Bump. Set. Smile.
Rivalry. Our society is based on it, really. The Yankees and the Red Sox. The Democrats and the Republicans. And then there’s a local rivalry, smaller in scope but no less significant in depth: Lowville and Beaver River.
For as long as I can remember, this rivalry has existed in the local world of athletics. I can still vividly remember a wrestling match from my High School days where our team did well against our rivals. The gym was roaring with passionate excitement. One might even describe it as feral….
I have three daughters and have been present at many an athletic competition, but the ones against Beaver River are always intense. Often times, one team is more skilled, but that doesn’t mean it will be an easy game. When these two teams play one another, sheer will to win turns what should be a certain win into an uncertain outcome. They play hard, with all the history of years of rivalry behind them, they pull out everything they have.
It can get ugly, of course. But that’s not what happened last Friday night when the Lowville and Beaver River volleyball teams spared off. The limited seating at Beaver River was packed as usual. People who don’t even have kids on the volleyball team were there. The tension was palpable; with every point, the crowd roared with indignation or pride.
It was over in three games, which is deceiving. Each game was frought with excitement as the girls on both sides dug deep to pull out whatever they had. But the best part happened after it was over. While parents gathered to discuss and wait for their kids, the kids did something I have not seen before. They gathered together- both teams- for a picture.
Yes, they were able to do something I have not seen in the Presidential Debates, nor in international politics. They put the rivalry behind them when it was done, smiled and posed to remember the moment. It was touching, really, the way they so naturally combined to do what we as adults find so difficult: Accept differences and loss and the past.
We live in an uncertain world. A world where terrorism has become a regular visitor, where racism still rears its ugly head, reminding us its roots are stronger than we know. I imagine at the root of all conflict is a rivalry, a desire for the same objective, a desire to have what others have and a fierce struggle to keep what we have and guard it from being taken by another.
And yet, even in this time of uncertainty, there is always hope waiting backstage, looking for a cameo appearance. And that was what was so nice about that volleyball game. Someone had to lose, someone had to win. But we didn’t need to hate each other. We didn’t need to take it out of the gym and back home with us. The losers didn’t pout; the winners didn’t gloat. Instead, they posed for a picture.
Lowville didn’t win, by the way; Christmas miracles only go so far. But, in the end, the players behaved with class and did so on their own, with no prompting from coaches or parents.
We must have done something right.