In recent years, some of our heroes have completed their journeys, but they have not left us. Before the rest of our heroes move on, it must be expressed how they impacted many lives on many levels.
Looking back, we were fortunate to be raised in 1970-80s Fontana; then, a small, rough, diverse steel town. The town was populated by parents who embodied the ideals of community.
Looking back at that era, the vast amounts of time spent with our heroes is much appreciated. Many of our life’s moments are reflections of inspiration and not just simply moments; those moments were community-life lessons. As we age, those reflections are “home” and those moments are more joyous today than yesterday.
So, before all of our heroes move on, saying thank you to all of them and to let them know that their lives impacted many others is needed. Stating all their names would be exhausting, but perhaps it would be best to recall moments that allow all of us to escape to those cheerful life-notes of laughs, smiles and voices.
Those early days, from spring-to-fall, comprised moments that encompass the majority of these cherished moments. Baseball season in those days started around February and in Fontana, it was an activity that we engaged in until summer, which ushered in the “main event” season of football.
----- RECALLING the countless hours of playing baseball and becoming angry as the daylight weakened and dusk ruled the sky, our heroes were there guiding us.
Weekday practices were joyous events, but weekends were ruled by leather, wood and heroes. The echo of the batted ball, the deep dark clay, the glare of the morning dew on the outfield grass, the overcast skies, the clatter of cleats on pavement giving way to the soft crunch of the dirt and the pop of the leather.
As the days became warmer, the sun elevated, trees swayed and gnats hovered, the season commenced.
The hours of instruction, constructive tones and countless encouragements gave way to the thud of ball-to-leather and gasps from peers.
Our heroes, some in the dugouts, some in the stands and some in the parking lot, encouraged and cheered regardless of team or league; they appreciated us regardless. Our heroes illustrated to us that the game was to be enjoyed and played hard, and by doing so, success would always follow.
----- ONCE the leisure activity of baseball concluded, the mangling of the turf, perspiration saturating the ground and summer workouts became the norm. It was football season.
Fields transitioned from foul lines to yard lines, but the heroes followed and provided their support. Morning practices were met with wet fields; static stretching on wet turf most likely brought smiles and laughs to our heroes and rightfully so. Practices were attended at high frequencies by our heroes and a new set of heroes provided field guidance.
In that moment, more than 30 years ago, the time was not understood, and it surely was not appreciated; we were just performing what we were “bred” to do.
It was not just to play football, but it was our time to be part of the Fontana novel, to craft our chapter, to be our heroes’ words. From the early days of Pop Warner dominance to the notoriety of being a state and national powerhouse, we refused to be anything less.
As we waited our turn to embrace the maroon and white, the glorious Fohi helmets and to be under the Friday night Steeler lights, we marveled at all those great athletes that showed us how to play the game, not realizing it was the same great men and women who shaped them, were also shaping us.
We had longed for the moment to perform on a stage that consisted of an audience of our heroes. Their many hours of teaching the right way and steadfast nature of overcoming the wrong way, produced the skills of mastering the right way through dedication for community and not self.
We didn’t realize we became their beacon of perfection; we simply wanted to go further than the previous great teams. We wanted to make our community and our heroes proud.
What we accomplished in those years includes and expands beyond staff and coaches into all of our heroes, which is why we must say thank you to all of those who shaped us into the individuals we are today; teachers, coaches, leaders, health care professionals, executives, athletes, doctors and most of all, parents.
----- WHAT WAS not realized during those informative years, was that the competitive skills were not just lessons of sport but exercises of living.
Our heroes protected us from experiencing too much too soon; they made sure we completely understood before we advanced. We learned to never look through what was in front of us, a lesson that reigns true in life, family and community. Their hard work, their hours spent, their transference of knowledge transcends to many others who will never have the pleasure of meeting our heroes but benefit from our heroes to an unmeasurable degree. Those moments were not just about a game on a field, but the game of how to live.
For three decades, Fontana directly triumphed; but those of us who have made communities elsewhere, those communities have also directly benefited from the teachings of our Fontana era community heroes.
We are so fortunate to have a connection, even though once removed, to the “Greatest Generation” in our formative years. We all have a mother and father, but we all have many hero voices and memories in our spirits and souls.
Thank you all and I hope we have made you proud, for our lives are the manifestations of many heroes and we are very proud to be our heroes’ legacies and testimonies.
(Deron Marquez, a 1988 Fontana High School graduate, played football on the undefeated 1987 Fohi team which won the CIF championship.)