LOS ANGELES (CBS) -The word “classic” is defined as: of enduring interest, substance, or style. Often times we use the word classic in casual conversation. Sometimes its used to describe a particular song, album, or moment in our lives.
On the football field, you have to look no further than East Los Angeles. “This game has a name,” says Roosevelt head coach Javier Cid. That name is “The Classic.” Often refered to as “The East L.A. Classic” or simply just “The Classic” it is a game that transcends lives, families and brings together a community.
“Its a great, great time,” says Garfield 8th year head coach Lorenzo Hernandez.
There are plenty of rivalries throughout Southern California. In the South Bay, Banning-Carson stands above the rest. Earlier this season, the Pilots and Colts met for the 61st time in their historical matchup.
Last week, Servite beat Mater Dei as the two Orange County private schools collided for the 50th time in their history. Later tonight, Edison and Fountain Valley will square off for the 42nd time in “The Battle for the Bell.”
All are great rivalries in their own right. One couldn’t event mention City Section football in the 70’s and 80’s without mentioning Banning-Carson, but they pale in comparison to The Classic which puts Eastern League rivals Garfield (4-4, 4-0) and Roosevelt (5-3, 2-2) together on the same field.
Tonight, the two schools will meet for the 76th time in front of what is sure to be another sellout crowd at Weingart Stadium on the campus of East L.A. College. These two teams first met in 1925 and remains the longest standing rivarly this side of the Mississippi.
Hernandez was a part in another big rivarly during his time at Huntington Park. Bell and Huntington Park met at Weingart Stadium during Hernandez’s regime, “we put 3,000 [people] in there and it was too much, this [The Classic] is just another animal, you can’t describe it,” says Hernandez.
Its Homecoming for both Garfield and Roosevelt. What makes this rivalry so special, besides the Homecoming aspect is, no matter the record of either team, its always a big game and always draws a big crowd.
1990 is a perfect example. That year, Garfield entered The Classic with a record of 7-0, while Roosevelt stumbled into the game without a win to their name during the season. Roosevelt won the game 7-0. Cid was the JV coach for Roosevelt that year, after spending the previous season as a Garfield assistant. A move that didn’t go over well in the Roosevelt community. Although, its not a hateful rivalry, you have to pick a side. “Everything the USC-UCLA rivalry has, we have” says Cid. With insight to the Garfield program having been there the year prior, Cid did his part on the autumn night in 1990, in what was one of the more memorable games in the rivalry. However, the year before wasn’t as pleasant.
“I didn’t see it wrong, but everybody called me a traitor and Benedict Arnold” says Cid, a Roosevelt alum, of the reaction he received from other Rough Riders during his time at Garfield. Lines are divided, and families are split when it comes to this game. Somehow, year after year, it brings the community together.
Both sides go through extensive meetings and planning in preparation for the game to make sure each school’s Homecoming Game is a success. Both schools enjoying their Homecoming at the same time is something “you never see,” says the Roosevelt coach. Wednesday night there was a banquet involving both schools players and administrators. Both head coaches spoke at the dinner. There is also a Media Day the week of the game in which coaches and selected players speak to various members of the media.
“It extends beyond the game itself and brings the community together,” says Cid, whose Roosevelt team won 28-16 last season. As for the game itself, Roosevelt leads the overall series 40-29-6. “Sometimes its hard to put into words the excitement [of the game],” Cid says having played and coached on both sides of this historic rivalry.
Hernandez tells a different story. The head coach, met his wife, Martha, after taking the Garfield job. Martha is a Garfield alum and as the coach tells, not much of a football fan. “She’s not into 1st and 10 and all of that, but when it comes to The Classic, its ‘you’re going to win right?'” Its the only win or loss Martha cares about all season long.
Its a win or loss that resonates through an entire community.
Every season players get to play in the biggest game of their lives in front of the biggest crowd of their lives. 20,000 fans are present for this game year after year, with plenty more turned away. Alumni, school officials and city officials alike all show up to take part in the event. For one night, a region, often portrayed in a negative light, cast a spotlight of positivity. The night is full of good natured competition and full of emotion. Tonight should be no different
“Its two schools, and one community, that’s all it is,” says Cid. Classic.
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