Over the past few years, the saying, “Saturdays Are For The Boys” has grated on my every nerve. Is Saturday for the boys? Only the boys? Really? Not in my house. I don’t mean this in an I-am-woman-hear-me-roar sort of way. I am simply, and officially, coming out as a football fanatic. Always have been. Always will be. I love the sport, mild concussions and all.
In the glorious ‘80s, the South-of-the-Y neighborhood boys would meet on designated front yards and play semi-organized tackle football, known as the KFL: Kids Football League. My brother, Bill Pescatello, along with Tade Reen, Mikey Stuart, and other neighborhood-lums, divided up into teams and competed against one another day and night.
The KFL flourished for years. Some would say it was the training ground for New Canaan’s best-ish youth football players in the ‘80s. Certain homes were slated as “stadiums” for the big games. My father even installed (at the time) state-of-the-art outdoor floodlights in our front yard to keep the players’ union happy. Recalling one particularly frigid and hard-fought winter game, my brother remembers halftime when the home team sought refuge inside a cozy basement while the “away” players were locked out on the frozen tundra.
Our location was so prime for football that the booming voices of the high school varsity field’s announcers echoed into our homes on Saturdays. The energy and excitement of the games cut through the air as cheers erupted like thunder rolling down Putnam Road. As the KFL players matured and moved up through Pop Warner and the travel football program, they all shared one dream: to become a Ram and play for Lou Marinelli at New Canaan High School.
My brother and many of the KFL players went on to play for Lou, and unlike many things in life, the experience lived up to expectations. To this day, my brother says that Lou Marinelli has a way of bringing out the best in his players, seeing past young athletes’ self-doubts and insecurities to find and wrangle out suppressed talent. He also brings team parents into the fold without bending to their influence.
After hearing decades’ worth of stories about Coach Marinelli, I want to add one more for the books, one of which not many people are aware.
In the fall of 1995, my brother and I were settling in at our respective colleges when our 53-year-old father was shockingly diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, glioblastoma multiforme. It was a death sentence and we all knew it. The news traveled quickly throughout town. No one could believe that New Canaan’s very own marathon runner, and the epitome of health, Edward Pescatello, could be fighting for his life.
During that difficult time, my mother and father were so laser-focused on doctors’ appointments, chemotherapy and radiation that our yard had become blanketed with fallen leaves. Under normal circumstances, my father, who thrived toiling in outdoor work, would have raked the leaves with abandon. Instead, one afternoon during the busiest part of Marinelli’s season, he and the entire NCHS varsity football team appeared unannounced at our home. Equipped with rakes and cheerful enthusiasm, the army of young athletes cleared the yard of debris. Lou and the boys’ showing of support and generosity of spirit still makes my heart swell after 22 years.
My father passed away months later, after a noble fight. During his wake, every NCHS varsity football player showed up in a suit and tie and entered the funeral home, one-by-one, to pay their respects. Of course, Lou was there leading this quiet charge. With the dignity and poise of grown men, each athlete solemnly strolled up to my family, looked us in the eyes, shook our hands and said a few words of comfort.
I know there are a lot of Xs and Os in football, but under the right leadership, there is so much more to the game—especially when coaches actively develop and help shape athletes into responsible young adults. This, to me, is as American as apple pie and as “New Canaan” as it gets.
While my kids have yet to resurrect the KFL in our neighborhood, I know that my brother, with his three spirited youngs boys, are already laying the groundwork for a Chicago offshoot of the program. It will surely be based on many of the fundamentals he learned in New Canaan and under the tutelage of his childhood hero, Lou Marinelli. I hope they will save a jersey for me, and perhaps, let me into the basement during halftime.
Love this story! Thank you for sharing. Definitely worthy of a spot in the basement at halftime – even hot chocolate with marshmallows – if you ask me.
Wow, what a beautiful tribute to both your loving father and coach Lou. Susan, thank you for sharing your heartfelt childhood memories with us. Loved all the photos too.
Wow, unbelievably poignant Susan !! Nothing Lou Marinelli does ever surprises me. I’ve heard many a tale about his kindness,generosity and altruism but not this one – as well as being the greatest football coach in the history of Connecticut HS football !!
Shoutout to mom.
Mark (2-5-0) Rearick
So beautiful and well written! Let’s bring back the football in our neighborhood! (Your yard not mine :)! Xo
Wonderful story! So proud of Lou Marinelli and teaching his players to look up a notice those around them who support them and to give back. Tears down my face – in the office! Love!
I absolutely love this article.. and the pictures. It brings back so many memories. And, that picture of dad is exactly how I remember him with a bright smile and enjoying every single moment of life. I will never forget the support of the entire NC community when he was sick and the outpouring at his funeral. What a wonderful tribute to Coach Marinelli who shaped and inspired so many boys with his generous spirit and strong character.
One of the greatest men I have ever known is Coach Marinelli. He has been a part of my life for so long I can’t even convey. An even better man than a coach and I still idolize him. This is an absolutely awesome column Sue … deeply moving and heartfelt. Thank you for sharing.
Here are the Xs and Os that matter in this one: XOXOXOXO
Nice job, Susan!
Thanks for sharing Susan! I loved hearing about Lou and the football team doing this. It gives me a great feeling about the town I live in. On a side note please give my best to your brother who I coached in baseball many years ago.
A great ode to KFL and my brother, Ed. He would be so proud of Susan (and all his kids and grandkids), making the case I’m sure that she should have a column in Sports Illustrated.
I love that picture of your dad. Keeping the player’s union happy. Brilliant.
What a beautiful story you have shared! The memories evoke touch football I played Every thanksgiving wth my summer friends that I never Saw during the year.
I love The memory of your dad and the story rings true to All the amazing stories I have Heard about our beloved football coach. Bravo Susan
What a meaningful and sweet homage to family and community bonding! Love it Suz!
This is a wonderful story. And it first caught my eye because I grew up on Putnam Road in the 1960s and wondered if that was the area for the “KFL.” And then I saw the road named in the article and can only assume that’s where your KFL was! In my day, all the area boys would meet up at NCHS (now Saxe Jr High) after school and play whatever sport was in season, often right next to Coach Sikorsky and his football team, or Coach McBain and the baseball team. And we played plenty of neighborhood and street football, too, on Putnam Road.
Of course I went to most all the Rams games in that era (the boys knew of a good hole under the fence so we didn’t have to pay the fifty cents for tickets). And my parents, too, raked leaves on Saturday afternoons and could hear the cheers and the P.A. announcer. Peil Pennington, Len Paglialunga, Kurt Horton, Pete Demmerle–I idolized those guys. I moved away before I got to play for the Rams, a disappointment for me to this day, especially given the rich history led by Coaches Sikorsky, Lynch, and Marinelli. But I follow the Rams online to this day, and cherish my days in the precursor to your KFL.
The topper for your story, of course, is the moving portion on your Dad and the way Coach Marinelli and his team supported him and your family. Again, a wonderful work.
Bart Sullivan (would have been NCHS Class of ’75)
Always look forward to seeing Susan’s byline and this article is an example of why. Touching reminiscence.
This was a beautiful story and so well written, Susan. Thank you for sharing.
I too love football and remember the hours spent outside playing all sort of sports and games with the neighbors. Good memories and a loving tribute.
Such a special article, Susie. I can picture the football gatherings vividly. I know how touched you were by Lou and his team. Chris too learned so much from Lou. Life long lessons. Sharing your dad’s story takes guts. This piece ties football and family so wonderfully together. The pictures are the best. I love seeing your dads smile. Thank you for such an amazing read. Long live KFL.
Suzie, you had me in tears. Such a beautiful and touching story. Your father sounded like he was an amazing person. And I love how the town came together for you and your family. This is why we live here! Thanks for sharing this.
God Bless Yout Dad
Thank you for your wonderful comments.
I loved this story! My brother Keith played with Bill on the NCHS football team and I loved going to the games and even as a sister/ spectator was so inspired by Coach Marinelli. Today, my oldest son (1st grade) had his first flag football game and I can only hope that his experience with football will be a special as my brother’s was. Thanks for sharing.
What a wonderful story! All of those memories are so so clear in my mind! Took me right back to cheering at those games and remembering your Dad of course. The pictures are the BEST! ❤️
Perfect, and wonderful story; thank you for sharing. Our neigjborhood, “South Of The Y” tells why it is so important to have a neigjborhood too. Great writing!!
Great article Snoop. Haven’t met Marinelli yet, but we can see his influence in the enthusiasm and family spirit around the Junior Rams program.
Just a blanket statement to the readers/friends/family/neighbors who took the time to comment on Full Disclosure this month…Thank you for embracing the story. My brother, Bill Pescatello, deserves a lot of credit for sharing his memories & feelings with me. Hail to the South-of-the-Y KFL (and to those who came before & after it)! Lastly, thank you, Lou Marinelli, for setting the bar so high off the field. #NCpride
Thank you Susan for the endearing article. Very emotional for me but yet gives me great pride for our town and to Lou Marinelli, who is a great inspiration to anyone who is lucky to know both his lovely wife Fran (the woman behind the man) and Lou! Go NC Rams!!
New Canaan is very special.
Even though I know the story, it is deeply touching every time I hear it. It is bonds and stories like these that make New Canaan the community that it is. A fantastic article and I am really glad that everyone truly appreciates your father and Lou.
Great great great story