When I attended Apopka High School, our big rival was West Orange High. That was rather awkward for me, because the majority of the kids I went to junior high school with wound up attending that school. It was a little hard for me to jump on the bandwagon and say that everyone at West Orange was a rich snob, or was for some reason evil incarnate, because I knew that not to be so.
I’m not even sure how that rivalry began. I know that there was a deep resentment in Apopka that West Orange’s colors were orange and blue, just like the very popular Florida Gators football team, whereas ours were blue and white, just like, well, nothing or nobody of note, as far as we were concerned. And their mascot was the warriors, whereas ours was the blue darter. (The blue darter is supposedly a fierce raptor of a bird, but have you ever heard of it? I don’t think so, unless you know it’s also known as a cooper’s hawk. I’d love to know whose bright idea it was to settle on darter instead of hawk.)
For sports purposes, I suppose, this rivalry was pushed really hard. (Ticket sales, don’t you know.) And yes, it’s fun to have someone to root for and root against, but there’s a fine line. At some point you’re teaching kids to demonize others, and reinforcing that that very demonization is proof of team spirit.
It’s people who buy into that sort of crap who grow up to riot at soccer games or chant at Trump and/or Hitler rallies.
I’ve always balked at the whole “us vs. them” mentality. That’s probably why I’ve never really been interested in sports. I just can’t give myself over to the concept that you either have to be for us or against us. I truly believe that there are shades of gray within us all, even though we as a society seem to be forgetting that quite a bit lately.
I think my mindset had a lot to do with knowing so many West Orange students. When you’ve broken bread with someone, it’s a lot harder for you to say we need to build a wall to keep that person out.That’s also a big reason why I encourage people to travel. When you’ve taken the time to look into someone’s eyes, to really know them, it’s a lot harder to do something that will make it impossible for you to do so ever again.
We really need to stop teaching kids that it’s fun to have enemies.