Fans, students upset, shocked by vandalism
Prior to Turkey Bowl, both towns react to crude Darien display
DARIEN -- It was all everyone wanted to talk about-- yet few would actually speak up.
More than 15 people declined to comment Thanksgiving morning at Darien High School, the site of the 2010 Turkey Bowl between New Canaan and Darien, about the spray-painting vandalism incident that rocked the towns and football teams 24 hours earlier. Five Blue Wave players were kicked off the team, and this no doubt remains a radioactive topic.
Those who did go on the record condemned the act.
"I think it was pretty dumb, especially because two of the kids are our starters," Darien High senior Charlie Eisner said. "And it makes the whole town look bad."
New Canaan students were as dumbfounded as they were disturbed by the aggressive display of Darien bravado, which included coloring over the school's clock tower, James D. Dunning Field entrance sign, and spray-painting a big "D" on the brick-laid ground entrance to the Rams' stadium, defacing the dedication to those passed.
"I wasn't really angry or anything, I was surprised as to how people could be so stupid and think so far ahead," New Canaan senior Maggie Tucker said. "Also, one of my friends is good friends with some kids in Darien, and she said they're all angry, too. I think everybody's angry about this."
Daniel Mazabras was in a peculiar spot. He's a graduate of Darien High, but a resident of New Canaan. He played offensive and defensive tackle, as well as kicker and punter, for the Blue Wave 21 years ago. He watched Thursday's Turkey Bowl from the New Canaan bleachers.
"I think the boys made a poor decision and they'll be reprimanded appropriately," Mazabras, 39, said. "I think it's a select bunch of individuals, and hopefully everybody else has learned a lesson from it."
A handful of New Canaan students taunted the Blue Wave players from afar during warm-ups, boastfully asking, "Where's the spray paint, guys? Where's your spray paint at?"
Word of the damage to New Canaan's Hawes Plaza spread like wildfire Wednesday morning all over Fairfield County, and was perhaps at its most intense within the halls of Darien and New Canaan's high schools.
"I heard it through e-mail, through the coaching staff of the New Canaan Youth Football League in the early morning," Mazabras said.
Eisner said he and none of those in his social circle heard anything about plans of vandalism before it went down in the early hours Wednesday.
"Pretty much everyone was talking about it around 8:30 in the morning," Eisner said. "Everyone knew it happened then, we just didn't know who it was at that point. Then people started getting pulled out of classes like an hour later. They found out pretty fast."
It was the same frantic, buzzing situation at the site of the crime, New Canaan High.
"In my first class I found out," New Canaan senior Lindsay Levine said. "And in every single class after that, it was the first thing we talked about. ... People were mad about it, but they saw it was just so dumb of them to do that. I don't think they thought of retaliating, because they knew it was a really low thing to do."
Jim Bryson, who played at Darien in 1982 and `83 as a defensive back -- and is a resident of Norwalk now -- was playing a game of catch with his son, Nolan, prior to the start of the game. He found out Tuesday afternoon when he was eating lunch at New Canaan's Cherry Street East.
When asked if he was surprised by it, Bryson said, "No comment."
Was anything like this, even on a smaller scale, pervasive in the culture of the two towns, the two football teams, back when Bryson was playing?
"Not to my knowledge," he said.
All five Darien players were prohibited from being on-site for the Turkey Bowl, and with that, speculation about the Blue Wave's chances ranged from optimistic to speculative from those on the school's campus Thursday morning, where the stands were packed an hour before kickoff.
"We're still obviously going to win," Eisner said in a support of his classmates.
William Smelzer, a Darien student who was selling yo-yo's and cupcakes for a fundraiser prior to the game, appeared to be a little doubtful.
"We had a good chance, everyone believed we had a good chance of winning this game -- we have a good chance, still -- but what's happened since we lost two of our starters, a lot is less certain," Smelzer said. "We hope it's a good game, but if we lose, we know why."
Mazabras said, "I expect Darien to be a little flat, considering everything that's happened."
New Canaan wound up easily winning the game, 42-14, and with that, taking the Turkey Bowl title for the seventh straight season.
The two towns have had a number of historic moments in their rivalries between so many of the sports programs, but this black eye clearly left more than a tainted tinge on the 2010 Turkey Day tilt.
"A lot of people felt really embarrassed for Darien, because it's not the entire school," New Canaan senior Bridget Lemoine said. "There are wonderful kids there as well. I think a couple of kids made a very bad choice, and hopefully it won't ruin the rest of their lives. I think we all learn from this."