Here’s a good OC Register column about the Shrine Game and more … and some pointless Shrine Game memories from last year by yours truly …

I know exactly what Fryer is talking about in relation to the Shrine Game selection process. I have seen players selected to this game that make you go “What?”
Anyway, the game is coming up later this month. Two years ago it was televised by Fox Sports Net and last year it was televised by some desert TV station. Like Channel 22 or something. All I remember is that they had the most beautiful sideline reporter you’d ever want to see and when she came up to the big man at practice and asked him about some of the players, I just about passed out! Of course, seconds into the conversation, she dropped the “I’m engaged to a pharmaceuticals salesman” line on me. Here’s the deal – if you’re engaged or married or have dude, please don’t talk to me.
Anyway, the point is that Fox Sports doesn’t want to televise the game anymore. No TV is signed on to do it this year, but I see Adelphia is a sponsor. The game format is boring now that it’s dwindled down to SoCal Public vs. Private. And, to make things worse, some of the kids playing in it aren’t legit all-stars.

But, having said all of that, it’s still football. The Shrine Game could gets its players from retirement homes and I would still watch because it’s football in the dead of summer. Also, the game is being played at Citrus College and was played before at MSAC and the Rose Bowl, so it’s very local for me and Tribune.
Practices are at Cal Poly Pomona.

Here’s Steve Fryer’s column:

Two all-star football games are not shining so brightly today.

The Shrine Game added two players who are not Shrine Game material solely because of their fathers’ influence.

The Orange County North-South All-Star Game has Scott McKnight on the South roster. McKnight was suspended from the Tesoro football team and from school in 2005 for describing in a class journal the methods he would use to murder a teacher.

First, the Shrine Game.

I was invited to be part of the Shrine Game player selection meeting Jan.23. Organizers said they really wanted to improve the quality of the game, and that I could help. It’s a game with a great history, and it’s played for charity, so I complied.

The player-selection process began with an announcement by game coordinator Steve Wurtzel that a player from an Anaheim high school was already in the game because the player was the son of a Wurtzel business client. At that moment I stood, began gathering my materials and announced that I would not be part of a selection process in which undeserving players would be placed on rosters because of friendships, business deals or favors owed.

The Shrine people understood, and from then on, players were selected solely because of their worthiness as football players. In this year’s game, June24 at Citrus College in Glendora, a team of CIF-Southern Section public school players will play against a team of CIF-SS private/parochial and CIF Los Angeles City Section players. The players selected were at least first-team all-league players, and a majority of them also were All-CIF or all-area players.

However, last week, two players from Servite were added to the private/L.A. team. Neither was even second-team all-league.

Linebacker Eddie Ramirez did not start for Servite in 2005. Lineman Nick Mostero played in half of the Friars’ games before a shoulder injury shelved him for the duration of the season.

The appointments of Ramirez and Mostero surprised the private/L.A. team coach. That coach is Troy Thomas – also Servite’s football coach.

“The Shriners send me a ton of e-mails,” Thomas said, “and I saw one that said a new player was added to the private team. I clicked on it and saw ‘Eddie Ramirez,’ and I go ‘Eddie Ramirez from Servite? How did he get on the team?’

“They told me his dad volunteered to be the team doctor, so they put him on the team.”

And Mostero?

“From what I was told by Wurtzel,” Thomas said, “his dad made a financial donation to get him into the game.”

Thomas then told Wurtzel and the Shrine group that if Ramirez and Mostero were on the roster, then Thomas would not coach the game because of what would happen to the reputation of himself and Servite High School.

“I want to coach the game,” Thomas said. “I really believe in the cause. But I don’t feel this is something I can put my name on.”

Thomas said he then called Ramirez’s father, Eddie, and Mostero’s father, Frank, to set up meetings with them and their sons for discussion. Thomas said Frank Mostero declined to meet, but a meeting with Ramirez’s father did occur.

“I told him Eddie was no longer on the team,” Thomas said. “Mr.Ramirez told me he still would be the team doctor and his son would be on the team as well.”

Thomas said the meeting then took an uncomfortable turn.

“He said he had talked to a lawyer before he came to our meeting,” Thomas said. “He brought up a couple of legal issues, and that I would be learning a big lesson from this, that I’m a young guy who didn’t really know my place.”

Wurtzel said Mostero and Ramirez have been removed from the Shrine game roster, but he would not comment further until cleared to do so by the Shriners’ attorney.

Ramirez said he was not at liberty to discuss the matter, as he was in consultation with a legal advisor.

Mostero also declined to comment, but confirmed that he, too, had consulted with a lawyer.

“There are too many families involved,” Mostero said, “and too many people involved. I’d rather just shake hands with everybody when this is over.”

The Shrine Game has changed formats frequently, lately going from a North-South game to a California vs. Texas game to a public schools vs. private schools game and on to this year’s mixed-rosters experiment. While this meandering has damaged the great game’s credibility, it is nothing compared with placing roster spots up for bid.

As for McKnight, there is no argument that he was one of south county’s most talented football players in 2005 as a receiver and defensive back. But he missed eight of his team’s 14 games because of a character issue.

South coach Bruce Ingalls of Laguna Hills said he and the South coaching staff had to find a cornerback after two players at that position dropped out of the game. Ingalls said he talked with Tesoro coach Jim O’Connell, who had nominated McKnight for the game during the original selection process, Tesoro assistant coaches and McKnight. He contacted Daily Pilot sports writer Barry Faulkner, who annually helps coordinate the South roster and select the South coach.

Ingalls said he spoke with McKnight and the McKnight family, too. All parties agreed McKnight would be a good addition, so he was added to the team.

“Scott does deserve a second opportunity,” Ingalls said. “And, as a coach, I want to get the best players on the field.”

The Brea Lions Club organizes and manages the county all-star football game for charity. The Lions’ Phil Anton, the game coordinator, said he did not know McKnight was added to the South roster until the roster was announced at a South coaches-players meeting May11.

“I would have discouraged it,” Anton said had he been consulted before the selection of McKnight.

Good kids do bad things. A young person who makes a mistake should not be tossed into the trash.

But to avoid the guaranteed negative publicity that could damage the integrity of the county all-star game McKnight should not be on the South roster. A few phone calls here and there probably could have revealed a better candidate who can play cornerback, like Westminster’s Mitchell Nhep, who was the Golden West League player of the year in ’05.

The notion that character counts seems to have been lost there.

As for the Shrine Game, young men have been shown that you do not have to earn your way into the circle of honor. All you need are the right connections.

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