The North Bergen Police Department regularly goes head to head with criminals. But once a year, they go head to head with other police departments.
The contest, a flag football match known as the “Snow Bowl,” takes place on the field of MetLife Stadium in the Meadowlands, and the purpose is to raise money for a worthy cause: the Special Olympics.
Fifteen volunteers from the NBPD took to the field on Friday, March 21 to face off against rivals from Wayne, Clifton, Passaic County, and East Rutherford.
The North Bergen cops raised about $2,200 in donations.
Supporting the Special Olympics
Altogether, 130 teams competed over three days in this year’s Snow Bowl. Friday was reserved for law enforcement and firefighters. Saturday the competitive and recreation divisions had their turn, and on Sunday it was co-ed teams and the 35-and-older division.
Proceeds from the Snow Bowl benefit Special Olympics New Jersey (SONJ) and help to support more than 24,000 children and adults with intellectual disabilities who train and compete, free of charge, year-round in 24 sports.
“We’ve been [contributing to] the Special Olympics for about 15 years now,” although this is only their second year at the Snow Bowl, according to team quarterback Sergeant Henry Marrero.
The policemen take part in other activities over the course of the year to raise funds for the charity, including the Law Enforcement Torch Run, an event in which officers and athletes carry the Flame of Hope to the opening ceremony of Special Olympics local competitions.
The police team raised $2,200 for the Special Olympics New Jersey.
In order to participate in the Snow Bowl. a team must raise a minimum of $2,000. This year the North Bergen P.D. received contributions from local businesses including Hudson Bread and Rose’s Delicatessen to participate. “We have two unions: one for superiors, one for officers,” said Det. Frank Mena, another charity footballer. “They donated $400 each.”
The Snow Bowl
“I run the team, I’m the captain,” said Mena, who has been participating with the Snow Bowl since its inception seven years ago. He brought the games to the attention of the North Bergen P.D. last year. In addition to the police team, he competed in two other teams this year to raise money.
“Two of the gentlemen who run this, I bowl with them, and when they told me about [Snow Bowl] my eyes lit up,” he said. “They asked if I wanted to be involved and I said definitely.”
According to Mena, Snow Bowl was established by Bill Zika, a lieutenant at Port Authority assigned to Newark Airport, and his father-in-law, James McKeever, a retired Port Authority officer. “They were talking with the Special Olympics and the idea came up and they reached out to the Giants,” he said. “They gave us the stadium and the field.”
“Former and current Giants do make appearances, sign autographs,” he continued. “They have raffles for autographed Giants jerseys and helmets and things. They even brought the Lombardi trophy the years the Giants won.”
For Snow Bowl weekend the MetLife field is split into five fields, with five games played simultaneously. Each game lasts 30 minutes, with six players per team on the field at a time.
North Bergen had 15 players this year, rotating on and off the field.
“We won the first game by four touchdowns,” said Sgt. Marrero.
“We did lose to Clifton 14-7,” said Mena. “And then we beat Passaic County 13-nothing. The big moment of that game was the 50-year-old man you’re talking to taking one to the house. Then we wound up losing in the semi-finals to East Rutherford 13-0.”
The North Bergen policemen all volunteer their time to play in the game. “We come out on our own time and if we’re working the chief allows us as a community service,” said Marrero.
“Chief Dowd, our chief, is 100 percent behind us and helps in any way he can,” agreed Mena.
“I’d like to thank a couple of the guys,” said Marerro. “Frank Mena, who put this together, Lt. [Arthur] Del with the fundraising committee, and the chief and the mayor and the commissioners for allowing us to raise so much money for a special cause.”
“The guys all had a good time and said they’d like to come back next year,” said Mena.
Other Hudson County teams participating in this year’s Snow Bowl included the Ghosts of SPC, from Weehawken; the West New York Tigers; and the Extraordinary Gentlemen from Secaucus.
Art Schwartz may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.