Neither of my parents are diehard football fans, yet every November they both follow one game with passion. The game: the annual showdown between their alma mater and their traditional rival. This rivalry has lasted over a century, with both schools producing thousands of upstanding citizens during that time. Rivalries are hardly a recent invention of Deerfield and Choate.
I would like to take a moment to consider the spirit behind the rivalry. I was shocked when I read the comparison between our Choate Day traditions and harassment practices of the Ku Klux Klan. I find it disturbing that someone perceives me and my peers as capable of such egregious acts of hatred as seen in the South during the height of the violence carried out by the Klan.
I have now taken part in Choate week for three years, I have sat in the darkened dining hall listening to the legend about a brave warrior’s defeat of a wild boar centuries ago, I have stood basking in the warmth of the overwhelming school spirit watching the burning of the C, and I have been filled with pride as the familiar words of the cheering song ring out over the fields at the end of the Choate games. While each time I have been honored to be a part of these traditions, I have never once felt the need to carry out violent action against a Choatie. This rivalry is not as much about hating Choate as it is about loving Deerfield.
As students of history, we have all studied the dangers of the “other” mentality as seen in imperialistic conquests, the holocaust, and acts of terrorism and racism within our own country. However in each of these examples, there lies a stark contrast to the Deerfield-Choate Rivalry.
This rivalry is hardly a one- way street. For our caveman t-shirt, Choate made a t-shirt featuring an easy button. A rivalry can exist only between equals. If we truly believed Choaties to be inferior human beings we wouldn’t compete with them. Competition requires a worthy opponent. In acknowledging Choate as our rival, we acknowledge them as being one of our peer schools.
One of the things that first drew me to Deerfield was the character of the students here. When you meet Deerfield boys or girls, they will look you in the eye and shake your hand. This is a phenomenon not seen in most of the adolescent world. It is also a demonstration of respect for a common humanity. We as students at Deerfield pride ourselves in being respectful individuals. On the athletic field we continue to hold ourselves to this standard.
Before I came to Deerfield, I attended a large public high school outside of Boston. When my old school played their rival, the police from both towns were in attendance and every year had to break up several fist fights between fans.
At Deerfield we do not resort to such violence. Even the most hot-headed of athletes is encouraged by our coaches and peers to conduct his or herself in an honorable manner. In my three years here I have never seen a level of athletic competition that I could consider “extreme.” Deerfield has some of the strongest sportsmanship I have ever encountered in an athletic career that has now spanned 15 years.
Frankly, I would argue that such extreme violent competition would not only be seen as unacceptable by Deerfield students, but would be against the very nature of the character of this school. Mr. Boyden believed the value of sports lay in the molding of character. We strive everyday to shape ourselves into young adults worthy of the vision set forth by Mr. Boyden.
I would encourage the author of the letter to please take an afternoon to talk with students at Deerfield, to get to know the people they believe would don a white hood and take part in a lynching. If you are seeking grounds for comparison, please look at collegiate or other prep-school rivalries before making the jump to genocide and historical extremes.
Nori Welles-Gertz ’10