It Seems To Me…Darien Sees Lights At The End Of The Tunnel

This is a view of how Darien’s football stadium will look with the lights the town intends on ordering.

A few dangling random thoughts as we get ready for the heart of FCIAC playoff season.

It seems to me…It is getting down to the homestretch for the group known as the Darien Lights Brigade to reach its goal of $750,000 by May 1, so work can begin to install lights on the Darien football stadium in time for the start of the new school year in September. The group has done a terrific job spreading the word, educating the public and most of all raising money. But it still needs to come up with $217,000 to get the project completed by next season.

Jenn Montanaro, who along with Susan Graham and Susan Hamill is a chair on the campaign committee, said it was not a question of if but when the threshold will be passed. But given how long this effort to install lights has been waged, and the obstacles that have been overcome, with the end of the tunnel now in view the group would obviously like to start playing night games in the fall.

Montanaro said the change in seasons has slightly slowed contributions.

“It was easier in the beginning because it was on the minds of a lot of people during football and field hockey seasons,” Montanaro said. “It was at the forefront on everyone’s minds. Now there is a lull with winter and indoor sports.”

Montanaro said the plan is for every varsity fall and spring sport to play two games under the lights, excluding playoff games. The football team has had to play state tournament games at nearby neutral sites.

A number of businesses in town have rallied in support, holding special events or making donations through promotional sales. So far there have been over 300 donors. The guess here is the final hurdles will be cleared in the spring, when Darien the last two years has been the model sports program in the state, headlined by its boys and girls lacrosse teams.

This is in a way another tough game that needs to be won.

The Lights Brigade is an offshoot of the Darien Athletic Foundation, which serves as a model support system for any town’s high school sports program.

“It’s very exciting and it is going to be tremendous when this is complete,” Montanaro said. “I feel we have a gem of a town. It is passionate about anything that brings our town together.”

It seems to me…Darien’s efforts for lights is a reminder that Saturday afternoon football continues on its way to extinction. There is no doubt Friday nights bring larger crowds, especially from the student bases. But there is still something about football on a seasonable autumn day that resonates.

Greenwich is one school that recognizes this: John Marinelli arrived two years ago and has instituted late Saturday afternoon home games, a window when the Cardinals own the spotlight.

The FCIAC would be wise to ensure two Saturday afternoon games each week. This may sound somewhat self-serving because the media would benefit from not having all games starting at the same time, but that also means expanded coverage for the conference.

It seems to me…The FCIAC needs to address the format for the quarterfinal round of its girls basketball playoffs. For the second year in a row, Trumbull as one of the top two seeds will not get to host a first-round doubleheader because its gym is being used to host a state wrestling tournament.

Instead, the Eagles will be playing Saturday at Norwalk, which will serve as a host school despite being the fourth seed. The league decided it wants to keep potential semifinal opponents at the same venue, so the Bears will get a homecourt advantage even though Stamford is going to finish as the third seed.

One argument will be the Eagles should make sure their gym is available to avoid this conflict, though it has hosted the wrestling for years and is helping out the state. A fairer solution would be, assuming they could get permission, for Trumbull to serve as host at a school closer to home.

Of course the best way to resolve this is for the girls to host the quarterfinals at one site, like the boys have long done. It is one of the best days of the year on the FCIAC calendar and would serve as a showcase for the girls.