Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Crackers earn a red card

Lincoln East soccer fans are patriotic.

Above, we see them showing their American pride in an
Omaha World-Herald photo taken at East's exhibition game against the Russian national team.

It's heartwarming how today's youth have not forgotten such old-fashioned values as . . .
pardon me? What?

wasn't an exhibition game against the Russians? Is this an old picture then, from right after 9/11?

IT WAS TAKEN Tuesday night? At the state championship match? Against Omaha South?

Well, what's the deal with the American flags, then?

What do you mean, "Same deal as with the green cards thrown on the field after Lincoln East won in overtime"?

Excuse the interruption, y'all. I've been instructed to look at today's
World-Herald. Let's you and I check it out together:
Several Lincoln East students were suspended Wednesday in connection with a postgame incident that sullied the high school’s Tuesday night boys state soccer championship match against Omaha South.

The students admitted making and distributing “green cards,” a reference to immigration status aimed at South’s largely Latino soccer team.

Also Wednesday, dozens of East students began forming a group to “plan action steps to mend bridges with the South High community,” said Dennis Mann, East’s associate principal.

“Their foremost concern is not how to protect our reputation, but how to heal hurt relationships with South,” he said.

East won the game 4-2 in overtime. But what happened afterwards marred the victory.

Dozens of green paper rectangles were tossed into the air as fans and players celebrated on the field at Creighton University’s Morrison Stadium. The “green cards” lay at midfield behind the Lincoln players and coaches as they received their trophy and medals.

As soon as the ceremony ended, several East administrators and a tearful student rushed onto the field and hurriedly scooped up the paper.

The incident offended South staff and supporters, many of whom had attended graduation ceremonies just before the game.


Mann said that only one person, whom he would identify only as a “Lincoln East fan,” actually threw cards on the field.

“One fan threw a stack of cards,” he said.

He said video of the postgame celebration confirmed that.

When pressed whether the person was an East student, an adult or a college student, as some reports have claimed, Mann would say only, “I’m going to call him a Lincoln East fan.”

“We’re taking ownership of this,” he said.

East students made the cards and distributed them, and some other students knew about it and didn’t stop it, Mann said.

The students’ original intention, he said, was to have the crowd hold up the cards en masse during the game, the way a soccer referee would hold up a red or yellow card.

“Very inappropriate, and very hurtful,” Mann said. “But we were able to put the kibosh on that, thanks to some students who did step up (and tell administrators). But we were appalled and ashamed to see the cards come out on the field.”

He said the students who had planned the green card stunt did not know about the fan’s plan to throw them onto the field.

“The kids who have had disciplinary action taken against them are also agreeing to be part of the solution,” Mann said. “They have agreed to take actions, including writing letters of apology, to help heal the hurt that they have caused.”

Lincoln East Principal Susan Cassata said East’s athletic director sent an apology to South’s athletic director. Cassata said she planned to apologize to South Principal Cara Riggs.
HOLY CRAP. That ain't good.

South, and the whole South Omaha community, had been so excited to get to the championship game. Everyone was so proud. So happy.

I got a smile on my face reading this story in Tuesday afternoon's paper:
Everywhere record-setting soccer goalie Billy Loera goes, from the hallways at Omaha South High School to the streets of his South Omaha neighborhood, he hears the cheers.

“Teachers, staff, alumni, people I don't even know at school come up to me,” Loera said. “They tell me, ‘You're making us look real good. Thanks a lot.' ”

By qualifying for Tuesday night's Nebraska state soccer championship game against Lincoln East, Loera and his teammates have given a reason to cheer to a community that sorely needs one.

South High hasn't won a state championship in any sport since a basketball title in 1990. The Nebraska Department of Education recently designated South as one of 52 “persistently low achieving” schools in the state. And some may take a dim view of South Omaha and its growing Latino population, despite the area's lively historic business district and other assets.

That might explain why cheers, tears and text messages flew out of Creighton's Morrison Stadium and spread through Omaha to thousands of Packer supporters after South beat Creighton Prep in a semifinal Saturday night.

“People are just excited that South made it to a championship game,” said Rich Gonzalez, who played baseball, basketball and football at South in the 1980s. “It's about bringing back South High tradition, bringing back some of the state tournament wins that we used to have. But the biggest thing is it's good for the community.”

Gonzalez, a South Omaha native who is a captain on the Omaha Police Department, said people from the area “know we have a great community here; they know what the community's about.”

“When you're from South High, you have the pride,” he said. “No matter what, when they're losing, when they're down, you still follow 'em, you still care about 'em.”
IT SOUNDS LIKE these kids from South -- or South Omaha -- didn't deserve what they got from the East fans, who I assume don't throw lutefisk at the Gothenburg Swedes . . . or BMW key rings at Omaha Westside.

And then I saw this story in the paper:
It's 7:15 p.m. at the Omaha Civic Auditorium. Three blocks away at Morrison Stadium, music is blaring in preparation for the Class A state boys soccer final, scheduled to start in exactly one hour.

Soon Manny and his five senior teammates will be under the lights, competing for Omaha South in the school's first state championship game in any sport in 20 years.

But first first they must get to Morrison Stadium. First they must listen to speeches about journeys and goals and ideals.

Manny wants to enjoy the moment. He does. But he would rather beat Lincoln East.

A class officer takes the podium, recounts memories of “dreaded stairwells and delicious cafeteria food.” She thanks her parents. She reminds her classmates to notice life's beauty. She cries.

Manny Lira leans forward in his chair, fidgeting like a 8-year-old who missed recess. He's in the front row about 300 classmates are behind him and he already has soccer socks and spandex under his creased, black slacks. Time is ticking.

6:56 was “Pomp and Circumstance.”

7:10, “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

7:21, the school choir.

7:26, the principal.

7:32, an Omaha Public Schools administrator.

“Graduates, I implore you to dream,” she says.

Lira can't take it anymore. He looks at his teammate, Billy Loera, and grumbles.

Roni Huerta saw this coming.

Several weeks ago, the South athletic director contacted the Nebraska School Activities Association and introduced a potential problem. The state championship game is scheduled for 7:15 p.m. May 18. South High's graduation is scheduled for 7 p.m. May 18.

Some of these kids are the first in their family to earn a high school diploma. Some of these kids if forced to choose would choose the graduation ceremony, Huerta told the NSAA.

But really, she was only covering her bases. South had never won a state tournament soccer game, let alone a state championship game.

Then the Packers made state. Then they beat Elkhorn last week in a shootout. Then they beat their nemesis, Creighton Prep, in another shootout.

The NSAA moved the championship game back an hour, to 8:15 p.m.
FIRST IN their families to get a high-school diploma? That's, like, inspiring.

And still some Lincoln East fans are taunting these kids with American flags, are throwing faux "green cards" on the field? Just because Omaha South is 60-percent Latino?

Well, if there's some stereotyping to be done, let's try this: The Lincoln East yahoos sound like a bunch of overprivileged, white-bread, suburban rich-kid wankers to me.

In fact, taunting minority students for sole reason of their "otherness" differs from this in no significant manner at all:

LITTLE ROCK. Central High School. 1957.

I wonder whether, amid the other verbal and physical abuse, the white kids thought it would be really funny to pitch watermelon slices at the "Little Rock Nine"? After all, they were . . . black.

For some people, that's reason enough to be a boor and a bully. Just like for some at Lincoln East, any amount of bad behavior is justified by the twin towers of last refuge for rank scoundrels -- the First Amendment and "Hey! They're Mexicans!"

Administrators at Lincoln East say they have the matter in hand. They say suspensions were meted out.

East's associate principal said the incident Tuesday night "t
urned what should have been a joyful Wednesday at East into 'a day of mourning.'"

No, East. You don't get to mourn. Your kids were the perps; you get to be ashamed. Very, very ashamed. There's a difference.

You get to be ashamed because it was on your watch -- and on the watch of the parents of these unstellar members of the East "community" -- that these morons decided to "represent" for the Spartans by letting their "white trash with cash" freak flag fly. What is to be mourned is that "freak flag" happened to be the Stars and Stripes.

They say it takes a village. Well, in this instance, East, your village sucked.

THAT'S WHY I think the Lincoln East "community" has forfeited its moral right to decide on how its soccer miscreants get disciplined. By all rights, I think that "honor" should go to the Omaha South faculty and student body.

Si, se puede!

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