Like a scene from the movie Hoosiers, an entire town rallied and gathered on Yosemite Ave. last Thursday in hopes of spurring the Manteca High boys basketball team to a victory in the state title game in Sacramento. The town as a whole jumped on their collective horses, and rode 60 miles north to raucously support this upstart group of young men. Meanwhile, much like the Dennis Hopper character in the movie Hoosiers, the one relegated to a mental hospital bed — unable to attend the game because of his life decisions. There I was, trapped in the cab of a tractor, yelling at my phone like a caged lunatic, waiting for score updates from my sister, Coach Andrea Hiatt. There was a moment where I entertained the thought of driving the tractor to Sleep Train Arena. But alas, as is my way, I hadn’t fueled the tractor that morning - and wouldn’t have gotten past Lodi.
Congratulations to Coach Brett Lewis and his squad of hoopsters! The Buffs completed their improbable run with a wire-to-wire victory. The great Kenny Wooten acting as MHS’s own personal Jimmy Chitwood. (For those under 30 not catching these Hoosier references — shame on you.) The team adopted the mantra “For The City.” An inclusive rallying cry that put the town on their shoulders. Or was it the other way around? How great was it to see the town of Manteca pull together for a common goal? Old Buffs and New Buffs swapping stories of yesteryear — The Family City as one.
“For The City” is a mantra that should be the rallying cry of not only all local sports teams - but of each and every person living in our not so small town. Let’s face it. Manteca is mired in its own personal identity crisis as of late: crime, drugs, homelessness. It would seem that a group of teenager basketball players took the helm, and installed something this town had been missing as of late. PRIDE. Ask yourself what you are doing “For The City?” It doesn’t take much to improve the image and perception of your climate, if you take steps to improve. Just as the decline of most situations is a trickle-down effect, so can be its resurgence. Small things that will inspire those around you to improve themselves. No matter how small. It all starts at home, and most certainly with the youth of Manteca. You can’t expect things to flip flop overnight. It takes time. And it’s incumbent as an adult to instill a level of community pride into the kids in this town. “It takes a village to raise a child” is the old adage. Well it also “Takes a village to fix a village.”
In the last 10 months, three local teams have done a huge service to the community, by providing some pride, hope, and inspiration to us all. The Sierra High football team and the East Union softball teams both harnessed the cherished state title this last calendar year.
I’d like to think there is a third grader at Shasta School that heard about Anand Hundal carrying the MHS basketball team on his back in the NorCal Final. And is inspired to pattern himself after that young man - who according to my sister, is twice the human he is, as opposed to an athlete.
That there is a second grader at Nile Garden School that saw Mark Paule with his back pinned fourth and forever late — only to lead his T-wolf squad down the field in the final seconds. Teaching future athletes at the Blue school to never give up.
A young Neil Hafley student that heard about Samantha Owen’s bat getting red hot, carrying the Lancer nine to victory. A future Red Schooler, inspired by her schools softball dominance in our area.
....and by the way: Can we put down the swords for a bit?!..I’m tired of hearing how Sierra had to drop a division to win a state title. Or that Manteca High couldn’t manage to beat Weston Ranch...that EU’s season ending No.1 ranking is technically a mythical state title. (I actually haven’t heard any of that as of late - but sometimes the pot needs stirring)
.My point is “For The City” Friday, April 8 there will be a parade to honor the Manteca High title. Starting at noon, from Library Park to Winter Gym - where a net cutting ceremony will take place. I was reminded by my cousin (a Sierra High coach) that no such parade happened for his T’wolves. And I’m fairly sure nothing of the sort happened for the EU girls. So as Manteca to a T, I’m taking it upon myself to invite everyone to show their colors and make their way to Yosemite Ave. on April 8. Let’s all have some fun and mutual admiration for a group of local teens that have inspired a community. And let’s do it “For The City. Of course those wearing blue or red will have to be stopped at the entrance to Winter Gym. “For The City” is one thing — but let’s not get crazy here people.
Manteca High “State Champ” tee shirts are available at http://shop.str8sports.com/forthecity (partial proceeds will benefit the MHS program)
Quote of the Week: “I talk about my dead parents and failed marriages every night in front of strangers - but still have a panic attack every time my phone rings” - Sac comic Johnny Taylor
Small Town Files: I’ve taken every opportunity to rib and cajole Eric Simoni in this column. The current EU Assistant Principal is an old grade school buddy and former HS athletic foe. I feel it my duty as a Mantecan to continue our rivalry in the most childish of ways. Well he finally fired back. After Easter church services, he pulled up from the proverbial 3-point line, and said to my mom - “Hi Kerry, let your son know I’m glad to be able to offer him a bit of self esteem and class in his column each week...” SWISH! Simoni 3 - Teicheira 0
RIP Benny: Thoughts and Prayers to the friends and family of Benny Villanueva - who died tragically on March 25th. “Life is short and often deeply impacted by the smallest decisions we make...”...Be sure to let your family and friends just how much they are loved.