Heller: Politics and high school sports should never adjoin - East Valley Tribune: VarsityXtra

Heller: Politics and high school sports should never adjoin

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Posted: Monday, July 12, 2010 3:27 pm | Updated: 3:40 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

Tony Sanchez is consumed with teaching students and coaching football at Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas, not crossing state lines.

His mother lives in Phoenix and his father was a police officer for 27 years, so he knows the SB 1070 immigration law is the issue of the year here. But beyond surface-level opinions, worrying never occurred to him during his dozens of trips between Vegas and the Valley.

Or for his next trip, which will be with 50 teenagers. Football season begins Aug. 21, when Bishop Gorman plays Hamilton at the near-halfway point of Flagstaff.

To do so, Sanchez will bring his team across the border. That isn’t — and shouldn’t be — of concern. No fears. No political statements.  Nothing but a second football game against Arizona in three years.

"It's new and peculiar, but how are people going to handle it?" he said of schools worrying about traveling to Arizona. "If there's concern for safety of kids or makes them genuinely uncomfortable, that's one thing. But that's not the case (at Bishop Gorman) that I've heard from anyone.

"We're going to play this game. We're going to be kids and go play a ball game."

It’s an easy answer for most. Horizon hosts the Big League Dugout Classic every spring with several of the nation’s elite high school baseball teams. Huskies coach Eric Kibler already has schools from Utah, California, Florida, Illinois and Colorado committed for next year.

"Nobody has said a word or hinted at hesitation," he said.

Same for the VisitMesa.com Basketball Challenge in late December, where tournament director Marc Beasley has commitments from schools in California, Cincinnati and Salt Lake City.

Mesa district athletic director Steve Hogen said he hasn't heard of any schools raising questions about safety or being questioned while in town.

It's clearly not that obvious for everyone. Highland Park bailed on the Scottsdale Holiday Invitational girls basketball tournament in December because the suburban-Chicago school's district superintendent refused to let them travel due to safety concerns, and because it "would not be aligned with our values and beliefs."

Chandler athletic director Dave Shapiro said Patrick Henry (San Diego) High School’s girls volleyball team won't be coming to the Nike Tournament of Champions in September. Same with California's Berkeley High School in December for the girls basketball version of the Nike tournament.

Berkeley had played in the tournament every year since its inception nearly a decade ago.

With or without SB 1070, keeping track of 13 basketball players vs. 50 kids on a football team is a different animal. But regardless of your opinion on the law, the overreaction by these schools is short-sighted, wreaks of paranoia and turns high school sports into political statements that leave kids caught in between.

Smoke-screen safety fears — which are no more likely to occur with or without SB 1070 — are a crutch to project political views that shamefully supersede high school kids playing games and seeing the country.

Backing out of the Hamilton game out of fear has never crossed Sanchez’s mind. He did, however, pause when asked how his dad might feel about SB 1070 both at home and on-duty.

"You have personal feelings about it and professional feelings," said Sanchez, who is Hispanic. "Be careful not to let one dictate itself over another. I’d like to think we’ve evolved past that."

As a couple schools have already shown, he thought wrong.

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