For better or for worse: rivalries affect sportsmanship

By Emily Raab, Production Editor

Ask any alumni who CHS’s biggest rival was when they were a student, and they will probably say Wootton. The rivalry between the two neighboring schools has existed for generations as an outlet for friendly athletic competition.

Although it often brings out the best in both schools’ athletes and spectators, the tension between the schools has been a source for unsportsmanlike conduct, both on and off the field.

“While I am not unhappy with the level of intensity that comes with a rivalry, it sometimes bring with it highs and lows that are too significant,” boys soccer head coach Arnold Tarzy said. “In the end it’s just another game.”

According to Tarzy, incidents between the Wootton and CHS soccer teams have involved racial slurs and spitting in the past.

Unsportsmanlike conduct is more common in games between rivals due to the increased intensity of the game, both in the athletes and in the fans.

“The intensity of play on the field with the players, as well as the crowd numbers and cheering level, seems to be higher in more competitive games,” said Gregg Gochnour, umpire and Commissioner for the board for Washington Field Hockey Umpires Association.

The Sept. 19 football game between Wootton and CHS was a site for some disorder between the schools’ fans, including a fight where punches were thrown. The fight was quickly resolved by administration.

“I think occasionally fans can get over-excited for games which may get out of hand, but only out of pride for their school,” senior Marco Gutierrez said. “As in any good rivalry, neither team wants to walk away with a loss of pride or school spirit.”

According to senior football player Greg Dourian, the Wootton game was the most fun game he has played in because CHS won bragging rights. The Bulldogs beat the Patriots 35-14.

“We talk trash to each other year round, and that’s what fuels the intensity for both sides when it comes to the game,” Dourian said. “The school spirit is higher than ever when playing a rival like Wootton because you’re trying to one up the other side.”

In addition to taunting on the field or in the stands, the popularity of social media is now another cause for concern when it comes to unsportsmanlike conduct.

“Both [the Wootton and CHS] teams know that any Twitter, Facebook, YikYak or other online or in-person nastiness will be dealt with immediately and strictly,” Wootton field hockey coach Kearney Blandamer said. “It’s unsportsmanlike, and detracts from the otherwise awesomeness of both groups of athletes.”

Although the rivalry between the two schools is much older than the students who currently fuel it, the division between Cabin John Middle School students adds to it.

Recently, the rivalry extended to the middle school level by means of unsportsmanlike conduct between the CHS and Wootton middle school feeder football teams. The incident was quickly settled by both parties.

“I think the rivalry predates everyone involved at this point, but its clear to see that the proximity and the sharing of the middle school  makes for a more meaningful rivalry since it brings bragging rights with people you know,” Tarzy said.

The relationship between Wootton and CHS is not all negative, however. For example, the field hockey teams recently worked together on a fundraiser for mental health at their Sept. 12 game.

“They wanted to take a public stand in support of teen mental health, and they organized the purchase of “UMTTR” shirts and dedicated our game to the promotion of positivity and cooperation in this effort.” Blandamer said.

In most sports however, the schools will remain foes. The close proximity combined with strong school spirit from both schools will continue Wootton and CHS’ rivalry for generations to come.

According to a study on the psychology of rivalry conducted by University of California, Berkeley, rivalry is generally highest between teams that are similar to each other, have a history of being evenly matched, and have repeatedly competed against each other. All of these conditions fit the relationship between Wootton and CHS, creating an intense environment between the schools that can sometimes lead to negativity, but ultimately results in motivational benefits.