Saturday, November 03, 2007

East-West: Renewed

For over a decade, the East-West Game has been sustained on life support by mere history. Living off a rich tradition, the game was sustained but new chapters were hardly living up to the old tales. But the past couple years have breathed new life into the game and this year's overtime thriller may have brought the game back to life for the citizens of East and West Fairmont.

Since East Fairmont moved to the new school, West Side has essentially dominated the rivalry. There have been a few hot flashes, such as 1995 when West students spray-painted areas of the new EFHS and East students later responded in kind. Or the year that some Polar Bear supporters spray painted paw prints on the new athletic building at East-West Stadium or the year that Fairmont West students tore down the goal post at East-West following a routine victory. I'm sure other acts of petty vandalism has also occurred several times since but vandalism a rivalry does not make.

I think things changed for many people when East Fairmont moved to the new school. 1992 was the final year for an East-West Game at the old high school. They used to have the thuse for the game in the parking lot of the old school and hundreds of East Fairmont citizens from around the area would walk down to the old school and join in on the pep rally. In that final year at the old school, someone threw eggs from the woods behind the educational buildings into the crowd and several students chased after them through the woods. It fired everyone up and was invigorating to those in attendance.

Once we moved to the new high school, the crowd quickly diminished. No longer could East Side residents merely walk from their porches to the bonfire and pep rallies. Now they were required to drive to attend and the enthusiasm quickly died. Within the first couple years, the thuse and bonfire turned into yet another event that only the band, cheerleaders, football team and their parents attended. The past couple years have seen the thuse and bonfire cancelled completely and hardly anyone has taken notice.

Both schools participate in a spirit week which includes dress-up days and in-school thuses but that hardly gets the community enthralled in the game. But with last year's classic, many people felt this would actually be a good game on the field and they were hardly disappointed. A defensive struggle ensued in the first half with West taking a 14-0 halftime lead. But an 86-yard kickoff return in the second half put East back in the game. After tying the game at 14, both teams scored before going into overtime where East held defensively and scored on their first possession for the victory. Probably the best East-West Game I have seen in 16 years.

West Side entered the game with special music and a voice overdub regaling the crowd with stories of their past gridiron accomplishments, including two state football championships. But when the final whistle had sounded at East-West Stadium on Friday night, the West side crowd was taunted by the chant of "No More Playoffs." Perhaps West side won't write another chapter to their playoff tradition this year, but the rekindling of the East-West tradition could be just as important. Not just to West Side, but to Fairmont as a whole.

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