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Behavior hurting THS football program

POSTED November 11, 2013
BY Rick Wilson
Twitter: @scribewilson


                                         Behavior hurting THS football program


            TORRINGTON – They just don’t get it, at least some of them. And they need to start getting it, not tomorrow but today. Now. Or they need to go home and find something else to do.

            Three Torrington High School football players were suspended for two games this past week for alcohol-related offenses. And considering what the Red Raider football program has gone through the last eight months and is still going through, it kicks you right in the gut.

            I have used a lot of this space during that time defending the Torrington program from what I feel has been, let’s be honest, less than stellar coverage from the area media.

When Edgar Gonzalez and Joan Torribio were arrested back in March on statutory rape charges, the media immediately made this a football problem. The two students as seniors had been out of the football program since their last game on Thanksgiving Day and yet were still and still are labeled as football players, not former players.

Suddenly the football program became the evil empire with national notoriety. While there were other complicated issues from the plight of the victim to an embarrassing and sad response on social media from Torrington High students taking the victim to task, all things bad by implication were laid on the football program’s doorstep. All fueled by the arrests.

The impact was immense. There was an attempt to rewrite the rules for the school’s athletic policy until the ACLU told the school it needed to take a step back or face litigation for overstepping its bounds and abusing some of the rights of students. There was a coaching change that may or may not have been one of the results.

From the beginning if you want to throw around blame, this is a community and school problem. There are many directions to point fingers if that is the direction you want to go. But so many fingers were aimed at football.

It was a heavy load to lay on the football program and an unfair one.

But there was an uneasiness within the THS program. There was a hazing incident that led to suspensions. There were at least whispers for what they are worth of a football arrogance mentality within the program. There was a debate about allowing a student to participate who been arrested before the season had begun.

Much of the degree of attention to the football program was unwarranted but there can be no question that he telescope was on its highest magnification coming into this season.

And you get the idea some of the Torrington players still don’t get it. I don’t believe the three football players who have been suspended are the only football players in the area who have done similar which is not a defense, but the stakes are a might higher in Torrington these days.

The boys will be boys rationalization doesn’t cut it here. Not with alcohol involved and not in Torrington’s position. The telescope is not on final scores and yards gained it is on a program and how it conducts itself.

People are watching. Closely.  And somebody needs to pop this adolescent bubble that it is all about me.  That is part of growing up in many cases, but this is another embarrassing incident for the program, the school and the town.

First-year coach Gaitan Rodriguez has immersed himself in teaching the Raiders the right way on the field and off. He has yanked players off of the field who seem to think their mouth speaks more volumes than their play. The rules are black and white, his players know the expectations.

Rodriguez, the social worker, is into help and education and he will use this as one more learning tool. But patience has to be growing thin.

Athletic Director Mike McKenna has to be beside himself.  An educator, he also bleeds the maroon and white, and this is killing him. This too will pass but the scars are starting to mount.

Putting on the uniform of your school and town is a privilege not a right. When you play on a team, it becomes about everybody not just the one. Some Torrington players need to start figuring that out.

What they do reflects on everybody and nobody has the right to bring the rest down or put them in a negative light and guys the light here is a 20-watt bulb. Where do you get off doing that?

Repeat after me: It’s is not all about me. It is not all about me. It is not all about me…..

The sad thing here is that the minority is bringing down the majority. What is here is not about the many, it is about the couple. But it only takes one, doesn’t it.

Here’s the deal guys either do it the right way or find another way without a Torrington High football uniform on. I have attended a lot of the 1929 Club Award Dinners. It is one of the finest collection of past and present Torrington football royalty I know.

They deserve better.

The Torrington High football club with guys like Rob Botass and Scott Langenheim are trying to raise money and help the program flourish.

The deserve better.

  I have known Mike McKenna and Gaitan Rodriguez for years. They deserve better. Your school and community deserve better.

There may be some who want to reduce this to let’s not make a big deal here it was just a small group of kids who made a mistake.

If you believe that than you haven’t been following the THS program for the last nine months. Everything here is a big deal these days. Give them some headlines about wins and effort not arrests.

Frankly apologies are owed. And it gets simple now – Get it right or take the uniform off and hand it in.  All deserve better. 



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