Vote California School for the Deaf in Sports Illustrated “Underdogs” Contest!

Posted by: Staff Writer on Nov. 5, 2012

Somewhere in Fremont, California, a pack of teenage underdogs are stirring.  They can’t hear their opponents, but boy, can they throw them off-balance – with elaborate sign language for the “no huddle”, and the mettle of a warrior. Sports Illustrated (SI) has noticed them, and the California School for the Deaf (CSD)’s football team needs your votes by November 15 to vie for “Underdog” glory.

SI isn’t where only millionaire pro ballers, Powerade-drenched coaches and bikini models come to life. The magazine, often thought of as “by alpha dogs, for alpha dogs,” is just as committed to recognizing the “Underdogs: Inspiring Stories in High School Football”. One story is CSD - Fremont , lead by coach Warren Keller.

Here’s what’s on the line: A $25,000 grant, and a free team trip to New York City to attend the annual Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year event. Oh, and did we mention Deaf Pride?

Deaf Pride is why the team has decided it will share the money:

“We are very honored and fortunate to be recognized by Sports Illustrated which allows us to be in this position,” Kevin Kovacs, athletic director for the California School of the Deaf - Fremont, told deafREVIEW. Should the team win, "we will collaborate with DeafNation on a trip to a Deaf school in Latin America and donate athletic equipment and supplies. In addition, we would like to purchase equipment and supplies for our program here at CSD ranging from elementary through high school."

First things first: What is an underdog, and is it a term the Deaf Community wants to be associated with?

“This is a tough question, as there are so many perspective and thoughts of what an underdog means regardless of being Deaf or hearing,” said Kovacs. “In the sports world, some people prefer to be underdogs and some prefer to be top dogs. I truly love sports and always wanted to show everyone that Deaf people are and can be winners.”

“I felt that while growing up, I was not respected because I was Deaf and could not understand what was going on and to me that had nothing to do with how I can play. This experience was a part of me and shaped the kind of athlete and coach I can be today due to my experience on the playgrounds. As I can’t speak for all of us, I was also guessing that I might not be the only one feeling that way.”

An underdog is a person or group expected to lose (usually to the “top dog”). Hearing or Deaf, some of us love to root for underdogs. As history tells, underdogs prove us wrong time and time again:  

  • In the 1552 siege of Eger, 2,100 Hungarians fought back 80,000 Ottoman soldiers
  • Hannibal beat the Roman forces at the Battle of Cannae during the Second Punic War
  • Sun Tzu led 33,000 men, outnumbered 10:1 by Chu, to victory

Let's not forget the most Underdog of all: David, who pelted the mighty forehead of Goliath.

All of these scenarios are about prevailing over the numbers or the sizes of the aggressors. In our case, it is about centuries of cultural oppression.

"I've been through doubt when I was a young boy,” said quarterback Carlos Lopez in the Underdogs video ‘Loud and Clear’. “I've played sports on hearing teams and they looked at me and said, ‘Oh, you're deaf, you can play?’ And I've had to prove them wrong, that I can play.”

What a long way athletes at the California School for the Deaf have come. Anyone who walks into the gym is reminded by various motivational signs such as “There are no shortcuts to success.”

"We truly try to instill those ideas in our student-athletes and everyone else," said Kovacs, who along with coach Warren Keller and other athletic leaders have helped oversee the school’s transformation in sports over the last 4 years. 

The football team is bidding for more than the Underdog contest victory – it’s also bidding for their third playoff berth in a row.

This is the story of the current first-place holder, Ishpeming High: Eric Dompierre is a 19-year-old kicker with Down's Syndrome.  The Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) barred anyone turning 19 before Sept. 1 from competing. Because of a summer birthday and disabilities that held him back twice, Dompierre and his father took to their case to state lawmakers – winning a age-limit waiver for students with disabilities.

We are deeply touched by both stories (as well as the other 8 Underdogs contenders). But of course, we fully endorse CSD for the top prize!

“This is a total team effort we have here at CSD trying to garner as many votes as we can,” said Kovacs. “Pretty much everything succeeds with a TEAM as the saying goes, Together Everyone Achieves More!”

Surely you are connected to the Eagles by fewer than 6 degrees of separation. Perhaps you know CSD families, or alumni currently at Gallaudet University, R.I.T., and CSUN. Or maybe you simply believe in the spirit of the saying: “It’s not about the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the fight in the dog.”

To help the CSD Eagles surge into the lead, please visit this website and click the red “VOTE” button. Voting is unlimited, feel free to vote as often as you like by the end of the day, Thursday, November 15th.


Comment Policy

We’re aware that issues facing the Deaf, Deaf-Blind, and Hard of Hearing Community can become quite passionate and divided. What can we say, we’re a group of passionate people! While we fully support a community full of passion, we also require that comments are respectful. We think negative attitudes and disrespect are a waste of everyone’s time and energy. This doesn’t mean you can’t disagree with people, you just need to do it respectfully. We reserve the right to delete or edit any comments we feel are judgmental, rude, or of attacking nature.


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