Blue Devils Digest
Loud hallways, lockers slamming,homework, drama, and teachers. All of these things come to mind when talking about high school. However, the one factor that is undoubtedly the true embodiment of the high school mindset is that of school rivalries; specifically, football rivalries. Take into account the spirit weeks, pep rallies, bonfires, parades, and dances all centered around high school football. Sports fans and regular students alike, come together to rave about their team going up against a rival. This idea of high school football rivalries is what makes up the gothic of American public high school. These rivalries bring the school together like nothing else, but can they also tear people apart?
Kenmore West Senior High School, has traditionally prided itself on its football. Like in many other schools, the spirit of rivalry has been alive and well almost since the day its sister school, Kenmore East, opened its doors. The oldest inkling of high school rivalry dates back to Connecticut in 1875. Now, about 150 years later and 400 miles west of that first rivalry; it remains a thriving part of high school culture at Kenmore West. The Rivalry, as students know it today, is playful and fun. Its purpose is to unite students with a common cause; encouraging their team. The rivalry is full of each school insisting superiority over the other, not going much farther than clever rhymes or light-hearted mockery. It is deeply rooted in a general sense of respect and good sportsmanship towards Kenmore East. However, many don’t know the dark history the rivalry holds.
In 1969, Kenmore
West’s football team was voted #1 in the state and they were New York State champions. This shows that, going into the 1970s, Kenmore West had a solid reputation for its football. This meant many were highly invested in their games. Kenmore East also had a talented football team; the wins to losses between the school were fairly balanced. These factors fueled the rivalry, raising the stakes; driving up the suspense. Games where Kenmore West faced Kenmore East, in those years, saw enormous crowds. Throughout the ‘70s, these games were seen as a huge deal. All of that pressure and excitement was bound to lead to problems. The rivalry at this time became nasty and violent. There were several years that the annual bonfire at Crosby field, which is still a tradition today, had to be canceled due to the fights, violence, and danger its atmosphere threatened. The year that the battle between East and West was at its worst was 1978. In 1978 the bonfire was canceled due to past incidents such as rocks and bottles being thrown. Along with that, the night before the game somewhere around a hundred students lined Delaware Road near the Kenmore Library. They formed a sort of gauntlet and pelted passing cars. The fire department had to come to aid the police by using fire hoses to disperse the crowd.
this incident was a bad part of the rivalry, nothing else that extreme happened. Sure there were fights and hostilities, but nothing else over the top. The individuals doing things like this were a minority in Kenmore West. A huge part of the student bodies of each school were respectful towards the other. This group of rioters did not truly reflect on students of either high school, allowing their effect to be stomped out. After 1978, things started to change for the better. The main key for this was downplaying the significance and importance of the rivalrous games. This made those games less intense. Of course, not all of the ruckus went away at once. In 1982, a $50 fine was announced for any egg throwing or vandalism at games, showing there was still a problem at that time. Nevertheless, the Kenmore West and Kenmore East rivalry calmed from that point on.
From then on the Rivalry became more of what it is today, competitive but wholesome. The coaches and principals of each school heavily advocated for this, reminding students that the rivalry was supposed to bring people together, not tear them apart. The principal of Kenmore East at the time, Al Witzig, said something that really summed up the idea. He said, “Football tends to bring all the students together for a common cause, and no activity really matches it.... the cheerleaders and those in the band practically breathe with the team.”2 This further proves that the sport, the team, and this rivalry is meant to bring the school together. It should not be used against others or to cause harm. Kenmore West principal, Alan MacGamwell, agreed with Witzig adding that the sport has, “a spirit of family unity and mutual respect.”3 The two principals agreed overall that this rivalry had to change; the violence had to stop. They both pushed to put these events in the past and to move forward. This is why many do not know about the negative past of the rivalry, much of the evidence being downplayed to avoid re-occurrence. This tactic was very effective seeing that today it is hard to find proof of the trouble other than a few reports and word of mouth. All of this considered Kenmore West has come a long way, growing and learning from its mistakes. This rivalry with Kenmore East has made the school stronger. Still, to this day, students come together year after year to support their team; their school. The rivalry amplifies unity and the sense of school pride. Bringing students from all walks of life together to support Kenmore West. It doesn’t matter who they are; sports lover, musician, theatre kid, history buff, or anything else, there is a place for you. In this time, watching all students come together in all sorts of ways to prepare for homecoming, anyone would be proud to be a Blue Devil. I know I am.
Jay Kinde and Al Hager
Web Design, Staff Writer
Oliver Pitcher ,
Blue Devils Digest
Student Run Newspaper of Kenmore West