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The Emotions of Sports: The game takes shape

Rivalries have been instrumental in molding sports and communities, including the SCV

Posted: August 4, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: August 4, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Members of the Hart and Canyon football teams fight during their game in 1974. The rivalry between the two schools has been key in shaping the athletic landscape of the Santa Clarita Valley. Members of the Hart and Canyon football teams fight during their game in 1974. The rivalry between the two schools has been key in shaping the athletic landscape of the Santa Clarita Valley.
Members of the Hart and Canyon football teams fight during their game in 1974. The rivalry between the two schools has been key in shaping the athletic landscape of the Santa Clarita Valley.

In ancient times, it was Sparta and Athens.

Rivals so bitter that they fought bloody wars that reshaped the Ancient Greek world.

In modern times, it's Ohio State and Michigan, the Yankees and Red Sox and Lakers and Celtics.

Rivals of a different sort who settle their differences on fields of play.

These rivalries have helped shape sports.

In the Santa Clarita Valley, the first rivalry, the matchup that split the Santa Clarita Valley in half was Hart and Canyon.

And now in 2011, Canyon still can't stand Hart.

Hart can't stand Valencia.

Saugus can't stand Hart, either.

And West Ranch and Golden Valley have their own rivalry.

A lot of emotions go into rivalries, but the most common is disgust - as in a contempt for an opponent.

Rivalries are born, theorizes Dr. Lori Plutchik - who is a psychiatrist and the daughter of Robert Plutchik, an influential researcher, author, psychologist and professor who developed a model that listed the eight basic emotions - because of proximity.

"That's who the competition is. That's who's available," she says. "Why is it that two people in your office are competing with each other? It's because they're both at your office. It's who's available. It's who's the direct, in-your-face competition. If you have two high schools in the same town, they're going to compete. Why do siblings compete? People compete with who's ever available. They're going to compete with who threatens their job, or whoever they feel they want to get ahead against."

That direct competition for Hart, the first high school in the valley, became Canyon.

And it all started with football.

The reason the rivalries start with football, says Dody Garcia, now the athletic director at West Ranch, but before a coach at Canyon and the football team's statkeeper, is that the sport happens at the beginning of the school year.

"It's a high-profile sport. It draws a lot of people and sets the stage for the school year," she says.

And that rivalry carries on to other sports.

For example, a common chant in the winter at basketball gymnasiums is "Just like football."

That chant comes from a basketball team's cheering section and refers to how the basketball team is beating the other team just like it did in football.

That Canyon-Hart rivalry reached giant heights in the early 1980s.

There was a time when so many people packed College of the Canyons for the matchup that the fire marshal had to be called in.

But on Nov. 15, 1974, it became scary, explains current Hart head football coach and former Indians offensive lineman Mike Herrington.

It started when the captains of each team appeared at the other team's pep rally earlier in the week.

"There was heated stuff going on and said during the game," Herrington recalls. "During the handshake, a couple of guys were challenging (each other). There was a fight at the game with players and coaches. Yeah, there were fans up there (fighting). Cheerleaders fighting cheerleaders."

Herrington remembers the Hart team driving away from the stadium at Canyon High down Nadal Street.

Near the first intersection, the bus began to get pelted by stones.

Glass shattered from the windows on the bus and the Indians players put their helmets on.

In the 1980s and on into the 2000s, the rivalry was strengthened by the coaching matchup of Herrington vs. Harry Welch - two legends in the local sports community.

They were polar opposites - Welch was fiery, confident and gutsy, while Herrington was understated, calm and deliberate.

What made their rivalry grow was their mutual respect and in some people's eyes contempt for each other - though neither would admit to that.

"We had some spirited disagreements," Welch says.

The rivalry reached a new point when Hart and Canyon played for the CIF-Southern Section Division II title in 2005 at the Home Depot Center in Carson.

The Cowboys won 21-13, but had to hold off Hart in the game's final seconds as the Indians fell inches short of completing a 99-yard drive.

As for why rivalries are such a part of sports, Welch says: "People get so jingoistic and want to say we're No. 1, we're No. 1. It's partly human nature when someone threatens you. It's fun to challenge and fun to defeat. It's happened through history."

And the history of the Santa Clarita Valley.

Most recently, rivalries have sprung up due to dynasties.

Valencia has housed five of those dynasties - boys and girls volleyball, boys and girls tennis and softball.

Teams who can knock those teams off then throw the first blow of a rivalry.

West Ranch has done just that in one sport.

West Ranch has a natural rival in Golden Valley because both schools opened up in 2004.

As Garcia puts it, the established SCV schools were beating the new schools early on so the best opportunity for a win during the league season came when West Ranch and Golden Valley played each other.

But West Ranch has started to develop a rivalry, Garcia says, in tennis.

Valencia boys tennis has won nine of the last 10 Foothill League titles, but has recently been challenged by West Ranch.

Most recently the teams went head-to-head for a league title in this year's regular season finale.

The West Ranch and Valencia girls teams have shared the last two league titles.

West Ranch head coach Eric Spiecker says he foresees a rivalry between the two teams continuing.

"The difference in tennis is you have independent rivalries and team rivalries," he said. "The combination of the one-on-one rivalries has heightened the experience."

That's a different aspect to the rivalry - the individual one.

It's definitely there and in every sport.

In 2006, Canyon running back J.J. DiLuigi quietly fumed that Valencia running back Shane Vereen received a scholarship from the University of California, Berkeley, while DiLuigi had received far less interest from universities.

DiLuigi went on a mission to prove he was better, so he set out to best the accomplishments of Vereen.

Vereen may have broken the single-game Santa Clarita Valley rushing record that season, but DiLuigi's overall numbers were greater, and he led the Cowboys to a CIF Division I state title.

DiLuigi also earned a scholarship to BYU.

Now the 2011-12 season is around the corner.

It gives many in the Santa Clarita Valley - individuals and teams - the opportunity to add a new chapter.

Or maybe in other cases, it's an opportunity to write the first one.



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