October 6th 1984  (Age 37)
North Platte

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Monday, December 16, 2013
The North Platte-Grand Island rivalry (Part one)

In what I originally wrote as my very first entry on my new blog here on Blogdrive, I started talking about what a crazy fall I've had this year.

Before I could explain how this fall has been so hectic, I went into a summary of my year and how I went from having the best winter I can remember having (partly because my high school, North Platte, made the state basketball tournament for the first time in nine years) to having the shittiest summer in memory (partly because North Platte's Legion Baseball team had its worst season in a decade).

I hoped things would start to look up this fall. But a winless NPHS football season and the inconsistency and turmoil of the Nebraska Cornhuskers this season kept that from happening. Now as you can already tell, that I have built my entire life around loving sports. I'll admit that I don't have the healthiest relationship with them because when one of my favorite teams is playing, it isn't just a game. Because of my humble upbringing and the fact that my love life hasn't blossomed as I hoped at this point in my life, sometimes my self-esteem hinges on whether my team wins or loses.

As I have matured, I've gotten better at not letting tough losses devastate me. I've been through enough of them to know that it's not the end of the world as I know it and I've done much better at moving ahead after them.

But still, this fall was rough for me. So once again, I felt the need for my team to win when last Thursday rolled around.

The game was North Platte's season opener in boys' basketball against Grand Island. A win would be a good way to end what has been a rocky 2013 for me. A loss was something I didn't want to think about. I knew I'd get past it somehow but that's about as far as that went.

Thankfully, the good guys, the North Platte Bulldogs, beat the hated Islanders 66-62 and all was right in the world as far as I was concerned.

North Platte-Grand Island is my personal Yankees-Red Sox rivalry. No one feels the same way about that game than I do. Technically, they're not our arch rival, Kearney is (Kearney is also GI's arch rival and their rivalry with them is more heated than ours because they are closer).

I want us to beat Grand Island in every sport. But I want to beat them in boys' basketball in particular. A lot of that has to do with the fact that even though I am a third-generation graduate of NPHS, neither one of my grandparents, nor my dad, were that involved, especially in athletics. So I didn't exactly grow up bleeding blue and gold and I didn't follow the Bulldogs until I had started attending there.

In my freshman year, I befriended Kyle Jurgens, a senior who was a starter on the basketball team, right before the season and I went to all of the team's home games. So since it was basketball season when I first took an interest in the Bulldogs, the boys' basketball team is the one team at the school I have the deepest connection to.

The North Platte-Grand Island rivalry had its genesis 13 years ago. It was a Sunday evening and I was riding with Jack O'Holleran, who was the star running back on the football team who Kyle got me connected with, to an undisclosed location south of town.

It was on this trip in which we traveled about 10 miles on Highway 83, Jack blurted out, "You know, my mom went to Grand Island."

Right now, I am struggling to find a way to describe what my feelings of Molly O'Holleran were like at that time. She was nice to me but yet I didn't think she liked me for some reason.

That reason was perhaps the fact that I had a huge crush on Jack's youngest sister, Brigid. As I said, Molly was nice to me but I always wondered how she would feel if I dated her daughter as I had intentions of doing. Every time I asked myself that question, I thought, "Well, let's see. You're short, unathletic and awkward and you come from a single-parent household on the wrong side of the tracks. How do you think she'd feel about that?"

So that's how I came to the perception of Molly not liking me very much even though she did nothing herself to promote that and it was something that I created solely by myself (which I feel bad about now because I feel that Molly is someone who has my back).

With Jack's admission that his mom went to Grand Island, games against the Islanders became red letter games for us.

Another thing that helped in GI becoming my personal nemesis was that Kearney wasn't doing a very good job of being our rivals. In that year, the Bearcat football team was one of the three teams we beat, their basketball team only won one game and we beat their soccer team in districts with help of an own goal in which one of their defenders kicked the ball past his goalie and into the net.

We played the first of what would be three basketball games that season against GI 10 days after Jack told me his mom went there. We lost by six points at GI, which was better than what I hoped considering that we got our ass kicked at home by a below average Hastings team the previous weekend.

We played them again at home in late January. By then, we were much better. We had just beaten eventual state champion Lincoln East and I was really excited to see us play GI again. But we had a letdown and lost by 22 points.

In the second half of that game, my best friend, Darrin Little, whom I served as an understudy with as student manager with on the team, told me, "We're going to beat them in districts. Guaranteed."

We got to play Grand Island for a third time as we drew them in our semifinal game of districts at Hastings.

We traveled through a blizzard to get there but I think that having to travel 160 miles to Hastings, in contrast to the mere 25 miles Grand Island had, strengthened our resolve. We weren't going all that way in those conditions to lose to them again.

GI took a sizeable lead in the second quarter but we came back to take a lead ourselves in the third. In the fourth, we got timely buckets and made a bunch of free throws to ice the game and finally beat the Islanders 71-60 to end their season.

With that win, I was on Cloud Nine. I just felt so good about myself afterward. Ever since I developed feelings for Brigid that fall, I had questioned whether or not I was worthy of her, or whether her mom thought so. Because my friends on the boys' basketball team slayed the dragon that was Molly's alma-mater, I almost had the confidence to maybe ask Brigid out.

I know that doesn't really make any sense but I was a scatterbrained 16-year-old and that's how my brain worked in conjunction with my heart.

As I said, the win over the Islanders ALMOST gave me the confidence to ask Brigid out. As good as I felt at that time, I still didn't do so. While my feelings for Brigid remained until I graduated, they peaked before that game. That spring, I decided that I didn't want to limit my considerable appetite for the opposite sex to not just Brigid, but also the girls of good ol' NPHS (i.e. I developed a crush on a girl whose singles profile and picture I saw in Fremont's school newspaper).

Strangely enough after my sophomore year and our big triumph in the district semifinals (we lost to Columbus in the district finals), neither Brigid or Molly crossed my mind whenever we played GI in basketball. To me, it became all about beating Grand Island just for the sake of beating them because they were the team I most wanted to beat.

But this wasn't the last time that a female would fuel my desire for us to beat GI. A few years later, I would meet a girl from the dark side and that would lead to a couple of experiences that brought me to my knees emotionally but also help me mature from being that scatterbrained 16-year-old, which you will read about in part two.

Posted at 11:05 pm by jamesparrish24


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