Rivalry can get too heated sometimes

Published 12:56 am Thursday, April 9, 2009

Rivalry is a funny thing.

The love of one’s team and the hatred of another can get an otherwise calm, rational person so riled up that his face turns red and smoke comes out his ears.

But rivalries also inspire more loyalty, passion and pride than almost any other aspect of sports.

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Take the Egg Bowl for example. Ole Miss and Mississippi State are 117 miles — less than two hours — away, and the majority of each school’s students all come from the Magnolia State. Yet during that one day each football season, Bulldog and Rebel fans couldn’t hate each other more — and they’ll tell you that to your face.

Without that game, both teams’ seasons would be missing something. There wouldn’t be a last game to look forward to — a chance to tailgate and heckle and even suffer through a few friendly jabs and jeers.

But too big a rivalry can get nasty. Cursing and swearing, even violence can occur, especially when passion and emotions mix at exactly the wrong moment.

Natchez’s two most closely linked teams will no longer play each other in any sport after this season, at least for the next couple years.

Adams County Christian and Trinity Episcopal, both MPSA District 3-AA teams, have had two seasons of clashing on the football field, the basketball court and the baseball and softball diamonds.

But with Trinity dropping back down to Class A for the 2009-2011 seasons, the Rebels and Saints will no longer meet.

This isn’t because of a lack of interest in the games.

It’s no secret that Trinity trounced ACCS in football to the tune of 47-0 and 57-14 in the past two seasons. And basketball wasn’t much better.

But baseball has been a bit more interesting with a high-scoring first meeting this season that ended in a 14-8 win for Trinity on Tuesday. The series ends with a doubleheader Friday at ACCS.

All the games are packed, the revenue is good and the scores make front-page news.

So why not keep the rivalry going? Depends on who you ask.

Some say one team doesn’t want to look bad and is tired of losing to the other one.

It’s understandable that coaches don’t want to set their kids up for failure.

But the athletes are all friends off the field. They grew up together and played club and tournament ball with and against each other. So taking a loss one day doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll get beat every time.

Others complain the rivalry is too heated. This season’s football game did get a bit rough, and there were a few complaints in that respect.

A fight that broke out at Tuesday’s baseball game was no help in quenching that fear. Not only did the physical fight start between two young girls, it escalated until moms — grown adults who should be setting better examples for their children — were exchanging words and then violent physical contact.

The funny thing is that one of these mothers supposedly wasn’t even the parent of a Trinity or ACCS student. But that’s not how the story will spin — it will turn into yet another example of why the Saints and Rebels should not meet in the athletic arena.

The schools’ coaches say the potential for violence isn’t the reason the teams will no longer play each other.

If fighting isn’t the reason the games will cease, fine. But if the parents want to keep the reputations of their respective schools clean, they should keep their own noses clean. The players seem to get along just fine on the field — it’s the adults who have a hard time getting along.

Let the rivalries be settled in the game, not in the stands.

Krysten Oliphant is a sports reporter at The Natchez Democrat. She can be reached at sports@natchezdemocrat.com.