This week will see a milestone of the school year – Friday’s Mustang-Yukon football game. For some reason, over time, this event has gone beyond a contest, instigating a rivalry that’s not always pretty.
It’s something that has, at times, turned a high school sporting match into antagonism far removed from the field. From reports of students burning each other’s school flags and nasty social media exchanges to actually – and, yes, this is a real thing – beating a car with “Puke on Yukon” spray painted on it as a sort of school activity, this “rivalry” has at times strained good sportsmanship, to say the least.
To me, this lessens who we are – as students, as parents, as the Mustang community as a whole. Because, after all, this is, again, a high school football game. And, it also involves something perhaps those who take part in these little rivalries miss – the fact that these rivals are our neighbors and friends, family members and coworkers.
And, in cases, fellow students.
That’s in part because of the size of Mustang’s school district. While a particular student might attend Mustang schools, he or she could easily be a resident of Oklahoma City – or Yukon. So, these shows of school “spirit,” aimed at a rival team, could actually impact some of Mustang’s own.
It doesn’t help that this rivalry is not just something kept alive by students. And, it’s not the rivalry itself that’s the problem. It’s taking it to the next level, to cruel words, crueler actions – by people who talk about, who advocate the Mustang “1440” motto, one of kindness.
I’m not writing this as an indictment of all of that, however. This is a different sort of story, one that really is all about kindness, but it’s also about sadness, it’s about loss, it’s about family. It’s about how important this rivalry - and how we deal with it now – really can be.
This Friday is a test, of sorts, not for points or for pride, but for who we are, as people.
That’s because those Yukon rivals, those kids from up the road, have lost one of their own – and they need us, not to talk about who’s best or dwell on a game that will be forgotten in weeks, but to be there for them, as one.
It happened Friday. Like Mustang, Yukon’s band program is a strong and popular one. Like our kids who are out on the field and in the classroom practicing all summer, early mornings and into the evening, so too does the Millers’ band. And, it was on his way to one of those practices a horrible thing happened, a car accident, a family who lost their son, a school that lost a student, a band that lost a member, a friend.
“Three times today I had to stand in front of 180 amazing young people and tell them things that they did not want to hear, and it was every bit as awful as I imagined that scenario would be,” Yukon High School band director Darnell Zook posted on Facebook. “I’ve never had a worse day in Yukon, and I’ve never been so proud.”
I can’t, I don’t want to, imagine what this family is going through. But, I know on Friday, when the Yukon band takes the field, they will be a member short. And, that’s a pain that all of us know lasts longer than any football season.
Darnell is right to be proud – not only of this wonderful senior who has been lost, but of his other students, his staff and his community, all of whom have come together to remember a 17-year-old whose future has been cut short. We should be proud of our band members and staff who, among many others, have stood up to show their love to a band family larger than any one school, expressing their support and solidarity.
That, to me, is what our community is all about. That’s sportsmanship, that’s what gives me hope for a better tomorrow. And, it’s something that’s the best of all of us. We are more than a team, or a game or even a city – we’re Mustang, a community that cares for each other and for those beyond our borders.
Let’s show Yukon what we are on Friday and let’s remember what is truly important – to all of us.