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Game Day: Will high school sports fail geography?

Editor’s note: This is the Monday, May 23, 2023, edition of the “Game Day with Kevin Modesti” newsletter. To receive the newsletter in your inbox, sign up here.

Good morning. Two seemingly unrelated reports by Southern California News Group high school sports writers recently stirred the same emotion in me and maybe in you as well.

First, other news:

The Lakers, who have been written off a few times this season, sound confident despite trailing Denver 3-0 in their best-of-seven playoff going into tonight’s game at Crypto.com Arena.
At the PGA Championship, Brooks Koepka’s fifth major win was nearly upstaged by Michael Block’s hole in one and tie for 15th, earning a spot in next year’s field for the 46-year-old club pro at Arroyo Trabuco Golf Club in Mission Viejo.
The Angels took two out of three from the AL Central-leading Twins thanks to Shohei Ohtani’s pitching and Mickey Moniak’s hitting. Clayton Kershaw struggled again in a loss at St. Louis, and the Dodgers’ pitching problems are hastening the rise of top prospects Gavin Stone and Bobby Miller.
Next for the Dodgers: A series at NL-leading Atlanta, Freddie Freeman’s second emotional trip back to where he starred for the Braves.
And, showing up the Dodgers after their decision to withdraw an LGBTQ+ Pride Night invitation for the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, Anaheim Mayor Ashleigh Aitken asked the self-described “order of queer and trans nuns” to be her guests at the Angels’ Pride Night next month.

Now, about those prep sports stories.

Steve Fryer wrote about Orange County high schools taking a step toward reorganizing sports leagues by, among other things, grouping football teams based on their rankings instead of their locations.

As Fryer wrote in a follow-up column, the proposals approved by Orange County school principals and subject to the CIF Southern Section’s OK in September already are drawing criticism for creating longer bus rides and killing some historic rivalries.

Fred Robledo wrote about Ganesha High, in Pomona, rapidly improving its baseball and softball teams by adding players who participate in Ganesha’s on-line schooling program but rarely appear on campus.

As Robledo said, what Ganesha is doing is legal but raises questions about its effect on “the traditional way, where neighborhood kids grow up in an area and play at their local high school.”

For me, these two stories stir nostalgia for the days when geography mattered more in sports.

I don’t know about you, but most of what I knew about geography as a kid, I learned from figuring out where teams were located, where players came from and where big events took place. This could get complicated, as when I concluded Atlanta must be just down the road  from Los Angeles because baseball and football had the Braves and Falcons in the Western Division. But the sense of place, and the local identities that helped to create rivalries, was part of the fascination of sports.

We can all think of ways this might be changing, not least because of shifts in the college sports map such as UCLA’s and USC’s planned move from the Pac-12 to the Big Ten.

But high school sports seemed like a place where place would always matter.

Fryer quotes Mike Murphy, basketball coach at Sonora High in La Habra, expressing his displeasure at what the proposed shuffling of league lineups might do to neighborhood rivalries.

“When we play La Habra (High) at their place or ours, the place is packed,” Murphy said.

Fryer writes: “Credit Orange County principals for getting creative and experimental. But there are going to be some people unhappy with what came out of the laboratory.”

Writing about Ganesha High, which is not alone in having athletes in online classes, Robledo says: “There are some involved in high school sports who are concerned that having teams made up primarily of online students is not what the high school sports experience is supposed to be about.”

Read those stories if you haven’t already. And read high school sports coverage in the Orange County Register and the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, and follow Fryer (@SteveFryer) and Robledo (@SGVNSports) on Twitter, to see where those stories go from here.

Where they go might defy geography as we know it.

TODAY

Lakers are one loss from elimination as they host the Nuggets (5:30 p.m., ESPN).
Dodgers start a three-game series at East-leading Atlanta with Gavin Stone making his second major-league start (4:20 p.m., SNLA).
Angels host Boston in the first of three with Chase Silseth trying to improve his numbers (1-4, 7.03 ERA) as a starter (6:38 p.m., BSW).

BETWEEN THE LINES

The betting world sees the Lakers beating Denver tonight to stay alive in the Western Conference finals, favoring them by 3 or 3-1/2 points and -155 or  -160 on the money line as of this morning.

280 CHARACTERS

“Phenomenal. I’d volunteer to write his screenplay/book but that tourney just wrote itself.” — Cam Inman (@CamInman), San Jose Mercury News sportswriter, tweeting after Orange County club pro Michael Block finished tied for 15th in the PGA Championship.

1,000 WORDS

We aren’t at Arroyo Trabuco Golf Club anymore: Michael Block, the club pro from Mission Viejo, is the center of the gallery’s attention as he chips onto the 18th green in the final round of the PGA Championship yesterday at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, N.Y. Photo is by Andrew Redington for Getty Images.

YOUR TURN

Thanks for reading. Send suggestions, comments and questions by email at kmodesti@scng.com and via Twitter @KevinModesti.

Editor’s note: Thanks for reading the “Game Day with Kevin Modesti” newsletter. To receive the newsletter in your inbox, sign up here.

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