A small group of boys stand on the sidelines of a worn-out football field. They’re no taller than five feet, top heavy and covered head to toe in bulky pads. The lines on the ground are faint, and the goal posts are rusty and crooked. The boys are huddled around two large tractor tires. One boy crouches behind each tire, hands clenching the black rubber, legs slowly extending until the tire stands upright—about as tall as the boys. These are the Nicetown Titans.
The Titans meet in Stenton Park for practice. “All our home games are in Stenton,” says Coach Nick Carter, “most of the boys are from this area.” The park, which sits between Wyoming Avenue and Courtland Street on North 16th was also home to James Logan, which Logan is named after. James Logan’s house, built in the 18th century, remains as a historical landmark and visitor center, guarded by high barbed-wire fences. The remainder of the park is less than polished.
Chain-link fences lay on the ground collecting trash; graffiti mars picnic tables, benches and asphalt. The disrepair does not turn away sports teams. “They play baseball here, football, and the soccer team went undefeated,” explains Carter, “they won city Championships.”
The Titans are a part of the Pop-Warner Football League, which is a nationwide organization that emphasizes academic excellence through team sports. There are six teams in the Titans' eight through eleven year-old player division.
“Our team is family oriented,” explains Carter. Many of the parents help out with the team. They attend the practices and prepare the players for their games. The turnout for this Tuesdays practice is slim: “we’re missing a few players because of this weather,” confesses Carter, unconcerned. The boys, still lifting the enormous tire, are broken up by Carter: it’s time for laps. Without one complaint, the boys take off, there’s a game to win on Saturday.
By Alex Onkow and Stacey Naughton