Mutual respect has grown with Title Town championships

December 09, 2003|JOHN NELSON

Cross-town rivalries are commonplace, and they're fun. Usually.

There are a few rural communities in Kentucky that don't have the pleasure, usually because school districts have been merged. They often develop, or manufacture, a rivalry with a bordering county to stir things up, sell tickets.

If you can't beat anyone else, you can sometimes make your season just by beating your biggest rival.

I went to high school in Jefferson County. At Valley, we had different "cross-town" rivals for different sports. In football, it was Butler. In basketball, it was Pleasure Ridge Park. We were always better in football than in basketball, but that was the late '60s.

For 14 years, we lived in Estill County, one of those counties in which a school district merger left the community with just one high school. That happened before I arrived, but I remember the old-timers there talking about the rivalry between Irvine and Estill, city vs. county. The city was almost always stronger. There were lots of memories.


Somerset and Pulaski County have a rivalry similar to the one here, but there is a second county high school there now, Pulaski Southwestern, that has diminished it some. We were there for 10 years, and at first at least, the city-county game was hotly contested, with Somerset always stronger on the gridiron.

Until five years ago, the same could be said of the Boyle County-Danville rivalry.

When the games started getting more competitive, it could be said that the rivalry became more heated, especially among the fans.

But something is different now. Something good has happened in Danville and Boyle County over the past five years.

Perched on a pedastal above concerns that too much emphasis is placed on athletics, there are football teams from two schools whose accomplishments have meant more than trophies or record books, more than which one beat the other.

A sport that once prompted animosity that went beyond an annual contest, now prompts a greater sense of community, a pride more widespread, a respect more readily acknowleged.

The signs are subtle, but they are there. A Danville fan interviewed on a Lexington television station after the Admirals won their 10th state championship said he thought there ought to be a movie made about Title Town, a reference not only to his team's victory but to expectations that rival Boyle County would win the AAA crown the next day.

Following Boyle County's unprecedented fifth consecutive state championship, a Rebel fan pointed to the cumulative 15 titles between the two schools and said, "it's out of this world."

There is still the rivalry, and it is still strong, perhaps even stronger. But what once was bitter, is now more healthy. There are still those who can't bring themselves to root for their neighbors, in any game, but they are fewer, perhaps even weaker in their resolve.

Each team revels in its own success, the fans in their pride, but they have actually begun to wish each other well. Imagine that.

The label of "Title Town" pleases them. It pleases us all. May we continue to wear it well, and often.

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