This past week, my hometown of West Hartford, Connecticut added another chapter to its historic in-town rivalry. Being the two public high schools in town, Conard versus Hall athletic events are always hyped up more than any other games on the schedule. This hype took on another image Monday night in Hall’s Robinson Gymnasium. With two seconds left in the game, Hall senior Gabriel Lichtenstein scored the go ahead bucket to put them up by 1 which of course blew the roof off of the student section and the entire gym. Even though two seconds still remained on the clock, the buzzer prematurely sounded causing the team and then student section to rush the court. What seemed to be a normal “court storm” quickly turned into a mini brawl resulting in multiple fights between players, fans, and anyone who felt the need to throw a hook.
It didn’t take long for this story to turn into a media frenzy. The Hartford Courant and local Connecticut media are having a field day with this story along with articles appearing on the USA Today and Sports Illustrated websites. “How do we prevent this?” “What can we change?” “Something has to be done.” Making this situation seem like a concerning and negative event was clearly the common trend with these pieces and they’re right. It is concerning and it is something that should to be prevented. But lets look at this from a couple different perspectives.
The Student Section
As someone who has been a part of student sections for the last few years, I can attest with this point of view. You’re in the stands at the most intense game of the year and losing by 1. With two seconds left, a senior gets the ball underneath and scores to put your team up as you hear the buzzer sound. The place goes wild and your team rushes the court to celebrate. Obviously the student section follows. You have no idea there’s still a couple of seconds remaining and Conard is trying to call a timeout. It’s pure mayhem and you’re loving ever second of it.
It’s not possible for you to blame Hall for rushing off of the bench. In a response filled with adrenaline, there’s no way you can stay on your sideline after watching a buzzer beater (insert asterisk). From Conard’s point of view, you want that damn timeout. You know there’s two seconds left on the clock and the game isn’t over, but now you have these kids going nuts on the court where you should be drawing up a last second play. You’re getting shoved around by this crowd of crazed fans who shouldn’t even be on the court yet. I’m sorry but if that’s me, you’re damn right I’m shoving back. As bad as it sounds, a lot of this response seems logical to me.
Now of course this should be prevented. Woulda, shoulda, coulda. Rivalries like Conard and Hall are part of American culture. On-court fights are not. But with this part of our culture comes that pure adrenaline which can sometimes lead to events like this. There’s a sort of passion in games like this that go along with the pride you take in your school. You don’t want those bragging rights for the remaining year; you need them.
This kind of thing happens whether you like it or not and in my opinion this whole thing is being blown out of proportion. As sad as it is, it’s a good thing this happened in a gym. A closed environment with teachers, coaches, security guards, and police is a hell of a lot better than a McDonald’s parking lot up the road. On countless occasions I’ve seen Conard Hall themed fights where there are no authoritative figures to step in and it is not pretty. Monday’s fight was bad and is something that we would all love to never happen again. But that’s not going to happen.
Looking at this situation in a different light is worthwhile. If this fight doesn’t happen in the gym, it happens at a location to be determined afterwards and it gets a whole lot worse. But that fight doesn’t make the Hartford Courant. This story isn’t worth the media attention its receiving. Of course there are things we can fix and try to change. Rivalries and the passion that come with them are not open for change and that’s the way it should be. I’m in love with that part of American culture. If The Courant’s Jeff Jacobs wants to write an article on the issues with this rivalry that’s fine and it is a valid talking point. Just make sure Jacobs and the other journalists write another story next year on the fight in the McDonald’s parking lot following the game.