I am in the middle of something of a personal, unintentional Rivalries Week, with last night’s Fowler/Pewamo-Westphalia boys basketball game, the girls game between P-W and Portland St. Patrick tonight with its usual CMAC title implications and the hockey incarnation of one of the fiercest school rivalries in the area, East Lansing/Okemos on Saturday (Chiefs vs. Eastside Stars at Suburban Ice, puck drops at 3:30), which will also have much to say about who wins the CAAC title.
While there have been many classic, memorable Fowler/P-W games through the years, last night’s was not one of them. The Eagles have struggled in the past couple of seasons, and this year the Pirates are looking to make their second consecutive deep Class C tournament run. Partly because of that disparity and partly due to the intensity of the rivalry itself, the result was never really in doubt and the game was something of a scrappy mess from beginning to end. In terms of atmosphere in the P-W Fieldhouse, there was not much difference between this and any other CMAC game, something that would have been unthinkable just a couple of years ago when the stands were full and noise level was as deafening as any I have ever heard in a high-school setting.
Afterward I asked Luke Pohl, the longtime coach of the Pirates and as intense a competitor as any coach I have ever known, if the game between two of the oldest and deepest rivals in the area was still special. The answer he gave, without a moment’s pause to stop and think about it, kind of surprised me:
“It’s always a special game and it always will be,” Pohl said. “They’re not going to stay down, those people over there have a lot of pride. They’re going to bounce back, one of these days. It’s nice for us to win, but I also would like to see them back. I think the whole league is better when Fowler is good.”
While some rivalries come with some measure of bitterness, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing in my opinion, there seems to be absolutely none in this one.
Now it’s your turn: What is your favorite rivalry in the area, and why?