Neither gimmicks nor big reputations assure stardom in touch football, however. "A lot of people who have played pro football think they can come right in here and be superstars," Rosenthal says, "but it isn't necessarily so. No matter how big you are or how strong, you've got to have good hands and quickness to play this game."
In that regard, one of Rosenthal's finest receivers is Tim Van Galder, a KMOX sports announcer who may be remembered as a former Cardinal quarterback.
"One of the reasons I play is to keep active," Van Galder says. "You get fat if you don't do anything. Another thing, all my life I wanted to be a receiver but I couldn't because I didn't have any kind of exceptional speed. Now I'm playing that position and that's why I particularly enjoy the game."
Obviously, an NTFL team is a haven for the frustrated athlete who because of a lack of size or strength saw his football career end after high school, college or the early visit of the NFL Turk. To a man, however, touch footballers rave about their sport because of its camaraderie, and none more so than 32-year-old Ike Dunne of San Francisco's Odyssey Bar, the team which traveled farthest to get to the tournament. "I love this game," Dunne says. "Some of us on our team have been playing it together since we were eight years old."
As for the tournament, which showcased 32 teams representing 12 states and Hamilton, Ontario, a first-round loss relegated a club to the consolation bracket. Teams subsequently losing in the championship bracket were ousted immediately, which added to the prevailing miasma of heavy earnestness.
"Many of us have played college ball or gone quite a way in organized athletics," Van Galder said, "but for some of these other guys, this may be the biggest thing of the year. They act like they're playing for the Super Bowl."
For St. Louis, at least, the most appealing tournament finale would have matched Bogart's against the Steelers in a classic intracity showdown between contrasting life-styles. The Steelers are self-professed blue-collar types, proud of their physical intimidation. Bogart's, a team composed of more bourgeois types, runs a disciplined offense with precise pass patterns.
"We don't make as much dough in our place as those Bogart guys," said 255-pound Mike McCarthy, a defensive lineman who will not soon be mistaken for Rex Harrison. "Their bar is nice, I gotta admit, but mostly it's teeny-bopper stuff. Our place is full of all kinds of people."
Sadly for the cause of local color, Bogart's was knocked out of the tournament by Four Seasons, a team representing a Columbus, Ohio nursery. A more elderly bunch than most of the competition, Four Seasons rode the passing arm of 32-year-old Chuck Freiburger, a practicing attorney, to a 14-7 overtime win.
"The main reason I play this game," Freiburger said, "is that I've always played team sports and I enjoy the beer drinking afterwards."