Not all the stars will be on hand for tonight’s Brad Price Memorial PAL Bowl.
Be it recruiting trips, academic commitments or injuries, there are a number of reasons the sidelines won’t be too crowded for tonight’s annual football game between the best senior players from Manatee County and their counterparts from Sarasota, which kicks off at 7:30 p.m. at Lakewood Ranch.
That’s fine. No one is under obligation to play, especially when something as important as grades or making a college choice enters the picture.
And it shouldn’t deter too much from tonight’s game, the 19th of the series.
What makes games such as the PAL Bowl so much fun is it makes teammates out of opponents -- not an easy trick to spin when it’s here, where the rivalries run deep.
It’s always interesting to see Manatee Hurricanes line up with Southeast Seminoles, or Braden River Pirates line up with Lakewood Ranch Mustangs, or Bayshore Bruins line up with Palmetto Tigers, especially after you watched these guys try to outplay one another during the regular season.
And of course, there is pride on the line, too -- they are all pulling on the same rope and playing for Manatee County, which finally snapped its four-game losing streak last January.
(Yes, last year’s game was played in January, just like tonight’s.)
Say what you will about all-star games, about how they are meaningless exhibitions. But there is something to be said for the PAL Bowl.
For one, it’s a fundraiser. Secondly, next year, it turns 20. People are fickle now more than ever, and it’s rare that anything lasts two decades.
In other words, continuity is nice.
And finally, it gives all of us one more football game before everything gets locked down until the spring.
The PAL Bowl isn’t the only one of its ilk. Intercounty all-star games are nationwide, and they all have as much pride and as many bragging rights at stake as this one.
I hope they never go away. They may not crown state champions or pack the bleachers, and they may not draw every player who gets an invite.
But they make for a good competition, and it’s always a kick to see the rivalries rest for one night as everyone on the field tries to end their prep careers with a victory.
So whether the organizers decide to move the PAL Bowl back to December or keep it a January game, I don’t care.
Keep the PAL Bowl around.
It’s gives everyone one more week of football, and it ensures that at least one piece of our past keeps thriving.
John Lembo, sports reporter, can be reached at 745-7080, ext. 2097.