It wasn't that the Bountiful Braves had a healthy disdain for their cross-town rivals, the Viewmont Vikings, and vice versa. It was that we hated each other.
Pure, white-hot hate, complete with pre- and postgame fights in the parking lot, vandalism thinly disguised as pranksterism and an ugly incident involving one high school's "spirit stick" and the other high school's lettermen.
"We have to fix this," Principal Perkins told his student body officers the Monday after police dogs had to calm a near postgame riot — again. "The state high school athletic association is saying that if there's one more violent incident they will either fix the schedule so we don't play each other or they won't allow fans to watch the games — not even parents."
We all looked at each other, nobody sure of how to change something that had become so deeply ingrained in all of us.
"Well," I offered, hesitantly, "maybe we could stop doing the 'I'd rather be dead than yellow and red' cheer."
Glares shot at me from around the table. We really loved doing that cheer mocking Viewmont's maroon and gold school colors. Almost as much as we loved cheering: "Rip 'em up, tear 'em up, give 'em h---, Braves!"
Yeah, we were pretty rowdy back in the '70s.
Principal Perkins sighed.
"I think we're going to have to go deeper than that," he said. "We can't change just what we say or do. We have to change who we are, and how we feel about Viewmont."
"Well, we hate them," said Grant, who was both an officer and a football player. "That isn't going to change."
"But it has to change," Principal Perkins said. "Or you're going to lose the opportunity to see these games, one way or another."
It was Janet, probably the smartest of our group and the one least interested in sports, who put us on the right track.
"If we're going to make that kind of change, it probably has to start here with us and with their officers," she said. "Maybe we need to get with them and see if we can figure something out together."
Generally, we tried to ignore Janet's comments — mostly because she wasn't your stereotypical student body officer-type, and because we were a little intimidated by her — but it was impossible to ignore the logic of her suggestion.
Plus, none of us could come up with anything else.
So we set up a meeting with their officers and advisers. It was awkward at first, but it got better. Turns out they were really good kids who were just as frustrated by the situation as we were. We eventually came up with a workable plan that actually made a difference in the rivalry. It didn't eliminate the intensity, but it got ratcheted down a few notches. By the end of the school year, we could actually play each other without police dogs present.
Which makes me wonder: If a bunch of inexperienced high school students can avoid taking a plunge off the rivalry cliff by working with each other and finding workable solutions together, why can't our savvy political leaders do the same thing as our country races headlong toward financial devastation? Granted, the economic issues our country is facing today are infinitely more complicated than a parking lot brawl, and the answers way more elusive. But the way of getting there looks really familiar: Sit down with your adversaries. Talk to each other. Work together. Seek principled compromise. Like Principal Perkins said, "We have to fix this."
Because I'd rather be dead than deeper in the red.
Oh, yeah — the classics are ALWAYS relevant.
To read more by Joseph B. Walker, please go to www.josephbwalker.com.
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