“I don’t know what side he’s on,” officer Mike Gaines said Thursday. “He’s probably one of those, ‘I’m a New Yooooorker’ guys.”
The growing uncertainty over whether McCarthy — a transplant from the Bronx — really bleeds CPD blue might not be a matter of politics, union rules or the murder rate, but it’s certainly serious.
It’s about football — Chicago Enforcers football.
On April 20, the first time in four years, the CPD’s squad is set to square off on the gridiron against their New York City football rivals — the Finest, they call themselves.
It’s no secret that during McCarthy’s days on the NYPD, he lined up at outside linebacker for the Finest — and he loved it.
“I played until I was 49 years old,” McCarthy said. “The stupidest best thing I did in my life was continue to play football. … With the NYPD team our camaraderie helped get us through 9/11 and different tragedies.”
Enforcers Head Coach Greg Zarogoza said that McCarthy “indicated to me he has mixed emotions that he’ll have to harbor” about the showdown against the Finest at Bayside High School in Queens.
“The way I look at it I’m just hoping he supports us,” Zarogoza said. “He’s our guy now.”
Running back David Moore, well, he’s not so sure.
“You know maybe deep down inside he may want them to win,” said Moore, an officer dispatched to the Grand Crossing District.
McCarthy did win a lot of games playing in New York.
“Someone said that no team has gone to New York and beat them,” McCarthy said. “And when I think of losses we had I can’t think of any losses at home except to the fire department.”
But he never played against the Enforcers. McCarthy, sidelined with a knee injury, didn’t travel to Chicago with the Finest to play the Enforcers at Soldier Field the last time the teams squared off in 2007.
Still, the New Yorkers put a whooping on the Enforcers.
“I’m not going to say they had their way with us, but they took us to the woodshed a bit,” Zarogoza said.
And Gaines, who plays free safety, got the worst of it that game.
“It was a punt return. I was out of bounds by at least two steps and one of the guys hit me low, broke my leg,” Gaines said. “It was a cheap shot. I was out six months. So this year is personal for me a bit.”
Same goes for Moore — a power runner with semi-pro experience — who missed the 2007 game due to an injury.
“I sat on the sideline and watched my team lose. It was heart-breaking,” Moore said. “But I started training four months early for this year getting my body prepared for the New York game. I know they’re planning on playing a rough game, but I’m planning on coming home with a victory.”
McCarthy says he hopes to be there — and there’s no doubt which team he’ll be rooting for.
“I’m all in on Chicago,” he said. “The only thing that’s difficult for me is not putting on a helmet and playing with them.”
As for McCarthy’s feelings about the Finest, well, most of his best pals aren’t on the team anymore.
“A few years ago there was a coup over there and they overthrew all my friends,” McCarthy said. “As far as rooting for that team I’ll put it this way, I disconnected from them two years before I left the East Coast.”
And to prove his Chi-Town loyalty, McCarthy plans to attend the Enforcers' season kickoff charity fundraiser at 115 Bourbon Street in Merrionette Park on Sunday. Last year, the Enforcers donated nearly $12,000 to charities that support children and families of slain officers.
“I’m going to be there with them,” McCarthy said. “Raising money for charity, and it might sound corny, but networking in the brotherhood of law enforcement, that’s what it’s about.”
That even goes for guys on rival teams — once the game’s over, that is.
“These guys are grown men. They strap on the helmet because they love the game. They love the camaraderie,” McCarthy said. “You go out on the field and bang heads for two hours and then you go eat, have a couple beers and you find there’s mutual respect. … We’re like brothers in a dysfunctional family.”
But make no mistake, come game time McCarthy says he’ll be rooting for the guys wearing a better shade of blue.
“I’d love nothing more than to see my Chicago guys knock those other guys around,” McCarthy said. “It’s a matter of pride … and all my pride is here.”