It is the last week of the regular season, which means it is rivalry week. Clover-York, Rock Hill-Northwestern and Nation Ford-Fort Mill among others will kick-off this Friday night. But what makes a rivalry a rivalry, and why are these games so beloved? A quick primer on rivalry games:
1. Proximity: High school rivalries are the most glorious sporting event in the world because of the passions created by close proximity. In other words, these are the games we play against our closest neighbors. A good high school football rivalry can unite and divide friends and family, the town and local businesses, and or even a church. Literally, a house on one side of the street will have different rooting loyalties than the house on the other side. Fred Rogers asking “Won’t you be my neighbor?” doesn’t apply to high school football rivalry week.
2. History: Rivals are rivals because of history. Some history is as old as the game. Clover and York, for example, have played football over 100! times since the 1920s. Rock Hill and Northwestern have butted heads since the 1970s, and Nation Ford and Fort Mill is a relatively recent rivalry, but no less intense. Nation Ford, for example, is looking for their first ever victory over the arch-nemesis Yellow Jackets.
3. Legacy: A high school football player gets – at most – four opportunities to battle their rival in a high school career, and most players get only one or two shots at glory. For all the talk of playoffs and championships, coaches and players are under a lot of pressure in these rivalry games. Knocking of a Columbia or Charleston team is nice and all, but come November we all know you better beat the arch rival to claim a successful season. And the players and coaches who do become legends in the community.
4. Fun: Rivalries at their core are really fun; fun not only for the fans but for the coaches and players as well. It is fun to compete against people you know, and I think, more meaningful. Knowing the people you play against and who you’ve being playing against since school-boy age gives added meaning and depth to the game. Reflecting back to when I played sports I can barely remember the outcomes of some of the games. But what I do remember are the people I competed with, and the memories we made together. And that’s what it’s all about, right?
See you next week for more Football 101, Playoff edition. Class dismissed!