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The ball’s in your court 

How about them Royals? I don’t mean dreamy Prince William, though he is quite a looker. He’s fairly rich, too. And talk about a Renaissance man! If only I were 30 years younger and in line for the throne of France or something …

No, when I say Royals, I mean the good people of Mission College Preparatory High School in San Luis Obispo. They put crowns on their basketball jerseys and everything, like they’re the lords-a-leaping of the land. Very hoity-toity, if hoity-toity means what I think it means. Don’t tell me if it doesn’t. I’ve been using it for too long.

So these Royals have been basketball champions for a while now. The school’s web site has a little championship tree that shows how they were the best in their division earlier this year, and I’ve heard from people who follow such things as high-school basketball that Mission College Prep players have been champions for a while.

They’ve been so good for so long, in fact, that people started asking questions, like “How come they’ve been so good for so long?� and “Why aren’t we good, as in ‘Mission College Prep’ good?� and “Why would he say ‘hoity-toity’ if he wasn’t sure what it meant?�

The Tribune decided to provide the public with an “exclusive� answer by printing a hoity-toity variation on the same story several days in a row. Mission College Prep, it seems, has seen more than its fair share of foreign-exchange students duck their statistically taller-than-average frames into the school’s hallowed halls to play basketball over the last few years. They came from far-off lands with mystical names like Cameroon, Ivory Coast, and Minnesota, and they came to school their opponents.

The California Interscholastic Federation—CIF, to its friends—has specific rules against unauthorized recruiting, and Mission’s athletic director and head coach, Tom Mott, resigned in the wake of allegations of rule violations. Turns out other coaches and players don’t like losing, and everyone knows how petty and vindictive losers can be. The first plausible excuse for their failure that comes along becomes their mantra, whether it’s “The sun was in my eyes!� or “Their guys were illegally recruited from Puerto Rico!� Bunch of crybabies.

Tom’s innocent until proven guilty, people, so don’t go egging his car just yet. Besides, I’m hungry for an omelet. Give me those.

If anyone’s surprised by any of this recruiting scandal, I’m surprised that they’re surprised. It’s not like these 6-foot-9-inch Ivory Coaster kids have 6-foot-9-inch Ivory Coaster moms who shop downtown at Crazy Jay’s and 6-foot-9-inch Ivory Coaster dads who invite the neighbors over for backyard barbecues. They’re obviously not from around here—not that there’s anything wrong with that. It’s just that most schools get a few foreign-exchange students here and there to add a little spice to the otherwise tapioca student roster. Mission College Prep, however, has apparently been importing whole Third-World villages to take the court—a process that didn’t start yesterday, I may add.

A lot of Mission’s players over the years obviously hailed from across the pond—if that phrase works as well when referring to Africa as it does when referring to England—so why the outcry now? Either everybody’s been waiting for one more year of outstanding foreign players just to make extra sure that something fishy was going on, or our national climate is finally frosty enough to warrant suspicion toward anybody who isn’t from around these parts. Seriously, would this issue have come up if all of the recruits were white? Would anyone have even noticed?

I’m going to go out on a precarious race-relations limb and say no. That’s not a popular opinion right now, I know, but I say it in the face of vigilantes who point out that if they’re sneaking in from Mexico, they could be sneaking in from anywhere, right? Those illegals could be hauling their salt-soaked bodies up the legs of Pismo Pier as we speak. Looks like a whole new group will start calling for a wall that blocks off the rest of the world from the United States. The only way in or out will be by air, and let’s just see a poor farmer from Mexico or power forward from Serbia try to get through security at O’Hare.

Sure, most of these kids who’ve been playing basketball have visas, but so do a lot of those farmworkers out there in the fields picking strawberries. The problem for a lot of people is that there’s no easy way to tell the illegal immigrants from the legal ones, so they just judge a foreigner by his color and start muttering about how higher taxes are that guy’s fault.

I’ve honestly heard a suggestion or two from readers who think newspapers should compile lists of boycottable businesses that hire illegal immigrants, so there’s got to be at least one yokel out there shouting that those slam-dunking, three-point-throwing exchange students “should all go back to where they came from,� regardless of whether they snuck here on a banana boat or filed all of the necessary paperwork in triplicate. Forget that no employer would ever voluntarily give up information on how many illegal immigrants the company hires, especially to a journalist. Then forget that I ever turned Mission College Prep’s CIF recruiting debacle into a race issue.

In fact, forget that race issues even exist. Go back to living your harmonious life where everybody looks the same and strawberries fall from the sky like three-pointers sinking from half court. ∆


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