It is time to come clean and clear my conscience. I may have cost the Belen Eagles a victory in the state baseball tournament in May. Not because of mistakenly contaminating the team’s pregame meal, accidentally tripping the star pitcher, or bribing the umpires to win a bet.
Worse than that. While covering Belen’s 4A quarterfinal game against Artesia, I wore a blue shirt. Los Lunas Tiger blue. What’s in a color, you ask? Plenty, when it comes to the Eagles-Tigers rivalry.
Last season during a Tigers’ basketball game, an administrator questioned the maroon shirt I was wearing. My explanation was it represented my alma mater, the University of Montana and not Belen.
During an interview last summer with then-new Eagles football coach Kevin Pena, he remarked that he insists his grandson, from Los Lunas, not wear Tiger colors when visiting. “In our house, we live and die maroon and white,” Pena explained.
So, walking into the Eagles’ dugout that morning, surrounded by maroon and white, one could sense I made a fashion faux pas. Was it my imagination, but was every eye glaring at me? Soon, an Eagles’ coach made a lighthearted joke about my attire, something like, “Did you go to the wrong game?” Ouch.
For a split second the thought of going shirtless was considered, but quickly rejected. The morning air was a bit chilly. The coach even offered his maroon windbreaker to cover the mistake. “No thanks.”
In the world of sports journalism, wearing the colors of the team you are covering is a major no-no because it shows favoritism. As I was told many years ago, “There’s no cheering in the press box!”
To appreciate the gravity of the situation you need to accept that baseball is the most superstitious of all sports. Players and coaches MUST hop over the chalk lines. No one is allowed to mention that a pitcher has a no-hitter in progress. And, who can forget “The Curse of the Bambino?” Oh, lordy, what have I done, dredging up such negative karma?
So, with that background, why would I wear a blue shirt into the Eagles’ dugout on game day? Flashback to the night before as I laid out my clothes for the next day. Yes, I do that.
My closet is full of pullover Polo shirts, basically separated into three sections: maroon from the University of Montana; blue and orange, associated with two daughters who graduated from LLHS and my wife who works there; and red and turquoise from Valencia High School where my son graduated, and I was a volunteer soccer coach.
Three groups, all associated with a school I cover on a regular basis. That complicates things, making a person more prone to a wardrobe malfunction. The first thought while rummaging through the hangers is, “who am I covering tomorrow?” Is it Jaguars, Eagles or Tigers, oh, my? It just as easily could be any two or all three.
Over the course of 12 months, I’ve tried to acquire more bland attire to avoid conflicts. However, wearing grey and brown clashes with a certain “hip” reputation.
Turning to more flamboyant colors was attempted, including yellow, mauve and chartreuse. You should hear the snide remarks at the office.
Back to the ballgame in question. The Eagles got off to a slow start, which made me think more and more that it was my blue shirt’s fault.
As the Eagles soared back and took the lead, there was a sense of relief. I’m off the hook. Nope. Soon, Artesia had a rally of its own and nailed down the victory.
After the postgame interviews, a quick escape was planned in hopes of putting my debacle in the past. Certainly, it had to be an overreaction, all in my head and soon to be forgotten. However, on my way out of the park, two Los Lunas coaches were standing nearby, each wearing a polo shirt nearly identical to mine! Yep, this is going to haunt me.
Perhaps there is a solution for the future. What if I start wearing shirts featuring every color of the rainbow? That can’t possibly offend anyone, right?
Mike Powers spent more than 40 years as a television news and sports anchor, mostly in the Albuquerque market. He has won numerous awards including New Mexico Sportscaster of the Year. He covers a wide range of sports, including the Valencia County prep scene.