By Bill Roberts
From the Tailings
With apologies to faithful readers who were expecting the final installment of this column’s series on Tonopah TV, it has been pre-empted and will grace this space next week.
I digress because another subject of immediate interest has caught my attention.
The subject is the U.S. Senate race between incumbent Harry Reid and Sharron Angle, a former Tonopah resident. More specifically, recent statewide and national reports which clamor about how religion has been inserted into this campaign.
Going back and forth, Angle’s campaign has been critical of Reid’s appealing “to the faithful,” and the Democrat has accused his Republican challenger of being unable to separate church and state.
Reid’s supporters have put a spotlight on Angle’s emphasizing religion in her campaign. Specifically, her statements that she is running as a “calling from God” and fighting the forces of evil who seek “to make government our God.”
Nice sound bites. But the events from 20 years ago might shine a better light on the mingling of religion and campaigning by Angle.
The heart of the story starts in 1991 and, perhaps surprisingly, with the Tonopah High School football team.
Mired in a dismal season, the Muckers traveled to Laughlin that fall. To nearly everyone’s surprise, the relatively-new Clark County school defeated Tonopah. It was Laughlin’s first-ever football win.
Tonopah coach Randy Jones was so incensed that he told his team in the locker room following the game it was the blackest day in Mucker history.
Springing ahead, Jones came up with an innovative idea to fire up his charges for their 1992 homecoming game against Laughlin. Utilizing the “darkest day” theme, he suggested the Muckers could wear black jerseys to remember the previous year’s debacle.
With no resources for his plan, the coach asked his players to buy their own black uniform shirts. Not all complied but many did and they mostly their parents ponied up the cash to buy black jerseys.
Enter the detractors, coming with two platforms.
The first were longtime THS supporters like Bob Frank father of school board member John Terras and alum William Tomany of Las Vegas. Their group argued that red and white were the Muckers’ colors and no other would do.
Also opposing the black jerseys was another group including Angle, a member, if not its leader.
They argued against our charges wearing black on religious grounds.
I cannot quote scripture as they did to justify their point but the gist of their argument was that black as a color was thoroughly evil, invoking the supernatural and especially the devil my take from dictionary definitions and not from scripture .
Angle may or may not have thought this a political statement. But she became a high profile advocate of a specific religious position during her very first campaign.
Whichever argument prevailed, school administrators caved in and prohibited the Muckers from wearing the black apparel.
As a parent and journalist, I was incensed and made my wishes known to Jones, imploring him to ignore his bosses and go ahead with the black jerseys. He told the “editor” he could not go against the administration but privately said he would follow through with the plan except the administration held the offensive apparel under lock and key and would not give them up.
In the end, the Muckers wore traditional red and white for the homecoming game, which they won, avenging their previous loss to the Cougars. It also was a benchmark for two dozen young men as it was their only victory that season.
But they went away from the affair knowing Angle’s group used religious arguments to deprive them of their innocuous and youthful black jersey statement.
Administrators held onto the jerseys and refused to either turn them over to the athletes or to return the money they had paid.
Angle, in her first successful political race, unseated incumbent school trustee Terras by campaigning like crazy in Pahrump, courting voters who would generally vote against anything “Tonopah” — like an incumbent school trustee.
So we come full circle to today.
Nevada voters who did not know so before now are learning that religion is a big part of any Angle campaign, just as it was so many years ago.
Before you get the lynching rope out for your columnist, I believe any candidate at any time or place can advocate any position he or she supports — be it having radioactive waste stored in Nye County or prohibiting 15-, 16- and 17-year-olds from wearing a revenge-inspired football jersey.
But in a Las Vegas R-J story last week, an Angle campaign spokesman insisted the candidate is tolerant of others’ views. That was not the case 18 years ago when her religious preference was displayed during a campaign for the county school board.
Bill Roberts is the former editor and owner of the Tonopah Times-Bonanza & Goldfield News. He writes a weekly column in Tonopah.