The high-pitched squeak of tennis shoes chirping in unison. Back-and-forth orchestrated cheers intended to bellow your foe into submission. Fans becoming audibly and physically unhinged at every call the referee makes – be they good or bad. The collective roar of 700 high school students and adults shoved into a bandbox. The sense that a full scale melee could, and maybe should, jump off at any moment…
. . . Coach Mike Henry tussled beyond repair, unable to sit. Coach Bill Stricker's voice piercing the crowd clatter, owning the immediate attention of his players. Gary Kron and Marshall Cannon going up for jump shots that let you turn to hi-five a friend before their feet touch ground.
This is high school basketball. And it will not be happening this year. Or so it seems.
In the grand scheme of things sports can occupy the back burner as we are losing lives hand over mask during this pandemic.
The Fall Sports season cancellation was a bitter pill to swallow for student athletes and parents alike. An outgoing group of Seniors poured their hearts into a 4th year, only to have it ripped at the 11th hour. True heartbreak.
Hopefully some stroke of divine intervention will give these kids the opportunity to compete before year’s end.
Who knows – maybe some version of Battle of the Network Stars can happen on a VOL level. A two to three week tournament for the crown? Each school competing against one and another in a winner take all/points type "Sports Meet Jamboree"?!
Boys and girls basketball games start at 10 a.m. in both school's gyms. Afternoon wrestling, track and field, and volleyball. A massive intra-school barbeque takes place as we enjoy the late afternoon softball and baseball games.
All culminating in the piece de resistance.
Le Football game!
As an athlete, I'd find this a more than fair concession to not playing at all.
But as a high school-aged fan. A 16-17 year old that had my school colors pumping through my veins. This would be the Holy Grail of events. The opportunity to stamp fandom into loredom. One that could even have an effect on the above.
The All-VOL Fans competition.
The Rowdy Rooters. Those students not on the squad, but every bit a part of them in spirit.
I'd like to acknowledge that these monsters will forever be affected by the en masse cancellation of high school sports . . .
I played sports in high school but took what I'll call an "introspective sabbatical" my entire junior year (i.e., ran with a bad crowd, did bad things, got bad results, and loved every bad second of it.)
It was during that year I gained the knowledge and freedom issued during a high school sports road trip. With four to five other "we don't play sports types" all piled into my grandparents’ 1972 Buick Limited Electra – the likes of Tony Coit, Vince and John Romito, and young David Bayless.
The VOL Roadie Crew 1990
For my era it was a rite of passage to make the roadie up the hill and face the Sonora Wildcats. Or head south on I-5 and enjoy a linguica sandwich in Los Banos – the proper VOL meal after "fueling up" pregame.
Even a stop in Oakdale can be somewhat enjoyable. But is it just me or is their PA announcer's repetitious mouth gallop as annoying as cloven hooves on a chalkboard?!
We get it, your halftime show is sponsored by Steves Chevrolet. But just because Jeff and Brett sell trucks in your town, their green hearts and school spirit will always belong to us. Never forget it!!
The Sonora roadie is forever the centerpiece of any discerning Rowdy Rooter. Whether you took the student bus or stopped at Red Carpet on your way out of town for snacks, getting to Sonora was half the fun.
Call it 120 if you need, but Yosemite Avenue is so named that it implies a destination. One that connects Manteca and Sonora in more than just pavement.
I still chat with old Sonora rival Kirk Clifton and his cluster of Wildcats. All in agreement that the MHS vs. SHS rivalry is sorely missed.
Their football stadium was a mecca to VOL fields, but ohhhhh that gym…
Yellow lights?! Yellow lights!! The worst food. Nobody wants to eat raccoon on a stick!
And the people. How much denim is necessary?! Looking at us like we come from a different planet carrying the newest technology.
It's called a watch. It tells time.
Sonora fans meant business and played for blood. Something those of us on the west side of the 209 respected.
The chants? Despicable! The name calling? Deplorable! The finger gestures? Middleable?! The complete lack of adult supervision? Provokable!
A veritable powder keg with each possession.
I don't want to turn this into another "This generation has gone soft, and we're the generation allowing it" piece, but here we are. The kids from the 80s and 90s are the last in a long line of "You can't hurt our feelings with words."
Generation X kids had The Greatest Generation for grandparents. We were built for severe tongue lashings, an occasional butt-whipping, and knew we had it coming. We reveled in it.
But all in-game fanaticism aside, it's supposed to end at the final whistle.
This night in January of 1990 it did not. A chain of events was set into motion – a chain filthied by time, galvanized with hate, and forever linked to the ages old question "Which came first?"
They egged our bus!!
They had done it my freshman and sophomore year as well. Those years I was a passenger on the team bus, startled and sullied by such a lowly prank – I never saw the culprits.
But on this evening, we tailed the bus by a few lengths, and witnessed the egging firsthand. The celebrating teens in their denim vests, standing in the beds of raised 1970s’ era pickups.
Casting us Valley folk down the mountain from whence we'd came, with figurative and literal egg on our face. The Buffs had come into that contest with a 7-0 league record, and lost, ultimately finishing 2nd with the 'Cats snaring a VOL crown.
We snapped, and screamed obscenities as we passed through this version of Dealey Plaza.
And then the shot heard round the VOL.
Splat! Sppppllllattt! The Buick Limited was struck with two eggs. They may as well have been arrows into a Buffaloes heart.
Do we pull over and fight? Is discretion really the better part of valor? Why does Tony Coit have his shirt off in 40 degree weather? Will Vince Romito realize I left his leather rabbit fur-lined gloves in the gym?
There was no way we were stopping. A mountain boy on his home turf is a dangerous 'Cat.
I fully understood how a VOL schedule worked. It meant that Sonora would finish the following season on a roadie to 'Teca.
Revenge is a dish best served cold — and with a side of eggs.
*Next week I will spin that yarn. One that dear friend Eric Wohle just said of "Are you nuts?! In lieu of our current political climate, and recent events at The Capitol, there is no way you can tell that story in the paper! Conspiracy. Vandalism. Contributing to delinquency. Mayhem! Poor taste."
Sorry Eric. Much like that linguica debt you are owed by me, next week's column is out of your reach.
"The Legend of Green (and White) eggs and kitty ham" continued next week.
It's not Where 'ya do, It's What 'ya do