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VALLEY / VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS | ERIC SONDHEIMER

Fiege Wants Teams to Try Salt-Free Diet

September 03, 2000|ERIC SONDHEIMER

Ever since a caveman hurled a spear, missed his target and shouted an expletive, sports and profanity have been forever linked.

Drop by a three-on-three basketball game at a park. Listen to the response of a baseball player who just struck out. Eavesdrop on the halftime talk of a football coach whose team is trailing, 28-0.

You'll hear four-letter words you wouldn't want your 5-year-old to know about.

Now comes a courageous decision.

The City Section has launched a drive to remove profanity from high school sports. It might have been easier to land a man on the moon.

Barbara Fiege, City Section commissioner, is telling coaches, athletic directors, principals and students that profane language used during practices and games is no longer acceptable.

During a speech last month to football coaches, Fiege said, "If we could eliminate the profanity, just think what we could do. It's time to start talking about what kind of lessons we're teaching our kids. It needs to be part of everything we do."

There won't be sanctions this season for coaches or players who use profanity, but Fiege said that day is coming.

"The bus is going with or without you," she warned.

Sylmar High's sideline could be the ultimate test case. When Coach Jeff Engilman's eyes start to bulge and his face turns bright red, words sometimes slip out that are more suitable for an R-rated movie.

Engilman knows he's one of the worst offenders and has been working to clean up his vocabulary. He even fines himself and players for profanity. It's 50 cents for every word.

"I could throw in a $10 bill," he said.

Engilman recognizes that change is coming.

"Hey, it's an emotional game and it's tough beating your head against another kid and not saying something, but you have to get used to it if that's the rule," he said.

Already, you can sense some coaches being more careful in what they say. When Coach Troy Starr of Taft saw an offensive lineman miss a block, he displayed good discipline by shouting, "You idiot!" instead of inserting a more colorful word before idiot.

One four-letter word continues to be most prevalent, and eliminating it from players' and coaches' vocabulary is no simple task.

As Drew Yellen, a Northridge-based sports psychologist and former Grant football coach, pointed out, "The F-word has more use than any other word in the language. It's an adverb, it's a noun, it's a verb, it's an adjective, it's an infinitive. It's an amazing word."

Cynics laugh at what Fiege and the City Section are trying to do, especially considering the language that can be heard on television, at the movie theater, on the Internet, on the playground.

But Fiege is serious about cracking down on profanity.

"If it's not enforced, behavior is not changed," Fiege said.

*

Running back Tyler Ebell of Ventura should wear a T-shirt that reads, "Faster than a speeding bullet!" And give him a cape, too. He runs a 4.3 40 and is coming off a season in which he rushed for 1,622 yards and scored 30 touchdowns. Here's a scary thought: He's better than ever.

On Friday night in a scrimmage against Thousand Oaks, he scored three touchdowns, including a 37-yard run.

"I feel way faster and way stronger," he said. "I broke tackles I wouldn't have broken last year."

Said Coach Mike Sanders of Thousand Oaks: "You make a mistake with him and he'll make you pay. He's a great one." . . .

Jack McDowell, former Notre Dame pitcher, is retired from baseball, but his music career is going well. He'll appear with his band, Stick Figure, on Wednesday at the Viper Room on Sunset Boulevard. Even umpires are invited to attend. . . .

If Marcin Jagoda, former Crespi volleyball player, needs a golf tip, all he has to do is call his sister's boyfriend, Tiger Woods. Joanna Jagoda has been dating Woods for more than a year. Of course, Marcin may not want to bring up that he attends UCLA, since Woods is a Stanford man. . . .

When's the last time a junior college baseball player was admitted to MIT? First baseman Jon Bringuier of Pierce College is trying to pull off the rare feat. Bringuier, a Granada Hills graduate and excellent student, needs to fulfill some class requirements but he's working hard. "Hopefully, I'll get in," he said. . . .

Junior Kevin Rex of Thousand Oaks must have so many balls, uniforms, shoes and trophies scattered around his bedroom he could hold a garage sale. He starts at strong safety for the football team, starts at guard for the basketball team, starts for the volleyball team and is a straight-A student. . . .

If football coach Kevin Rooney of Notre Dame High wants to inspire his players, he should ask Notre Dame graduate Kirsten Dunst to drop by practice. Dunst stars in the cheerleader movie, "Bring It On." . . .

Football Coach George Hurley of Newbury Park should start coming to practice with a surfboard and Hawaiian shirt to make his players feel comfortable. At least six Panther players are surfers. . . .

The Mission League intends to vote this month on a proposal to make any athlete who transfers from one Mission school to another ineligible for one season of varsity competition. . . .

Bob Hawking, former basketball coach at Simi Valley and Cal State Fullerton, has been named head coach at Anaheim High. . . .

Shon Tarver, who played basketball at Santa Clara High and UCLA, has been hired as an assistant coach at Cal State Northridge. . . .

Baseball Coach Bob Lofrano of Pierce is loading up on quality pitchers. Set to enroll this week are Phil Polanco from Notre Dame High and San Francisco, Kurt Birkins from El Camino Real and UCLA, and Jesse Kozlowski, a freshman from Westlake who was a ninth-round draft pick. . . .

Ed Gunny, a former junior varsity coach, has emerged as the likely replacement for Rich McKeon as baseball coach at Taft.

Eric Sondheimer's local column appears Wednesday and Sunday. He can be reached at (818) 772-3422 or eric.sondheimer@latimes.com.

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