The “SC Featured” Mendota story will debut on ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” (Sunday, 9 a.m. ET) and also will air on “SportsCenter” at 10 a.m. and 11 p.m. An expanded one-hour “SC Featured” special on ESPN2 at 11 a.m. will include an extended interview with coach Robert “Beto” Mejia, who visited ESPN headquarters and sat down with “SportsCenter” anchor Lindsay Czarniak. A Spanish-language version of the Mendota story will air on ESPN Deportes (Sunday, 9 ET) and will be hosted by Alvaro Morales. A digital version of the story, with video, will appear on ESPN.com on Feb. 20; a version for ABC’s “20/20” will air on a date to be determined.[/box]
Robert “Beto” Mejia saw two things for the first time during his Feb. 5 stop at ESPN’s Bristol, Conn. campus: the amount of snow that snarled much of the state, and a chronicling of his life and team.
“I never thought in my career someone would make a documentary of what I do,” Coach Mejia, as he prefers to be called, said before watching the SC Featured piece on his Rocky-like Mendota (Calif.) High School football team. “I love documentaries – HBO’s “Boxing 24/7”– and now I’m part of one. I am very excited to see it.”
What he would see was a story producer Scott Harves had been working on since June 2013 when he checked out Mejia’s Aztecs in a 7-on-7 tournament. The story is of a team representing an impoverished, largely immigrant, Spanish-speaking community where the team’s two-a-days mean working the fields to support their families by day, then practicing by night.
“There are a lot of reasons for them to give up hope, that’s why this story is so inspiring,” ABC News Correspondent John Quinones said after watching the piece with Mejia and studio host Lindsay Czarniak, who interviewed both of them for the SC Featured one-hour special (11 a.m. ET Sunday on ESPN2; a shorter version debuts 9 a.m. Sunday on ESPN’s Outside the Lines).
Quinones, working on a Mendota piece for ABC’s 20/20, added: “Shining a light on that little town may bring them hope.”
Hope arrived in 2011 when Mejia returned home and coached the perennially sub.-500 Aztecs to the first of two division championships. ESPN followed the 25-player squad’s quest for a three-peat – this season in a higher division against bigger schools – and witnessed the adventure fall short after two playoff wins in loss to California’s two-time Division 5 champ Liberty-Ranchos-Madera.
“Unbelievable, very emotional,” Mejia, 30, said after watching the piece. Pointing to Harves in the still-dark, post-screening studio, Mejia said, “Even when my players first saw this guy, they didn’t believe ESPN was there for them. Then they did a good job of maintaining character and not letting it be a distraction. All the emotion you see, it’s all them, it’s all true. Seeing this may bring a tear to the eye of anyone living in our community.”