By MICHAEL RODRIGUEZ
I’ve recently been asked for my thoughts on the controversy surrounding the San Benito High School varsity cheerleaders and the allegations that they’ve bullied and discriminated against a handicapped squad member. Understand that there have already been so many opinions shared about the issue that one more may very well cause a cataclysmic explosion of biblical proportions. Consider further what’s already been said: a barrage of childish insults and veiled threats levied at teenagers by grown men and women. How could any voice of reason be heard when buried beneath a maze of maliciousness and vile rhetoric that has served no purpose other than to ridicule and inflame.
So I put it bluntly: “It doesn’t matter what I think, sir. I’m just reporting the story.”
I can, however, warn the public about the ever-present dangers of succumbing to mob mentality.
To those who believe that after watching one newscast you can now become judge, jury and executioner, remember that you’re only a few comments and a single momentary lapse of reason away from becoming bullies yourselves.
It’s our responsibility as journalists to report the news, and by doing so we are charged with the task of presenting both sides of the story. I feel we have done that to the best of our ability despite the fact that nine out of 10 of the parents and school officials involved either refused comment or would rather speak under anonymity, which only serves to heighten the public’s perception of guilt. Throw in a few accusations of discrimination and multiple threats of lawsuits from the accusers and you’re now completely embroiled in a scandal in which there’s no way to win, no light at the end of the tunnel nor any consolation prize. There will only be pain and the many people who are all too happy to bring it.
I know what you’re thinking. For something that began as a mere dispute over a t-shirt, seemingly chalked up to another “cheer drama,” how did this story turn so serious so quickly? Also take into consideration that security guards were assigned to protect the squad on Friday night. Let me repeat that: Security guards were assigned to protect the squad on Friday night.
The mere fact that such measures were necessary is by far one of the more ridiculous occurrences I’ve encountered all year, and that’s quite the statement considering what’s already transpired in 2013. Still, I’d rather not end this on an apocalyptic note, so I decided to share the little I do know about the cheerleaders.
Last summer, when Monica Zuniga of Rio Hondo graced us with her talents at the staff writer position, we published a story about a sophomore cheerleader fighting cancer. The young lady, whose name is Madison Macias, continues to be an inspiration to many in her hometown of Rio Hondo and elsewhere. Monica’s story helped get that message across.
So when I heard recently that a benefit was scheduled for Madison, I was quick to inquire about running an update on her condition. Unfortunately, the event had already passed by the time we were notified. In my inquiries, though, I learned something that didn’t surprise me: Of the many local squads invited to participate, the SBHS varsity cheerleaders were the only ones to attend. According to one member of Madison’s family, the San Benito cheerleaders made such an impression in the kindness they showed Madison that she had considered nominating them for the Action 4 News Pay It 4Ward recognition.
Why didn’t this surprise me? In the many Special Olympics events I’ve covered, one of the things that often tugged at the heartstrings was the kindness exhibited by the participating cheerleaders. They always give the kids something to cheer for.
If all you know of these girls can fit into a mere minute, then you’re missing something.