Manogue falls victim to journalism jinx
By Matt Brown
A Good Sport
Poor Joe Santoro probably had no idea he was doing it the day he interviewed a host of confident Bishop Manogue Miners baseball players for a recent story that ran in the Reno Gazette-Journal.
It was the type of interviews that journalists dream of, where no question pushes the wrong buttons because it’s centered around the greatest word in sports Ð winning.
Granted, Santoro, a veteran sports writer at the Gazette, wasn’t violently stabbing needles into a green-and-gold Miners voodoo doll or anything. No, his curse was born out of a good-hearted journalistic drive to tell the (sports) truth. The truth was an astonishing one at that Ð at the time the article was published, Santoro was reporting on Manogue’s 89-game winning streak in the Northern 3A.
In its next game, Manogue lost to Reno, 4-0, not a 3A league game, but it was a hint that the Curse of Media Attention had begun. Two days later, Manogue trashed league foes Rite of Passage by equivalent scores of 20-0 in a doubleheader. The curse appeared to be over as the streak inched into the 90s. Manogue was back on the right track and on its way to another undefeated Northern 3A run . . . right?
Well, no. Santoro’s curse was not one that befell the Manogue team, per se. Instead, his story caught the attention of one Reno resident that happens to work in Truckee, and 99 percent of what this man reads is sports-related content. He is interested in statistics like 89-game winning streaks (because it puts other streaks into perspective. For instance, the longest ever winning streak in Major League Baseball is 26 games by the 1916 New York Giants).
Every spare minute he has at work is devoted to game wrap-ups, columns or box scores posted on ESPN.com. At lunch, while eating at the community table, he grabs only the sports section of the Gazette or Sacramento Bee. There was something about Santoro’s exposition of this 89-game streak that intrigued this sports freak. His sports mind started going to work.
A day or so after reading about The Streak, he drove for a visit to his grandma’s house, taking Valley Road, a road he has driven many times before. His normally oblivious attentiveness noticed something new this time: Manogue Rd. Looking down it, he noticed a sign advertising Bishop Manogue High School. He muttered to himself, “Oh, that’s where that school is.” He yelled, “Gosh darn it,” and realized he could have easily covered a March 16 matchup between Manogue and Truckee. He strived to make up for his blunder with a story twice as long as the normal effort.
A day or so after this enlightenment, he began to plan for his upcoming issues, when he noticed the Tuesday, April 6, rendezvous at Truckee High between the two teams. Redemption for his past mistake was near. He began writing the story in his mind before the first pitch was ever thrown Ð Truckee’s first home game in two years; Truckee breaks 91-game league winning streak. He thought of Truckee gelling and coming together at the perfect time in the season, using a big win to get back into playoff contention. All of this thinking was brought on by that initial reading of the Santoro article.
He began to will a win because it would make a great story. He felt a magnificent win of gigantic proportions coming on, and soon came the day in which he would see his prophecy fulfilled, or not. He drove up to the field and noticed nothing extraordinary in the appearance of those athletes that wore green-and-gold. The pitcher that was warming up threw hard, and the fielders possessed strong fundamentals, but nothing more. “Hey, maybe Truckee can take these guys,” he thought.
He concluded that Truckee must play solid defense to keep up with this team; mixed in with a couple timely hits and fantastic pitching Ð near-flawless baseball would do the trick.
He could visualize nothing obvious about Manogue that might overly intimidate Truckee, so naturally he sought answers from credible sources.
“It’s the mystique,” said Chuck Smith, father of Truckee’s starting pitcher Nik Smith and former Truckee junior varsity baseball coach. “People come into these games (against Manogue) thinking they’re going to lose. It’s a battle you have to overcome.”
Wow. Well put by a man with a lot of experience around Truckee sports. When Smith made this analysis, Truckee held on to a puny 1-0 lead in the third inning, and the man who asked the question pondered the Mystique Theory for a while. He decided he didn’t feel that Manogue Mystique as he sat on the sidelines and watched the game.
It was another hour before a 3-1 Truckee win fulfilled this man’s vision and the Santoro curse. And, suddenly this man blew up with joy because he was the only one in the park with a pen and paper who would get to write about the amazing feat.
It’s ironic how the curse plays out, you see. The reporter is there to capture the good, but absent come the bad. Will the curse leech on to this man that has exposed Truckee’s newfound glory? That is a prophecy that is yet to be decided.
Matt Brown is the sports editor for the Sierra Sun.
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Students frustrated at the cancellation of sports waved signs and delivered speeches at a Truckee High School protest in an attempt to return to the field this year.