Growing up a non-Catholic on the westside of town was quite the experience. One positive would be that I stood out from my classmates on Ash Wednesday. One negative is that I never found any presents in my shoes on St Nick's day.
Another byproduct of my westside Protestantism was that I only partook of the public education experience. Even though there were three established all-boys Catholic schools on our side of Cincinnati, I feel like my education rivaled anything I could've received at those institutions [with chicks in class to boot]. The Oak Hills Local School District provided me with an excellent-all-around education. Sure, there were sub-par teachers, but not that many of them. And I had every opportunity to succeed right at my fingertips. I'm proud of my years at Oak Hills High School. And even though I only had a brief stint in its athletics department, I was quite the athletic supporter. I still spend Friday nights watching the local sports programs to see how my Highlanders performed against the schools across the city.
So the news this past weekend that Oak Hills was ending its football rivalry with Elder High School was like a kick to the groin. The westside [Catholic] private high school is a football powerhouse, that's to be sure.* And the series hasn't been competitive in decades; the last time that Oak Hills defeated the Panthers was 1986. But even though it has become a one-sided rivalry, it was still contentious. If there was every anyone I wanted us to beat, it was Elder. The game (before it was moved earlier in the season) was the last one of the season for both teams . . . um, usually before Elder went to the playoffs. I spent some miserable games at Oak Hills and Elders' Pit watching them let us stay competitive for a quarter or two before finally finishing us off. It definitely sucked and there was no end to the domination in sight.
But now, I feel I've been robbed.
With this decision, one I suspect is not as mutual as they let on, my alma mater stole from me. What was taken from me was hope— the hope that I would one fall Saturday morning wake-up and see a scoreboard where the Highlanders bested Elder. I'm not sure when it would've happened but, eventually, it would've HAD TO HAVE happened. Even though Oak Hills is the biggest high school in the state of Ohio, it is continually fleeced of its best talent by Elder, LaSalle and St. X. But at some point, some team will have put it all together and provide the opportunity of a victory over the Panthers. But now, unless it's in the play-offs, it will never happen.
While this may seem like a trivial issue, I see some larger statements here. It's almost as if the public school is surrendering, admitting that it can't compete with its private counterpart. And it also appears that the district is sending a "if you can't beat 'em— quit" mentality to its student body. This, my friends, as a sad, sad decision.
I much prefer losing to Elder than not playing them at all. And after all we've been through, my Oak Hills pride has been tarnished by this move.
*When we lived in Mason in 2002, someone asked me if I was excited that Elder won the state football championship. I believe I responded by spitting on the carpet.