The smelly, ugly smoke haze that's suffocated the clean air right out of the Truckee Meadows for the better part of two weeks forced state athletic officials to prohibit any high school sporting events from being played in the local six-county area last weekend. Apparently, that gave Bishop Manogue the green light to duck its gridiron clash with Spanish Springs.
While every other large school prep football game scheduled for last weekend in northwest Nevada was re-scheduled, the Spanish Springs-Manogue matchup was not. I know for a fact Spanish Springs looked into two alternate venues for a Friday game -- one in Redding and one in Winnemucca -- to which Bishop Manogue shot down. Officials at Manogue also said the Miners would be unavailable to play a game anywhere on Saturday, citing a shortage of players, who had already made commitments over the Labor Day weekend.
Manogue coach Paul Mills listed nearly everything from missed class time to inconvenience as reasons for his Miners not wanting to suit up for a season debut. The fact he listed missed class time is a joke. All Manogue athletes from golfers to wrestlers to soccer players miss school time. That's part of being an athlete, learning time management. Miners freshmen football players will miss class every Thursday during the season for games scheduled in the afternoon.
The two things Mills did not list as reasons for calling off the game were the added expense or violation of school policy. That's probably because he knew he'd be laughed off, given Manogue's deeper resources and fewer restrictions than Washoe County schools.
What says more to me than anything else about this situation is all of the North Region's Division I programs found an alternative safe venue to play. Reed gave up a home game and switched its venue to Redding. McQueen did the same, changing to play at Nevada Union. Douglas and Reno shifted their game to Winnemucca. Hug and Carson played at Lovelock. A few other games in the area found new host sites as well.
So if everyone else found a way to overcome the obstacles, why couldn't Manogue? Usually, when you duck a fight, it's because you're afraid to lose. Spanish Springs did dump Manogue twice last fall, including in a regional quarterfinal.
"I think the fact that every (large school) in northern Nevada, except us, is playing, says a lot," Hare said last Thursday evening. "Manogue was the only one not willing to adjust. That's a little discomforting. You only get so many football games. I'll do everything in my power to get our kids 10 games a year ... We had officials ready to go. We had a field.
"Now, we (Spanish Springs) are the only team not playing, that wants to play. That's just too bad. I feel for my kids."
I don't know Coach Mills very well. The amount of conversations we've had can be counted on one hand. In our limited interactions, I've never had any reason to question him in the past. Maybe the decision was out of his hands, but I doubt it. I would have expected a blanket answer like, 'Our administration felt ..."
What I wholeheartedly do believe is ultra-competitive Manogue role models like current baseball coach Charles Oppio and former basketball coach Bill Ballinger would have found a solution to get that game played. Even if they felt outmatched, they would have played the game because they wanted to compete not fearing a loss, knowing even losses can be valuable learning tools.
There are a ton of clues that point to Manogue using the smoky skies as a smokescreen for an excuse to nix the game. Another is verbiage used by Spanish Springs athletic director Art Anderson, who is very well spoken and chooses his words carefully when speaking to the press. He understands the value of thinking before speaking and his comments always reflect that.
"Manogue was not able to work with us, to get a game with us, for a lot of reasons," Anderson said.
If the classy Anderson admitted 'Manogue was not able to work with us' that may be the most telling sign of all.
Ultimately, it comes down to adults making bad decisions for kids because the adults who made the decision not to play at Manogue, hurt the students athletes, the same teens who work year round just to suit up on Game Night only 10 times year.
Dan Eckles is the Sparks Tribune's Managing-Sports Editor. He can be reached via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org