By MICHAEL RODRIGUEZ
I don’t want to live in a world where Manny Gomez has to apologize for his intensity, or where it becomes front page news for that matter.
After reading a story published in another local newspaper on Friday about coaches from San Benito and Harlingen atoning for remarks that neither warranted a public apology or deserved such placement (A1 no less), my first reaction – after laughing – was to step away from what I had just read and attempt to make sense of it all. Alas, I could not.
O.K., the aftermath of last Friday’s Battle of the Arroyo ignited some drama. So stop the presses why don’t ya? This is an annual grudge match between two proud high school football programs – the Harlingen Cardinals and San Benito Greyhounds – which is so intense that it’s known state-wide as one of the more bitter rivalries in Texas. Fans from both communities have thrown rocks and spat at each other, coaches have displayed obscene gestures on the field, and property has been vandalized all in the name of this game.
Yet a couple of coaches show a little passion, barely raising their voice in the process, and we suddenly blush as if to say, “How dare you.” Where was this outrage the last several decades when pre- and post-game antics would have, at those times, genuinely justified such attention?
Think about what really happened after the game last week. Greyhound Offensive Coordinator Gilbert Leal was accused of “antagonizing” the Cardinals’ coaches by supposedly pounding his chest and exclaiming “this is our house.” If true, then I see no fault in the man other than letting his emotions get the best of him. That sort of thing happens from time to time, especially when you’re a high school football coach whose team just scored 22 unanswered points in about 8 minutes, securing what may go down as the most thrilling comeback victory in a longstanding rivalry’s illustrious history. Besides, Bobby Morrow Stadium – where this year’s “Battle” was played – is our house.
Then, in an on-camera interview, Cardinals Head Coach Manny Gomez repeatedly said, “Are you freakin’ serious,” when asked by a reporter if the loss “hurt” – this just moments after suffering what may be one of the toughest losses of his career. Understand that while the reporter was not necessarily at fault when considering his intention to inspire a candid interview, it’s also important to consider the coach’s frame of mind during that particular moment. We at the San Benito News often instruct young reporters and sports writers who cover high school football games to be conversational and empathize with coaches, win or lose, when conducting interviews.
For instance, I guarantee that Coach Gomez would have given a better interview if the question was posed differently. From Scott Ford to Mario Peña, the following is a method I’ve used on many coaches out of respect for their plight when they’ve lost big games: “Hey coach…tough loss, but you guys played your hearts out. Now I don’t want to take up much of your time, so tell me the positives you took from tonight and explain why losing this game hurts more than others.”
Anything else might be considered asinine, and the stuff from which “Are you freakin’ serious” memes are born.
Yes, I understand these men are in leadership positions where, in the eyes of their players anyway, they’re responsible for setting an example. Still, after considering all that was said and done, it was only important for the coaches to explain themselves to their players. As adults, however, we need no apology from grown men who did nothing besides display passion for a game that has the potential of becoming the pinnacle or the nadir of their career. I expect nothing less from them, but I expected more from my fellow journalists, who milked this story one week later only to hurt the teams and coaches involved. Take to heart the words of Greyhound Head Coach Dan Gomez, who when questioned about these “Battle” scars, if you will, offered a sobering, “We’ve moved on.”
Maybe that’s what everyone should do.