In 1983, Armando Gonzales thought he knew what heat was. He won the City 3-A football title, the accolades came and so did the pressure. He burned out.
In 1985, Armando Gonzales found out what heat really was, as it burned through the leg of his pants. Armando Gonzales had quit coaching and had taken up firefighting.
"You feel the fabric of your pants start to burn and you start wonder, 'Wait a minute, is this what I want to do, really?' " Gonzales said in the Franklin High School faculty lounge, where he is now sure he belongs.
Gonzales feels he is renewed, his strengths and abilities proven to both himself and others. He has been back at Franklin for one year after leaving his job in 1984 to become a member of the Los Angeles County Fire Dept.
Los Angeles Times Tuesday September 29, 1987 Home Edition Sports Part 3 Page 10 Column 6 Sports Desk 2 inches; 39 words Type of Material: Correction
For the Record: Franklin High School won the City 2-A football title in 1983, not the 3-A as was reported last Wednesday. Also, the Panthers were stripped of the '86 3-A championship for using an ineligible player in the first round of the playoffs, not during the regular season.
And this has been another year of tests. He returned in Fall, 1986, and became co-coach with Robin Cardona, a former player and assistant of his. Franklin won the City 3-A title again.
Then it was taken away. The City Section discovered that a non-starter on the Franklin team had been eligible at the end of the semester but was ineligible when grades were checked after 10 weeks. The athlete had played in one game during the regular season. Even so, Franklin was stripped of all wins and the title was vacated.
"It was a rather insignificant player, and that's what really surprises me," Gonzales said. "Two and a half months later they say 'Hey, wait a minute.' So we were really disappointed.
"But I think, all in all, we were City champions. We still wear our rings, we still wear our jackets.
"It was funny, because the City said you can keep all of your awards and your accolades, but the title will be vacant. And I'm kind of confused by that. . . . It kind of leaves a bad taste. But I'm just glad it was a clerical error, not our mistake from a coaching standpoint."
Gonzales wonders how the old Armando, the before-I-really-got-burned Armando, would have handled the ordeal.
"I probably would've gotten more burned out," he said.
Feeling the real burn served as an attitude adjuster. Before, Gonzales said, he was hurried; now he is patient. Before, Gonzales said, he was very disorganized and pressured; now, he is meticulous and "everything, every little thing is planned out."
"How would you say? Now I am more copasetic. I'm more patient. Fighting fires, you learn not to let the little things bother you.
"I'm more patient and sometimes I think not just from fighting fires, but from being away from coaching and asking myself 'how can I return to coaching without getting burned out?' I realized that I had to be patient.
"The sun will be there tomorrow. Now I can cope with it more, I'm more relaxed, and I'm able to think better."
He left coaching tired and needing a challenge. "I had some friends, paramedics and firefighters, and they talked me into this thing," Gonzales said. "I was the oldest member of the class in training.
"I don't know how they talked me into it, but it proved to me that I'm disciplined. I went through everything, five months of training. I was third in a class of 49. I was 34 years old, and I was proud that I could compete with 21-year-olds.
"It taught me another thing. It taught me that I am good at coaching, and I should do what I do best. I cannot see myself fighting fires for 20, 25 years.
"Friday nights, when I had to work, and I had to be in there 24 hours, I'd sit there and think, 'Oh boy, Friday night of football and I'm here.' And then I go to a game, and I'm a spectator instead of coach, and that separation was something else."
So, Gonzales is back and happy, the bad taste from the ineligible player fiasco redeemed through a coaching triumph this summer. He and Cardona coached the South defense in a 12-6 victory in the Shrine All-Star game and received high marks from other coaches. Suddenly, Gonzales has a top-flight program at Franklin and is rather high-profile himself.