Tuesday, November 15, 2011

My Documentary: Roseto's Royals

by Jeff Fisher
High School Football America

When I left the practice field at Nazareth tonight, I had officially shot 85 hours worth of video for my feature documentary called Roseto's Royals, which is a look at the unique relationship between the northeast Pennsylvania town of Roseto and its high school football team, the Pius X Royals.

Things are coming together nicely on the film, and you'll be able to become part of the team when I release my trailer on KickStarter.com.

In the meantime, I'm going to be sharing what I'm currently doing, so you can learn more about the project that has mass appeal, because it's not a typical high school football documentary.

Yes, I'm following the Royals drive for the school's first-ever state football championship, but the story goes beyond that quest.

With high school football and the third smallest high school football team in Pennsylvania as the backdrop, Roseto's Royals tells the story of the community of 1,600 that was created out of discrimination in the late 19th Century.  Roseto became the healthiest town in America and is struggling to hold-on to old school ways that made it America's first-ever all Italian city 100-years ago.

Roseto and the school exist because the Italian immigrants, who came to this country from Roseto Valfortore experienced discrimination because of their heritage.  The English, German and Welsh residents in the area, known as the Slate Belt region because of the high concentration of slate in the area, didn't like the immigrants who first started coming to the area in 1882.

To the right, you can see a photo I took early this morning when I hiked into the area's mountainous terrain to shoot video of one of the abandoned, water-filled slate quarries.  There were hundreds of slate quarries operating in Pennsylvania in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries.

By the turn of the century, Roseto Valfortore was basically a ghost town because most of its residents crossed the ocean to create almost an identical community in northeast Pennsylvania.  All settled on "the hill" above Bangor and continued to live basically the same life they did in Italy.

They worked hard in the slate quarries; grew their own vegetables; made their own wine; and spent a lot of time together.

When Roseto was incorporated on January 2, 1912, it was 100% Italian.

Because of the discrimination, some prominent members of Roseto decided the best way to help the younger generation have a better life was to start their own school.  In 1947, Pius X High School was born.

A couple of decades later, Dr. Stewart Wolf from Oklahoma discovered that the town was immune to heart disease.  His study called the "Roseto Effect" defied logic because the men of the town smoked and drank wine freely; and they cooked with lard, instead of olive oil.

Dr. Wolf came to the conclusion that there was virtually no heart disease in Roseto, because its residents lived in a very communal way, meaning they put family first and lived like a clan.

As you can imagine, one of the bonding mechanisms in the community was the pride the community had for its beloved Royals, who could combat the discrimination by beating athletes from nearby Bangor and Pen Argyl.

One interesting fact is the school and the football field are physically located in Bangor, but just by the width of 3rd Street.

Roseto is no longer all-Italian, but a majority of the population is.  The discrimination is a thing of the past, although it's still fresh in the mind of many of the older residents.  However, the school's athletic program is still discriminated against, especially the football program.

Pius has never been accepted into any of the local high school leagues.  That causes them to travel hundreds of miles to find opponents to play.


Well, that's a big part of the documentary.

Some local school officials constantly vote against the Royals' entry into the Colonial League, which would dramatically reduce the school's travel budget in these tough economic times.  One of the reasons Colonial League officials vote against Pius becoming a members is because they feel that the Royals recruit.  Others say there's some left-over resentment from nearby Bangor and Pen Argyl High Schools, that are part of the Colonial League.

Bottom-line, it's made for interesting arcs in the storyline!!

Tomorrow, I'll write about some of the crazy things that the football team has had to do to play football games, like taking 700-mile round trips to the Pittsburgh-area on back-to-back weekends.  However, those sort of things should help during the postseason.

Even though the Royals, with a 9-1 regular season, claimed the top-seed and home field advantage in the District XI Class A playoffs, the team won't play a home playoff game, because its home field is nearly all-dirt between the hash marks.  That's the reason the team practiced at 12-miles away from home at Nazareth tonight, and will play this Saturday's championship game at Nazareth, as well.

I hope this gets you excited to read more of my daily stories this week that will lead-up to the release of the 10-minute trailer.


Jeff Fisher
Roseto's Royals

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