Is there any greater irony than the fact that the old, dingy, nearly-dead Candlestick Park might’ve been a better high school football showcase venue than the glitzy, gaudy, Silicon Valley-tinted Levi’s Stadium.
Answer, no. At least, not for this season.
The 49ers and Levi’s Stadium announced today that the doubleheader between Manteca-Wilcox and De La Salle-Jesuit was canceled due to problems with the sod and the playing surface.
There have only been a handful of events thus far at Levi’s – and just one football game, a preseason drubbing of the 49ers by the Broncos – and this is a shaky start.
However, it does present a few positives for Manteca. Yet, they’ll lose a natural home game, and have this event disrupt their season’s flow, instead of open it.
In light of today’s hot topic, I’ve accumulated three pros and three cons for the Buffaloes’ new date in Santa Clara.
RHYTHM WITH NO DISTRACTION
Prep football kickoff brings enough nerves as it is for the teenagers involved.
Now imagine a sparkling new NFL stadium, the site of Super Bowl 50, and you’ve gotten some certain jitters. As great of an experience as it is, coaches and players really need to be concerned with getting in the flow of game speed.
So maybe it’s a blessing that Manteca won’t play in the 49ers’ digs for another month-and-a-half.
HALLOWED GROUND FOR A SHOWDOWN
OK, a new stadium isn’t exactly hallowed ground. But to take the Manteca-Oakdale rivalry, which isn’t as well-known as Sonora-Oakdale, but it’s a big one, to a professional stadium is something to behold.
Sure, these events look like nobody comes on TV, because you can’t draw 70,000 high school fans, no matter how rabid they are. But you can bet that Saturday afternoon the downtown businesses of Oakdale and Manteca will be pretty empty.
Not a bad day to drive without traffic down Highway 120.
THE BUFFALOES’ SAFETY
A major reason the 49ers cancelled the “Friday Night Lights” showcase is for the safety of the professional athletes who’ll be playing on that turf.
But lest we forget, some sorry sod could’ve hurt a Manteca or Wilcox player, as well.
So hopefully, Levi’s playing surface will be figured out by October, making for a solid, safe place to play for the Buffaloes and Mustangs.
First of all, selfishly, I’m bummed that this game did not happen Aug. 29.
Myself, a videographer and a photographer were probably all going to Levi’s Stadium to cover it, and it was going to be a legen – wait for it – dary way to open high school football season.
And I’m sure, even moreso, the players were amped to begin their season in the home of the Niners. I’m sure that’s the favorite team of many of them.
5, 4, 1
Technically, Manteca still has five road games and five home games this season. Yet, five of those are natural road games, four of those are natural home games, and then, technically, the Oakdale game is “at home.”
Only, it’s 64 miles away from home and in Santa Clara.
While the magnitude of the experience is undeniable, losing what could be a crucial home field advantage against a league rival and powerhouse program could rub you the wrong way as a competitor.
Just as it could be a “pro” to get into the season’s rhythm, this trip could take away the flow of a team on a roll.
Not only will it be a strange environment, and not a typical league game, but it’s on a Saturday afternoon instead of a Friday night.
Considering these guys’ weekly schedules, they might need buckets of scalding-hot coffee on the sidelines instead of ice-cold Gatorade.
Seriously, this opportunity is a dream come true for Manteca and Oakdale.
As a high school baseball player, I would’ve killed to play at AT&T Park or the Oakland Coliseum.
These “pros” and “cons,” while I mean what I say, do not serve to undermine just what a great moment this will be for this group of young men.
I look forward to seeing how it unfolds.
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