By now most people have already forgotten about what happened last week between the Manteca High School Buffaloes and the East Union Lancers prior to what has become a blood feud between the town two oldest high schools.
But since this column only runs on Fridays, it’s the first real chance that I’ve had to point some things out that I feel are missing from the conversations that I saw unfolding on social media over the course of the last week.
Allow me to summarize what happened, and the ensuing fallout, briefly.
The captains for the Buffaloes opted not to shake the hands of their opponents before the game, a photographer for this newspaper was there to capture what transpired on video, and local social media commenters lost their collective minds over what they saw as poor sportsmanship of the highest order.
The chatter was so severe that the Manteca High program had to tweet out a distancing apology that confirmed what I suspected when I first saw the video – that the coaching staff, who took the brunt of the beating on Facebook for not controlling their players, knew nothing about the move prior to it happening.
There – that’s the gist of what happened.
And before I offer anything else on the matter, I do have to say that regardless of the circumstances that led up to it – and there were many – the Manteca High captains should have shaken the hands of their rivals. Period. End of story.
Now for the context on what transpired leading up to the game, and over the course of the last several years, that led four high school boys to make a decision that ultimately cost them their opportunity to represent their school on Thursday night as the Buffs opened the CIF Sac-Joaquin Division III playoffs against Rio Americano.
First of all, in the days leading up to the game it was learned that somebody at East Union made a “diss track” that called out certain Manteca players by name, going so far as to refer to one of them by a gay slur. Excerpts were shared on Twitter, and the friendly banter was suddenly not quite so friendly.
From what I understand, the existence of that track was one of the predominant reasons that the Manteca High captains chose to do what they do.
Over the last several years, the relationship between the two schools has been steadily deteriorating – not that there was much of one to begin with.
There are reports of East Union hanging a Manteca player – with an active number – in effigy during a rally, and of East Union players rushing over to the Manteca sideline after a freshman victory and tearing down banners.
And last year – and I know this to be true because I was there when it happened – the Manteca High coaches weren’t allowed into the East Union press box to call the game. Shortly after that contest, which Manteca won handily, the team’s “shepherd stick” – a metal bar that is carried by the team’s de facto emotional leader onto the field for every practice and every game – was stolen from the sideline.
Now, I don’t want this to seem like I’m justifying the actions of the Manteca players who obviously violated the rules of sportsmanship. I’m not. But an argument could be made that the ideals of sportsmanship were discarded long ago in what has become a bitter escalation of hatred between two schools that never really liked each other in the first place.
I saw parents and supporters of East Union who wasted no time in putting down those “bad kids” from Manteca without taking any ownership in the things their camp was doing to pour gas on the fire.
It has gotten so bad that the schools don’t even refer to one another by name anymore. Manteca players and coaches – especially coaches – refer to East Union simply as “red” and I’ve heard other coaches from the other high schools doing the same thing.
This isn’t some call for unity, although I think one could be made, and it’s not an attempt at justifying negative actions, although I think that case could be made as well.
All I will say is that if somebody has a problem with players not shaking hands with their opponents prior to a game but are willing to overlook a parent and their adult relatives going onto the field after the game and trying to start a physical altercation with a high school football player – which an East Union parent did in front of the entire Manteca High School coaching staff and huddle, leading to an altercation that could have ended very badly – then you’re part of the problem.
At the end of the day these are kids. And they’re playing a game.
And I think that a whole lot of people have lost sight of that over the years.
Pigskin Prognosticators: Playoff Predictin’
So, after the seven week VOL season the scores are as follows – I’m in first place with a 29-10 record while Mark Condit is right on my heels at 28-11 and both Chris Teicheira and Eric Wohle are tied for last at 27-12.
And we can’t end the season on a tie, can we?
After all, Teicheira’s “good Portuguese hair” is on the line here.
We’ve decided to extend these picks into the playoffs until we have a clear winner, and will continue going until between the three high schools that are left and the two pro teams we add, there are less than four games to pick from in all.
Since two of these games are being played as I type this, all of the picks were in hours before kickoff – including mine – to ensure that there was no funny business.
Here we go for what could be the last week of the season for this fun little romp:
Myself – I could have just declared the season over and gone back home to polish my crown, but I’m confident in my abilities moving forward. I’m taking Manteca over Rio Americano, East Union over Patterson, Ripon over Calaveras and San Francisco – yes, San Francisco – over the Giants. This could be a huge mistake and I may very well blow the whole season, but I stand by my picks.
Condit – The man that may be able to slide into first place with me after this week is going with the Buffaloes, the Lancers, Calaveras and the 49ers. Technically he’s playing chalk by picking against the Indians, who are the 7th seed and facing the 2nd seed in their bracket, but we’ll see what happens during that game on Friday night.
Teicheira and Wohle – What are the odds that the two guys in last place picked the same exact teams to win? Let alone the respective boosters for Manteca High and East Union? In a strange twist (possibly because he wants to see Teicheira lose his precious hair) Wohle picked the Buffaloes and against the Lancers. Both he and Teicheira are in the Condit camp when it comes to Ripon, and both think the Giants – even though Eli Manning has no line and nobody to throw the ball to – will somehow beat the best winless team in the NFL. We shall see.
Since there’s no guarantee there will be a next week, let me say “stay tuned.” It’s been a fun run, and the fun isn’t necessarily over just yet.
To contact reporter Jason Campbell email email@example.com or call 209.249.3544.