Absecon Slow-Mo Bowl is a New Year’s Day tradition

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Players from their preteens to their 80s gather for a team photo prior to the game. Players from their preteens to their 80s gather for a team photo prior to the game.

ABSECON – Jerry Savell, 66, remembers spending a New Year’s Day spinning a pigskin, searching for the laces, and launching a spiral pass to the man who would someday become mayor.

It all happened again this week.

Savell, one of the original co-founders of the Absecon Slow-Mo Bowl, returned to the field Tuesday, Jan. 1, joining players from their preteens to their 80s to participate in the 51st rendition of the slow-motion football classic, an annual tradition here.

“We were bored watching the bowl games,” Savell said, reflecting on a January day in 1972 when he joined future Mayor Pete Elco and Ed Jerome in an impromptu football game in the yard. There was no stadium, just the yard of Savell’s home on East   Bayview Avenue in Pleasantville.

“Back then every college bowl game was played on New Year’s Day,” he said. “We got bored. We wanted to go outside and have some fun.”

They had so much fun that they decided to continue the contest, meeting once a year at noon on New Year’s Day. As they grew older, their children and other relatives joined in the fun.

Now, three generations of players bump, block, pass and roll around in a contest no one seems to want to miss.

“We’ve played in the rain and the snow, the warm and the cold,” said Paul Savell, 44, now of HaddonTownship. Savell joined his father, Jerry, when he was a youngster.

“Of course we couldn’t wait to play,” he said. “We looked forward to it.”

When Jerry Savell moved to Absecon in 1981, the game moved with him. The contest is now played on a grassy field across New Jersey Avenue from the Absecon Public Library.

And as the years passed, the game changed as well.

To accommodate aging legs that aren’t as speedy as they once were, knees that don’t bend as far and reflexes that aren’t as quick, the game is now played in slow motion.

“There’s no running; only walking,” Savell said.

Each game ends in a tie, and everybody has a good time.

On Tuesday, a cheering, standing-room only crowd – there were no chairs, so everybody stood – didn’t seem to mind the slow pace of the game.

And Savell’s pass, an offering that former Washington Redskins quarterback Billy Kilmer would have been proud of, searched for the outstretched arms of a different mayor this year. Mayor-elect John Armstrong was scheduled to take the oath of office on Jan. 4.

Elco, who was mayor for 24 years, was on the opposing team this time.

“It’s all about the camaraderie and reliving the old days,” said Frank Mazzone, 80, who graduated from PleasantvilleHigh School in 1950.

Mazzone, who now lives in Mays Landing, remembers playing football for PleasantvilleHigh School when leather helmets and no facemasks were worn.

“The secret is to keep active,” he said. “I still work out three days a week.”

And 13 hours into the New Year, Mazzone had his first workout of 2013 under way.

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