BLOOMINGTON, Indiana — There is the empire and then there is the escape. Beyond the tall grass that flanks Indiana 37 north of Bloomington, there are both.
Merely a long toss away from his Scholars Inn wholesale bakery facility is the Indiana Cutters' occasional practice field, where Lyle Feigenbaum has returned to the game he thought he left behind almost three decades ago.
There is new life in football for Feigenbaum, a full-time restaurateur and part-time quarterback with the local semi-pro outfit. Yet no one saw this coming for the 46-year-old, neither he nor — perhaps especially — his wife.
But the game has a pull to it and, age be damned, Lyle Feigenbaum has been sucked back into the huddle, The Herald Times reports (http://bit.ly/TU07OD ).
They aren't wearing pads this Wednesday night, only helmets. A narrow road defeat last week is enough to bring roughly 20 of them to the fields at old Brown Elementary for a bye week practice, Feigenbaum among them.
He occupies a curious role as a backup — some might say emergency — quarterback these days, a kind of will-he or won't-he position in his first year of organized football since graduating from North Central in the late 1980s. He's appeared in two games and he threw for two touchdowns in his first start of the season last month in a win over the Michiana Thunderhawks. And for as much as playing this game means to Feigenbaum, he and his wife, Kerry, are also realistic about his future on the field.
There are very real and very serious limitations for a 40-something man playing a violent game. But he's kept himself on the roster, allowing for cool summer nights like this one, where he can throw the ball around, enjoy hanging around the guys and have a little fun.
After losing starting quarterback Robbie Colon to an injury last week, the Cutters are in a next-man-up situation and Feigenbaum has been tasked with preparing another backup, Lakarian Jones, for duty.
It's clear that quarterback is not a natural position for Jones, but he's trying. He and Feigenbaum trade reps, each dropping back and slinging balls across the open field. While working on hitch routes, Jones underthrows a receiver on the outside and, as the ball skids across the grass, Feigenbaum meets him back at the pocket, a confined space marked by four cones at midfield.
"What you're doing is throwing all wrist," he advises. "Use your shoulders."
It takes a few more tosses before the advice registers, but Jones comes back moments later and throws a crisp ball back to the outside.
"Way to look him off," Feigenbaum says. "Good throw, man. Good throw."
This is a relationship that has been mutually beneficial for both sides since Feigenbaum began working out with the team — but not playing — last year.
Feigenbaum, a husband and father of two, gets a chance to jump back into the game he loves. The Cutters get a capable player and another helping hand.
"We're volunteers when it comes to coaching," Cutters coach Eric Anderson said. "So, anyone that's gonna play a leadership role and be able to coach someone up, that's priceless. But it's not so much that he does it, it's that he embraces it. He wants to lead and he wants the young guys to be better."
Feigenbaum played intramural ball at Indiana while he pursued his accounting degree and jumped into padless tackle football in Central Park while he pursued an acting career in the 1990s, so the game was never far away.
Feigenbaum waited tables during those years in New York City, eventually leading him into the restaurant business. He married Kerry in Bloomington in 1996 and made a permanent move to the college town not long after. That's when the couple bought the Scholars Inn Bed and Breakfast and created the Scholars Inn Gourmet Cafe and Wine Bar in 1998.
The ensuing years have brought continued growth for the business, with Bakehouses sprouting both downtown and on the east side of Bloomington. They've also inked deals with Kroger and other grocers to sell their famous Bakehouse Granola around the area.
It's a busy life, one that Feigenbaum fills with work, family and cycling.
Now add football to the lineup.
That feeling? The one he felt when he first put the pads on this season, strapped on his helmet and took the field with his team? Oh, he missed that.
"It was like putting me into a wayback machine and being 18 all over again," Feigenbaum said. "It's just incredible. It's a shame it's such a violent sport because, man, I'd love to do it all the time."
His wife has her reservations about the new hobby, of course. Kerry was busy with work on the night of his first game, so Feigenbaum texted her at halftime to let her know he was still alive.
The couple has heard the reaction from friends around town since Feigenbaum first suited up.
'Is that really Lyle?' they'll ask.
'How old is he?' is another.
And while the threat of injury is real, Kerry knows her husband deserves the escape. He loves the game, after all.
"We've had many, many conversations about it," Kerry said. "I'm really thrilled that he's enjoying it and having fun, but the intelligent part of me says he's 46 and playing with 21-year-olds. We have two kids, so I'm definitely concerned. But it's what he wants to do, so he's doing it and I'm happy he enjoys it so much."
Feigenbaum started laughing before taking his first hit of the season, realizing how slow he is as he moved around the corner on a read option.
But the contact — within reason — is almost part of the fun. It means he's back in the game.
"We just played a game in Dayton and we're getting changed outside and that's just semi pro football," Feigenbaum said. "It can be difficult. You either can let it bother you or know that's the romance of it all.
"I choose the latter."
Information from: The Herald Times, http://www.heraldtimesonline.com