Staten Island Touch Tackle League keeping grownups young

Staten Island Touch Tackle League keeping grownups young

 The Lt. Chuck Margiotta Winter Touch Tackle League has become an experimental season for players new to the touch tackle version of football, for rebuilding teams, and for seasoned squads looking to squeeze in a few more weekend games.

Intended as a way to simply fill a void on the calendar for football die-hards, the Lt. Chuck Margiotta Winter Touch Tackle League has grown into something much greater over its 12 years.
Less competitive than the Staten Island Touch Tackle League's regular season, the winter slate has been playing regularly on the Greenbelt Recreation Center's turf field in Sea View.

The more casual atmosphere, occasionally coupled with some mood-setting wintry weather, has helped gruff, grown men reconnect with a simpler time when taking to the gridiron was good, simple fun.
"It takes them back to a time in their lives where they had no bills or problems," said Mike Margiotta, the loop's vice president. "It brings them back to a time in their lives when they were 12 years old and would look out the window and see snow. The first thing you would do at that age is call you friends and say, 'It's a perfect day for football!'"

Renamed after Margiotta's brother - a firefighter who was killed during the World Trade Center attacks - the season carries with it a sentimental feeling for the Westerleigh resident.
Fittingly, the winter season begins in mid-January, right around Chuck's Jan. 15 birthday.
That basic "for-the-love-of-the-game" attitude the late firefighter was known for lives on during those months.

Chuck Margiotta was a high school star at Monsignor Farrell during his youth, before moving on to Brown University. There he was a member of the 1976 Ivy League Championship football squad. He finished his playing days as a member of the Fire Department's team and as a 12-year Staten Island Touch Tackle vet.

It has become an experimental season for players new to the touch tackle version of football, for rebuilding teams and for seasoned squads looking to squeeze in a few more weekend contests.
"It's almost become like a feeder program for our fall season," said Mike Margiotta of the loop that also plays on the Parks Department's turf fields on Capodanno in South Beach on the East Shore, and in Bloomingdale Park on the South Shore. "And it's been especially great for the new teams with young guys right out of high school or college."

The fall season has benefited greatly over the last dozen years from the league, helping to stretch its storied history.

The Staten Island Touch Tackle League has been in existence since 1956 and is still presided over by the same president - Mike Margiotta's father, Charlie.

The main league is comprised mostly of former high school, college, amateur and professional football players between the ages of 18 and 50. There are a few "weekend warriors, including a quarterback, who are even older," according to Mike Margiotta.
"It gives them a chance to continue to enjoy and excel at a sport they love," said the vice president.

Broken down into five divisions - East, West, North, South and Central, in order of competitiveness - all games are monitored by four referees and a statistician.
"The East features the league's premier players," Mike Margiotta continued. "The other divisions of the league are highly competitive and offer a wide range of skill levels. The players may be new to the game with very little experience, or veterans on the tail end of their careers who are just hoping their knees will hold out for one more season."

Regardless of division, all squads are guaranteed a 10-game schedule, beginning in September. It includes a pair of night games on a lighted field, and a single-elimination postseason crowns a playoff champ for each bracket. After regular play ends, a brief tournament season comes to life where squads from other areas trek to the Island and face off against the best of the borough.

In addition to the winter schedule helping to bolster interest, a move into the 21st century has also played a key role in the league's recent growth spurt. "Over the past several years, I have taken more of an active role in moving us into modern times," said Mike Margiotta. "My father used to get and make 1,000 phone calls a day, but that was eliminated when the e-mail account was instituted."

The e-mail push also helped the younger Margiotta rest easier at night. He had built an extension on top of his father's home a few years ago in order to be closer to his 73-year-old dad, but there was one major downside - his bedroom was right on top of his father's office. "When I first moved in, the phone never stopped ringing," Mike Margiotta laughed. "I said, 'I have to put an end to this.'" And while a simple e-mail account helped streamline the constant barrage of questions, it was quickly determined that many inquiries could be easily answered with a full-service Web site, and was born.

"The Web site is like the teams' bible," Mike Margiotta went on. "Everything they could possibly want to know is there, from standings to scores to divisions to schedules. You can even see if there has been a change on the schedule immediately because of weather or some other reason."
And eliminating the non-stop barrage of phone calls has allowed the Westerleigh football family to concentrate on growing the league and enjoying the fruits of their labors.

Much like the "grown children" taking to a snowy field in the Greenbelt in January, the Margiottas finally have a chance to enjoy the fun side of football again.

Jamie Lee / Staten Island Advance Writer