a beat-up Crusaders purple sweater asked, and everyone added their own Turco story, for he was a terrific baseball player, too.
The stories and good cheer continued at halftime to the point where the numbers in tailgate city nearly matched those in the stands. The home team was in dire need of help as the underdog Big Green closed to the 20-yard line and threatened to extend their lead.
But a lad named Joe Segreti had other ideas. He ended up rushing for 239 yards in 35 tries, giving him 2,865 yards for his career and the Turco Award.
Another victory under their belt, their third in four tries this year and ninth straight at homecoming, the old grads were back out in leftfield of the baseball field toasting their school, Segreti and anything else that came to mind.
The Dartmouths (1-2-1) were crestfallen. Not only because of the defeat but the fact that the showers in their locker room were not working. They could either wait and use the ones on the Holy Cross side of the field, assured that all the hot water would be gone, or drag their weary bones up a very steep hill to the field house.
Then there was the matter of a long bus ride back to Hanover, N.H. More than one of them questioned: Are football games really necessary at homecoming?