Zuri Berry: Fat lady’s missing in action | TheUnion.com

Zuri Berry: Fat lady’s missing in action

Nevada County football is hurting right now. Every time you look around, there’s another Miner and Bruin loss.

It’s almost depressing. But the apathy this generous community has spewed has become the unbecoming trademark of football slumps.

Contrary to what coaches, editors and most writers want you to believe, everyone does pay attention to the constant swarm of letters, e-mails, phone calls and comments on the neighborhood newspaper Web site.

(The secret’s out big time.)

I make it a point to make sure I know what people are happy or upset about. Usually it’s the latter because nobody tells you anything when you’re doing your job right. In fact, I got a call the other day that simply asked me to quote more of the offensive lineman and defensive players when I write about the football teams. (I’m on it, Debbie.) In fact, the swarm is hard to ignore when the story you write is piled with 40-some odd comments online and most of it is bickering between a few select folks. But the ongoing cynicism is at best comical in relation to Nevada Union’s plight.

There have been shots taken at the coaching staff, attempts to slight the kids’ effort and a heap of bleacher scouts and armchair quarterbacks chiming in.

Enough is enough.

Lest we forget that in coach Dave Humphers’ 22 years with NU (17 at the helm) he’s produced three section championships and owns the school’s record for most career wins (153) and winning percentage (81). For his team to be 1-5 right now and without a loud, protective fan base I’m a little disheartened. I’d hate to believe that western Nevada County residents were fair-weather football fans. But I’m also aware of the fans, alumni and parents who are deeply entrenched in the Miner family.

So I decided I should say what’s on a lot of people’s minds, including my own, and rid the victims of naysayers guilt. You know that an experienced coach of 22 years is questioning himself because he might be letting naysayers get to him.

Don’t let them get you down, coach. I know because of your position you can’t really say what’s on your mind. So I’ll say it for you, even though it might not be word-for-word or totally how you feel either.

First and foremost, there’s a lot cooks in the kitchen, but Humphers is the Iron Chef. The guy knows what he’s doing and he doesn’t have to explain how his program is run. The stats speak for themselves. Repeat: Three section championships and an 81 percent winning margin. Not to mention a handful of alumni matriculated to the Division 1 football level, one of which is currently in the NFL ranks, albeit a practice player. But all of which is a sign of success beneficial for the long run.

Secondly, every kid is playing in the best position for the team at hand. As noted in previous stories in The Union, every position is still up for grabs. Kids are fighting every single day to outperform their peers in order to prove themselves on the field Friday night. It’s been an all-out tussle during this roller coaster slide. Bleacher scouts love to say this kid should play over this one, but every kid has had the opportunity to speak for themselves.

Finally, have a little faith in the kids. They’re in a rut, no doubt, but they’re finding ways to play harder and better every week. The pressure is on them to turn around a season and make the year worth a couple of proud memories.

I’ll be the first to crack a joke that Humphers is a bit over-positive in a very big hole, but it’s the pessimists that are draining the energy put into the proud NU program. And I’ll add that it’s unfair to a bunch of 16 and 17-year-olds. This type of pressure should be leveled at folks like Mike Nolan right now who are getting paid enough to take the criticism.

It’s more than obvious that Nevada County is a bit spoiled on the gridiron, but I don’t see that as being an excuse to be rude or simply forgetful of the youthful nature of high school football. This is the last time these kids will be able to get away with losing five straight and not get ripped by a guy like me after every loss.

There’s no need, or respect given, in kicking them while they’re down.

And for the record, with a 1-5 overall record and 0-1 record in the Delta Valley Conference, the Miners are only in second place. As far as I’m concerned, there’s no fat lady singing, yet.


Zuri Berry is the new sports writer at The Union. His columns will appear Wednesdays. Contact him via e-mail at zurib@theunion.com or call 477-4244.

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