Now that the region season is in full swing across all of the spring sports, rivalries are starting to heat up across Tooele County.
There’s always a little something extra when Tooele, Stansbury and Grantsville get together. The desire to claim not only victory, but bragging rights, hangs in the atmosphere every time these three schools meet.
That intensity makes this time of year a lot of fun. And when the games are over, everyone goes back to being friends and rooting for each other to do well.
But different sports approach rivalries differently.
Take track and field, for instance. Do Stansbury, Grantsville and Tooele all want to beat each other? Sure. But no more than they want to beat Park City or Union — or any other team in Class 3A.
And at the same time, none of them wants to see any of the others fail.
One thing I’ve noticed over the years is that certain sports — track and wrestling come immediately to mind — foster a feeling of camaraderie among competitors.
In the distance races at Wednesday’s Tooele County Invitational, competitors from every school applauded as the final finishers crossed the line, regardless of where they were from. Coaches from Stansbury encouraged athletes from Tooele after races. Tooele fans cheered Grantsville athletes. Grantsville runners embraced Stansbury runners after hard-fought sprints.
Wendover and Dugway athletes, though they were overmatched in a lot of cases, earned the admiration of their counterparts from the larger schools for the sheer determination they showed.
How can this be? How can you not only root for your rivals, but actively encourage them to do better? Maybe it’s because track is more of an individual sport. There is a team element to it, but it is largely based on individual performances. And the better your competition is, the more you have to push yourself and the better off you’ll be.
I seriously doubt you hear much of the same thing on a football field or a basketball court — or, at least, not as much. Complimenting your opponent on a job well done does happen. As a soccer player, I find myself complimenting goalkeepers who turn away my goal-scoring opportunities or defenders who take away my angle to the ball from time to time. Sometimes, you’ve just got to tip your cap.
But you don’t often see a football coach giving pointers to the opposing quarterback his team’s just beaten. Or a basketball player embracing the opposing shooting guard who drained the game-winning buzzer-beater over him.
You certainly don’t see Yankees fans applauding after a Red Sox outfielder makes a diving catch.
That’s not to say all the other sports need a culture change, of course. It’s just refreshing to see a sport where rivalries aren’t necessarily a win-at-all-costs pursuit.
Darren Vaughan is a veteran sports writer from Moab, Utah. He has never been able to understand how distance runners can willingly put themselves through so much punishment. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.