Friday, October 8, 2010

What makes a good rivalry? Start with scrunchies.

When I mention the word, "rivalry," what images come to mind?

Ali vs. Frazier? Yankees vs. Red Sox? Sarah Palin vs. Rational Thought?

Although all three are match-ups of considerable renown, our worlds are filled with numerous, smaller rivalries. For instance, when the guy next to you sees that your elliptical trainer is set at level ten, and then, in true Spinal Tap form, turns his up to eleven—that's a rivalry.

When your neighbor one-ups you by buying a weed whacker that he can actually ride—that's a rivalry.

When you've grown to despise a soccer team of ten-year-olds, because they show up to play your team in custom uniforms with matching gear bags, warm-ups, dog sweaters and hair scrunchies—that's a rivalry.

And last night, at West Seattle High School, I witnessed a contest featuring a heaping plate of rivalry with a side of nastiness. My daughter's team , the Chief Sealth International High School Seahawks (or CSIHSSH if you want an easy-to-say acronym), threw down the gauntlet for a little volley to the ball against their bitter adversary, the West Seattle High School Wildcats (formerly known as the "Indians," until 2001, when someone finally learned that all the Indians in West Seattle had been killed by 1893). The two teams represent the only public high schools in West Seattle, a small community separated from Seattle proper by the Duwamish Waterway.

The atmosphere in the gym was electric, as both schools' football teams were in attendance to support the volleyballers. They sat at opposite ends of the court, standing and chanting at each other, with us parents perched squarely in the middle. I'd forgotten how enthusiastic fourteen- to eighteen-year-old humans can be as I sat there in my sciatic-supporting stadium chair.

The game was intense, especially at the beginning. Girls from both teams fought for every point; I constantly recoiled at the unnatural squeaking of adolescent knee skin on wooden floor.

Here's my baby (in the tall, white socks). Well, she's really not a baby. In fact, when we stand face to face, her eyes look at my hairline, which is actually more like an upside down omega than a line.

The two teams competed really hard, making unbelievable blocks, spikes and saves. Occasionally, their "teenageness"surfaced, resulting in a ball dropping to the floor between two or three frozen players, their mouths slightly agape. The student supporters weren't much different. Most of their cheers sounded like dogs barking, and gradually trailed off as each kid became distracted by something shiny.

I love the high school sports atmosphere, especially when it's supercharged by a rivalry game. As a parent, I need to remind myself that this part of life is so fleeting.

That girl wearing Number 11 over there won't be doing this forever.

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