The Game Goes On
I – Pep Rally
“Titans! Titans! Go Titans!” Team chants shook the gymnasium walls at Tannerville High. Nearly five hundred rowdy students, cheered their team on, “Titans! Titans! Go Titans!” Their high-pitched voices screeched down the empty hallways. Red team banners hanging from the rafters waved at the sea of youth below. The entire school packed into the gymnasium to boost their team, the Tannerville Titans, in a rocking pep rally. Pumping with adrenaline, seniors screamed for the opponent’s head, juniors screamed back, besting the excruciating noise level, shaking the bleachers with wild team spirit, and freshman and sophomores put in their best shot.
A town over, Holland High students and teachers celebrated in their gymnasium with a their own rally. Excitedly Jaguar coach Abrams took the microphone, stepped back, and motioned to his squad. “I’m proud of these boys,” he announced. After selected psyched fans added a few comments, the stuffy gymnasium returned quiet. Abrams continued. “Their hard work got ‘em here … into the Super Bowl. Now let’s knock them Titans dead!” As he pumped his fist in the air, four hundred students erupted into deafening cheers. “Let’s kick some butt!” The bleachers shook with youthful adrenaline as seniors trampled down, followed by the juniors, who set off the rest in a massive flood of riled teenagers cheering their team. “Jaguars! Jaguars! Jaguars!” The bleachers, flimsy and retractable and seemingly made of balsa, waved miserably like an ocean.
The Tannerville Titans and the Holland Jaguars, long-time rivals, last met Thanksgiving morning, a ritual reserved, as if a religious rite, for only the fiercest competitors. And competitors they were. In that last meeting, the Titans claimed victory 13-10 to even the historical record against each other at 25 games apiece.
Now the stakes were the highest they’ve ever been. The next meeting, the 51st, was the Super Bowl to determine the champion of Lincoln County. Bragging rights for the year ahead, emotional lift for the games to come, and pride were 60 minutes of grueling football away.
Tannerville and Holland at one time shared much more in common. Each with no more than 500 students coming from a ten-mile radius, fought for the same state funds. In the sixties Tannerville and Holland were racially diverse. But with the advent of new manufacturing facilities in Holland, and the blue-collar jobs they created, Holland, over the next 25 years, became home to the lower class. The rest, predominantly white, flocked to Tannerville to lead middle-to-upper class lives. And since then, the two towns exchanged racial slurs in a hateful battle between different ideals.
Only a few weeks ago on Thanksgiving, speculation had these two teams meeting; each had to win their remaining games, as well as hope for key losses by other abiding teams. Now, weeks later, talk of what could be had come full circle. The Titans of Tannerville were set to meet the Jaguars of Holland in the Lincoln County Super Bowl.
Local media outlets touting the rivalry used the event to sell papers. Extending a public invitation to all townspeople, the Tannerville Tribune wrote:
-| Come cheer on your Titans!
-| Tailgate starts at high noon on game day.
-| Tannerville High student parking lot.
The following morning, the Holland Daily countered with an op-ed column by prized sports columnist Jessie Greenwell that was mistaken by the people of Tannerville as a racially motivated hit on their society. Firing back with its own op-ed, the Tribune blasted the quality of life over the border, hinting at a lower form. “Super Bowl shows Holland’s true colors”, was the title with suggestive meaning.
Now, in the gymnasium, Tannerville high school students swarmed the makeshift stage shouting for their team. Coach Gableman threw his arms in the air, forefingers extended, and the football team, to his right, raised theirs. Together the pranced around the stage in a victorious dance that would make the rain Gods jealous. The back end of the stage suddenly shifted. Crack! It tipped down. A loud crash! Collapsing, the back of the platform crumbled into a splintery mess. Players, laughing in haste to stay afoot, toppled over, and the cheerleaders fell onto them.
Amazingly no one was hurt when the stage collapsed; it just pumped up the volume louder. Standing to his feet, Coach Gableman brushed himself off. Microphone still in hand, he lifted it to his mouth and announced with a championship grin, “You think this is the only damage these here boys can do…?” The crowd, seeing they didn’t face grave consequences, listened with enthusiasm. Coach continued. “…Wait ‘til they get a hold of the Jaguars!” Shouts and hoots and cheers broke the silence.
Despite being rivals, always playing each other close, the Titans and Jaguars had very different successes in the league. Starting in their first Super Bowl appearance, the Titans thrived off being the newcomer, an underdog of sorts. Not the Jaguars, they’d been there four times, including twice in the past four years, but have yet to win the big game, a reputation coach Abrams and his predominantly senior team would love to squash like a bug, or a Titan. Determined to put the past behind, the Jaguars had no problem getting up for this game.