Rivalries are a huge part of sports. In my opinion, rivalries bring about another dimension of sports.
But, the minute any rivalry becomes disrespectful and ugly, that is when rivalries can turn sour for me.
High school football is no exception.
On Friday night, I covered my first ever “Newton Cup” game between Newton and Eastside. It is a storied rivalry that has seen these two teams play 19 times now.
In this year’s edition, the Rams defeated the Eagles 27-7. It was the third straight year that Newton has triumphed over Eastside.
Going into the game, I fully expected high emotion, chippy moments and a scrappy battle on the gridiron. That held true through the duration of the contest.
As a result of the intense matchup, there were a lot of errors made on both sides.
There’s something that each team got right in the end: sportsmanship.
When the stadium was left empty, I looked around and saw opposing coaches and players talking, laughing and taking pictures with one another.
Eastside stuck around with Newton and, it seemed to me, that Eastside just wanted to hang out with its crosstown foe.
Earlier, as the final seconds ticked off the game clock, Newton’s sideline started to celebrate. All at once, I heard a coach yell “Let’s win with class!”
Both teams delivered a truly heart-warming end to the night.
To me, that’s the beauty of a rivalry.
As a Georgia Tech football fan, my favorite college football rivalry is, “Clean Old-Fashioned Hate” featuring Georgia against my Yellow Jackets. The reason is because of the “clean” part of the name.
No other college rivalry has a part like that included in its title. And, in recent years, the rivalry has stayed clean.
Just like Friday night, there’s been fierce competition between the two schools but, overall, the Yellow Jackets and Bulldogs have kept it civil on and off the playing field.
I was glad to see that between Newton and Eastside, too.
Even after playing a game that both teams wanted to win desperately to help its chances of claiming the “Newton Cup,” they each maintained their composure in the end.
That’s the beauty of a rivalry to me.
Yes, there’ll be intense moments and words exchanged but, as long as the respect remains, the rivalry is preserved.
Phillip B. Hubbard is sports editor of The Covington News. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.