By Tim Whyte
I’ve been accused of instituting a partisan bias at The Signal since I returned as editor, and it’s time to come clean: I’m guilty.
All summer, I‘ve been attempting to sway certain reporters to see things my way, to slant their coverage in the direction I want it to go. It’s been a subversive attempt to sway things to suit my own purposes.
But they refuse. My staff members, it turns out, are much more ethical than I am. Apparently, they have scruples:
Try as I might, I can’t get the sports staff to put Saugus High School at the top of their preseason football rankings.
To my fellow Centurions out there, please know I tried.
Like a die-hard Cleveland Browns fan, I have been rooting for Saugus ever since I graduated in 1980-something. I was on the last good Saugus football team in the ‘80s, and unfortunately, in my senior year, I was on the first bad one.
Our miserable season happened to coincide with the breakout years for both Hart and Canyon, when they each won their first-ever CIF championships. Remember, folks, there were only three high schools out here at the time. There was no place to hide. We didn’t have West Ranch or Golden Valley — no disrespect, guys — to cushion the blow.
There was Canyon, under legendary coach Harry Welch, with a record-setting winning streak and multiple league and CIF titles. And Hart, playing in a different league, won league and CIF titles of their own, starting a tradition of churning out world-class quarterbacks.
And then there was us.
My senior year, we had some epic battles and tried mightily, but we compiled a dismal record that I will not repeat here because there might be children reading this.
There were moments, though. We had a hard-fought mud bowl against Hart, back when the field at COC was still grass. At least, it was grass when the game started in a steady rain. We tore the hell out of that field and we knocked the snot out of each other. I played center, and got my uniform really dirty. I enjoyed getting under the skin of one of Hart’s loud-mouthed linebackers, who’s probably an insurance salesman now.
“You’re gonna get hurt,” he warned me after I threw a solid (but maybe slightly illegal) block that kept him from making a tackle. I smirked. I never got hurt. I was in his head, and that’s what you want when you play on the O-line. Better he focus on me than the ball carrier or my quarterback.
It felt like a competitive, physical game. But at the end of the night, it was Hart 20, Saugus 0.
I swear we left a couple touchdowns in that mud somewhere… In the moment, I hated those guys, even the ones who were my friends. (It’s a small town.)
Then there was our game against Canyon. The Cowboys under Welch were a deceiving bunch. You could go all night feeling like you were beating the stuffing out of them, and then you’d look at the scoreboard and… what the…? How’d THAT happen?
It happened. I spent that whole game feeling like we were just having our WAY with Canyon. I wasn’t even going to be sore the next day. We must have won, right? Walking off the field at the end of the game, I looked up and the scoreboard said it was a whole lot for Canyon and very little for us. Something like 52 to minus 5.
That’s a typo, right? How did that happen? Were they playing Canadian rules or what?
Harry’s teams could to that to you.
The next morning, I had to go to work at Del Taco. You know, because minimum wage. I had a co-worker on Canyon’s team, and we hung out together sometimes. We hadn’t gone against each other the previous night because he just played special teams, but it didn’t matter. Scoreboard! When I walked in for my shift, he was folding a burrito. He glanced up and said, in that oh-so-‘80s tone:
“Dude. Do we SHRED, or what?”
Yep. They could shred, those Cowboys.
The Cowboys don’t shred as much anymore, but now we have the Valencia Vikings, who recruit the best players from all over the Santa Clarita Valley to create a super-team that hasn’t lost a league game since Obama’s first term.
Oh, wait. I just got word from The Mighty Signal’s Legal Department. Apparently, I can’t say they recruit players from all over the valley, because that would technically be against the rules and I can’t prove it.
Sorry. My bad. Correction: They ALLEGEDLY recruit the best players from all over the Santa Clarita Valley to create a super-team. And, the Antelope Valley, too… ALLEGEDLY.
Anyway, Valencia and its merry band of Southern California all-stars will be at the top of everyone’s 2018 pre-season rankings, because, well, raw talent + good coaching = beating the %@$# out of everybody for a decade. Do we all just have to look forward to a few years from now, when we get to add Castaic High School to the schedule?
But back to the rankings: After Valencia, where do we go?
That’s where the intrepid sports staff of The Mighty Signal comes in. We have a trio of highly trained sports writers (actual college degrees, every one of them) who have watched all six Foothill League teams practice, interviewed coaches and players, and carefully reviewed all of the analytics available to them (last year’s stats and the Cal Preps power rankings), and they have each made their 2018 preseason predictions.
The only thing they really agree on? Valencia is sitting pretty at No. 1.
After that, their rankings are a bit of a jumble. Diego Marquez, who was a former student of mine at Cal State Northridge, predicts Saugus will finish fourth out of the six SCV teams in the Foothill League. That’s not really what I was looking for. I guess Diego has his diploma now so he doesn’t figure I have much leverage over him anymore.
And Dan Lovi, our brand new sports reporter, has wisely ranked Saugus at No. 2. But, it’s like his third week on the job so I have to wonder: Is he just throwing darts?
Then there’s Sports Editor Haley Sawyer.
I thought it was odd when I reviewed the proof of our football preview section. The sports staff’s predictions page had the rankings from Diego and Dan, but Haley’s were mysteriously, conspicuously, absent. Just a blank space where her rankings were supposed to go.
“Where EVER could they be?” I thought.
She filed them at the last minute, almost as if she was hoping to slip them past me. And that’s when I found Haley had ranked my Centurions DEAD LAST. Sixth out of six. I accused her of doing it just to get my goat. She laughed defiantly and insisted it was her honest opinion.
“Please don’t fire me,” she pleaded, grinning like the cat that ate the canary.
Still. I respect the fact that Haley and the sports staff resisted my plot — well, except the new guy — and stuck to their guns. It showed moxie and ethics to withstand my attempts to sway their coverage, to impose my partisan will upon them. For now, anyway.
I didn’t say I was done trying.
Tim Whyte is editor of The Signal. His column appears Sundays. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @TimWhyte.