Looking back at last week, it was amazing that 9,000 people showed up to Memorial Field to watch a high school football game. Every year I cover the game, I run into someone I haven’t seen in years. After the first couple of “what are you up to nows” from each other, we get into a conversation as though we talk to each other every day.
Then there are, of course, the people that I see once a year — at the “Big Game” — and I give them a couple of minutes like I do every year.
As soon as the game ended, we were doing a video interview for BurbankNBeyond.com of Tyler and Lucas Yanez. As I was filming the two brothers, I couldn’t help thinking about their dad, a friend of mine and fellow Burroughs graduate.
Both of them reminded me of their father and I was transported back in time for a second. Art Yanez was a tough, strong kid that got along with everyone (including us non-athletes) and never acted like a thug because he was a football star. Now, more than 30 years later, here are his two sons with all of his qualities — soft spoken, polite, humble teens who have become great athletes through hard work.
Lucas is looking to college for football and Tyler for volleyball. Art Yanez is now the freshmen football coach at Burroughs and also coaches volleyball. Knowing the values that their dad has instilled in them, I have no doubt that they will not only be successful in sports, but in anything they choose to do with their lives.
This was also an interesting year for me. Even though I am a Burroughs graduate, I am now coaching at Burbank High (by the way, I find wearing blue makes you look a little less fat than wearing red), so I felt a little conflicted. I’ve covered about five games for each school this year and hadn’t thought about it much, but I have to admit, when the ball sailed through the uprights to end the game, I had a little bit of that warm feeling for Burroughs.
Now for some other observations on the “Big Game.” So 9,000 Burbank people can show up on a weeknight for a football game but can’t show up on a Friday night for a regular season game? Yes, the Burbank/Burroughs game is the rivalry game that everyone has an opinion about, but what about the Burroughs/Arcadia game that also meant first place in the Pacific League? Burbank played Arcadia at home and lost. Would it have been different if the home stands were packed?
Burbank likes to think of itself as a small town and in many ways it is. But if you look at small towns across America, they close the town down and go out and watch the local high school team play on Friday nights. Many times they all pack in cars and drive an hour or more to away games.
The saddest part is that high school students largely don’t attend games anymore. When I was at Burroughs (back in the old days), it was a tradition to always go to the games on Friday nights and hang out with your buddies.
Also, now that Burroughs has won the “Big Game,” the Pacific League title and the No. 1 seed in the league, I challenge them to win some playoff games. It’s not about winning one football game here in Burbank, and it’s not about winning a league title (although that would be nice), it’s about the brass ring — a CIF Championship title.
It seems that year after year, there is such a letdown after the Burbank/Burroughs game and the big crowds that neither team has the motivation to win in the championship round.
Last year, Burbank shook off the doldrums and advanced all the way to the quarterfinals, and even though they enter the playoffs on the road as a third place team, they have all the ingredients to get back to their winning ways in the playoffs.
The Burbank/Burroughs game was just as important as each of the other six league games. It is the public that gets caught up in just the final game and the players follow into that trap.
The challenge for the players on both sides of the city is to put last week behind you and come out this Friday night to win your last game of the year.
CRAIG SHERWOOD is the executive editor of BurbankNBeyond.com and a baseball coach at Burbank High School. He can be reached at email@example.com.