When it comes to the New York Giants Snowbowl, an annual flag football tournament that raises money for the Special Olympics of New Jersey (SONJ), few people have a better record than Weehawken residents David Bryngil and Terry Bayne.
In fact, over the course of the three years that their team, The Ghosts of SPC (St. Peter’s College), has competed in the Snowbowl, they are a perfect 16-0.
The Snowbowl, which was started as a joint effort between the Giants, SONJ, and various other co-sponsors, is a month long tournament that takes place on the Giants’ home field, MetLife Stadium. The competing teams are required to raise a minimum amount of money before they’re allowed to compete, but Ghosts of SPC has surpassed the requirements by far each year they’ve participated.
The team, which has several women on the roster and therefore competes in the co-ed division, has won the tournament three years in a row, most recently on March 3. In doing so, they have raised around $8,500 for SONJ.
“There are lots of Special Olympics athletes that come out and watch the games.” - Terrence Bayne
“It’s really a great opportunity to do something really fun and at the same time be contributing to the Special Olympics,” he said. “But after going three years without losing, pride starts to become a motivation as well.”
Bayne explained that he’s worked on fundraising for leukemia research in the past and thoroughly enjoys working towards a cause like the Special Olympics.
“It’s a pretty significant thing to be able to do this,” he said. “There are lots of Special Olympics athletes that come out and watch the games. It’s inspirational to see them on the sidelines there.”
Undefeated and unstoppable
The Ghosts of SPC, with the exception of Bayne, is a team made up entirely of St. Peter’s alumni or employees. Many of the players were members of the university’s intramural flag football team during their time at school, while some, like star quarterback Mike Iurado, played on St. Peter’s varsity football team until the program was cut.
Bayne, who is married to Bryngil’s cousin, Weehawken resident and St. Peter’s employee Claudia Pope-Bayne, got involved through happenstance. As a result of working for years in the construction industry, Bayne was the natural choice to play center in the tournament, which, unlike many flag football leagues, allows blocking.
“I was a little nervous about playing center, to be honest,” he said. “I’d never snapped a football in my life.”
But Bryngil said Bayne fits the role quite well, and certainly does not go underappreciated.
“Terry does a lot of the dirty work,” he joked. “He, Mike [Iurado, the quarterback], and Tony Gravinese are our stars.”
However, both Bayne and Bryngil were quick to point out that it is the team’s female players, not the males, who tend to make the difference on the field. To compete in the co-ed division, the tournament requires that a roster have a minimum of three women. The Ghosts of SPC boast four: Melissa Neglia, Pamela DeLuca, Angelina Albruzzese, and Erin Archer. None of them, Bryngil said, are anything to scoff at.
“Having great female players on your team when you’re playing in a co-ed division is really helpful,” he said. “They’re all very athletic, and since they played in college, they’re familiar with the game and the strategies.”
Given that the team does not practice for each tournament, but rather holds a few casual pickup games and toss-arounds, their perfect record is especially impressive.
“We’re very good at adapting on the fly,” said Bryngil. “We keep in shape throughout the year, but we rely a lot on our previous experiences as flag football players.”
And as if achieving a three-peat, as its known in the sports world, while simultaneously raising thousands of dollars for charity isn’t enough, the Ghosts of SPC players also get to enjoy the thrill of playing on a professional football field.
“Or, as I like to call it, Jets Stadium,” said Bayne, the only member of the team who roots for MetLife’s other tenant, the New York Jets. “It was great to get a chance to play on that field.”
Dean DeChiaro may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org