AFTER THE WHISTLE

Sticky fingers

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— Last week the players and coaches at Loveland High School learned the hard way that football and home economics just don't mix.

Can't you just picture it?

A kind elderly woman standing in front of her home economics class at Loveland High School teaching a room full of football players the best way to apply the nonstick cooking product Pam to football jerseys.

"Now, now Johnny," she would say in her meek voice. "You don't want to spray too much in one area or that stuff will create a stain that a color-safe bleach just can't touch."

It's kind of funny, but at first I wasn't troubled by the thought that the Loveland football team had cheated to win a game, but I was more concerned that Pam must stain when it is applied to clothing and how would this team ever get its uniforms back to the original color. It has to be hard for the Loveland team to explain the cost of new uniforms to the booster club when they have to file a request every year.

"It's bizarre," Sailors head coach Mark Drake told me. "I've never heard of doing that and I'm not aware that anyone we have ever played has tried it."

The idea of a football team using a nonstick cooking spray on its uniforms to gain an unfair advantage over the team's opponents was news to the local coach who has been teaching the game for more than 30 years.

While the stain of Pam may wash out of the team's uniforms, future players at Loveland High School may never escape the stigma that will mark them as cheaters in the state of Colorado for years to come.

"Never. Never. Never," Hayden football coach Kevin Kleckler replied when asked if he has ever come across teams or players spraying nonstick substances on their uniforms to enhance their performance. "I'm appalled as a high school football coach. We have to work hard enough to gain the respect of our players and our community without this kind of stuff."

Kleckler has coached football in Colorado for the past nine years. He thinks the coaches' actions in Loveland not only stained the players uniforms but high school football as a whole.

On Thursday, however, the Colorado High School Activities Association took the first step in washing away the stain. They didn't use Tide, but they did suspend Loveland High School Coach John Poovey for condoning the use of the nonstick cooking spray by his players during a game against Greeley Central Oct. 26.

It's unfortunate, but even if Poovey is fired over the incident, the players at Loveland are going to have to pay the price for the actions of a few adults for years to come.

"I think a football coach is reflected in his team," Kleckler said. "They are going to be labeled as cheaters for some time."

Even more upsetting is that, even after getting caught, Poovey refuses to accept reasonability for what happened in a game that is supposed to be more about teaching young players the values it takes to be successful in life rather than just winning.

Poovey not only admitted using a foreign substance in the game against Greeley Central, but that his teams have used nonstick substances for a number of years.

He said his decision to use it was in response to other team's using it and more than one group of game officials telling him there was no rule against it.

The one thing this coach wasn't teaching his players about was common sense.

"There are a lot of coaches out there who will do some weird things in order to get an extra edge," Drake said. "The most important thing is that when both teams step on the field they are on a equal playing surface."

The fact of the matter is that coaches are supposed to teach children the morals and values it takes to be successful. This coaches' message was to do whatever it takes to get ahead and if you get caught blame it on the other guy.

The Loveland players will not be penalized in this episode by CHSAA or the school district their only crime was listening to a coach they trusted. The Loveland players can be comforted by the knowledge that they will be headed to the state playoffs when they begin next week with a top seed.

But I have a feeling that the football players in the Loveland program will eventually pay the price. It's going to take a lot of Pam to keep the school's new reputation as cheaters from sticking.

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