January 21, 2005

Searching for Heroes

Who’s in your living room?

By Juan Sifuentes Jr.

As I sit here in my living room. I am listening to all the bad that is going on in the world today. Que. cosas no? Gone are the days when everything was so simple. People could leave their homes to go to the store and not have to lock their doors. Neighbors cared for each other and watched each other’s children. Todo estava tranquilo. What I remember the most was the Heroes on the television. Even the comic books. I remember Jim Brown with the Cleveland Browns. I remember “Combat” the series. Who could forget the Cisco Kid and Pancho. Where are our heroes today? Let me tell you about a special Hero de MI sangre.

When my son, Juan Sifuentes III, was born I knew that there was something wrong with him. He seemed under-developed. Something just wasn’t right. AS he grew older we found out that he had a speech impediment and that he had poor hearing. He was born with this ailment. My son had to be put in a special education class. At first I was mad at myself because I thought that, genetically, I had done this to him. The doctors assured me that it was not my fault.

As the years went by my son endured a lot of ridicule from his classmates. They called him names like Dumbo the elephant and other cruel names. When mijo was in the seventh grade he told me how much he hated school and he wanted to get out of special Ed class. Mijo would cry at night and my heart would literally tear to pieces because I didn’t know what to do. I then thought that maybe if I tutored him with his classes it would help him.

Well I had come up with an idea to teach mijo in mathematics and Texas history. I would spend at least 3 hrs. With him after school. He started doing so well that the school allowed him to have some classes with the general population.

My son then came home one day and told me he wanted to be just like his big brother Chris and play football. I thought this was a big NO being that he had a heart murmur. The doctors were even talking about operating. The fact that he was only about 4 foot tall made me worry. My son was not growing like the rest of the kids. I told him that if his doctor said yes then I would let him play. I knew that his doctor would say no. Well I was in for a big surprise when the Doctor agreed to let him play with some limitations. My oldest son Chris played with the prestigious Alice Coyotes football team and he won the offensive rusher of the year award. His number was 25. When my son Juan had his first practice imagine his surprise when the coach gave him the #25 jersey. The same as his older brother.

Needless to say when Mijo started playing with the team he got no playing time at all because of his size and his heart ailment. Mijo never gave up though and he would pace the sidelines up and down waiting, like a caged tiger, for the coach to call him to do his duty. In the mean time when my son passed to the 8th grade no one told the administration that my son was a special Ed student. He was put in regular classes. When we had our regular meeting at the middle of the school year this was brought to our attention. The school officials apologized left and right. Then they told us that they wanted our permission to keep him with the rest of the students. It turned out that this tiny, little, special Ed student (my son) was passing with straight “B” average. I was totally blown away. Tears rolled down my face because Este chic-anito, my son, was finally where he wanted to be.

As time went on my son developed the attitude to remove the words “I can’t” from his vocabulary. Everytime I told him that he couldn’t do this or that because of his size, he would prove me wrong. He never got any playing time on the football field though and that was a big thing with him.

When my son was a junior in High school he wanted to join the power-lifting team. I told him,”Mijo you are too small, you can’t do it!” I was really afraid of him being disappointed. Juan was only 4’ 9” tall. I gave in and signed the papers for him to do the weight-lifting thing. Image my surprise when week after week he kept coming home after competition with first and second place medals. The look on this chicanitos face when he would run to me to show off his medals still brings me to tears. My son was small in size but his heart was the biggest I have ever seen. My son went on to be one, of only 2 people, to go to state competition in Dallas, Texas. My son still did not see playing time on the field. He still had his big brothers #25 jersey.

I took on the job as a ticket agent at the football games just to see if my son ever got any playing time. He was a senior now. One night the Coyotes were playing Tuloso-Midway in our stadium. I always wore headphones with a Walkman because I couldn’t see the complete field so I would listen to the game on the radio. In the fourth quarter just about 5 minutes left to play our team was winning. I then heard the radio announcer say that the fans were chanting something and they really couldn’t tell what it was. We are talking about 3 to 4 thousand people. Then the radio announcer said,” they are chanting, PUT NUMBER 25! Put number 25! I could not believe my ears!!!!! I quick ran towards the field, leaving my post, to get a closer look.

It was like the seen in the movie”RUDY”. The people started to chant RUDY! RUDY! This went on for about 2 minutes. To me in seemed like 20 minutes. Tears streamed down my face when I saw little 4’ 11” #25 run to the field. He played defensive cornerback. On his first play my son tackled the quarterback. Imagine Four thousand screaming fans raising to their feet yelling to the top of their lungs. My son got his moment of glory in that one play. The game was stopped for 10 minutes so they could carry the quarterback off the field.

I always was over protective of my son because of his medical condition. Every time I told him that he couldn’t do something because of his size or condition, he made it a point to prove me wrong. Que cosas nuestro niños. I didn’t stick around for the final seconds. I got home and my phone was ringing. It was someone from our local newspaper calling wanting to do a story on my son. I asked him why. He then asked me if I had stuck around for the end of the game. I said no. He then told me that my son was carried off the field. My heart sank. I felt like a knife had pierced my heart. I asked him what happened. He then laughed and told me to relax. It seemed that the regular players were so impressed with my son’s performance that he was hoisted on their shoulders and carried off the field. The reporter told me that this had never happened in the history of the Alice Coyotes.

My son went on with his power-lifting thing and was the only one to go to state competition at Trinity University. In a time, after 9/11, when we are searching for HEREOS…. All one has to do is look in our own living rooms…These children, nuestro hijos, ARE our Heroes……………

Juan A. Sifuentes Jr. is a second generation Tejano Singer and is on the Board-of-Directors for Tejano R.o.o.t.s. the official Tejano Music Hall-of-Fame Museum of Texas. Repinted from LatinoLA.com

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