Big Blue Blooded

Few things so perfectly encapsulate the high-school experience as does an interscholastic rivalry. The passion and intensity of a heated high school contention are unlike that of anything else. In making the transition from New Hanover High School to Phillips Academy, I came fully prepared to become a part of Andover’s legendary enmity with Exeter, having been part of a rivalry in my previous year that, against all odds, proved eerily similar. During my freshman year in high school, I bled Wildcat orange and black, while at the same time cursing the purple and yellow of the Hoggard Vikings. The relationship between Hoggard and New Hanover was the quintessential high school rivalry. The predominately black, inner-city New Hanover was the antithesis of the more affluent, suburban Hoggard. This did nothing but elevate the intensity as the two schools butted proverbial heads in everything from athletics to Science Olympiad. When I arrived at Andover last year and began to recognize the differences between our school and Exeter, I knew I had made the right decision. An analogy formed in my mind: Andover is to Exeter as New Hanover is to Hoggard. In both cases, I attended the more diverse, more living and breathing school. In the context of both rivalries, all schools had battled for decades in athletics, neither ever achieving a prolonged supremacy. At New Hanover, my friends would always talk about how Hoggard was a more challenging school and had better looking girls. Here at Andover, I have heard people draw the same parallel between us and Exeter (though in each case I disagreed with both of these points.) On orientation day, when the Blue Keys began indoctrinating us with animosity towards Exeter, I found that all of it was entirely unnecessary for me. I had already made the seamless transition from my former rivalry to this new one. In some ways, I doubt I will ever lose my spirit for my old high-school, for even one year at the lovable, dilapidated, inner-city high school was enough to anoint me as a Wildcat for life. I still go to the games with my friends whenever I am home, painting my face orange and black and sporting my Wildcat fan uniform (blue jeans, bright orange shirt, and trucker hat.) In all honesty, school spirit at Andover does not come close to the Wildcat zealotry I experienced back home. Something magical took place in the humid haze of those late-summer Friday night football games under the lights; the electricity coursing through that screaming hoard of orange-and-black-clad fans was something I just have not seen equaled at Andover. Spirit alone, however, is not the only measure of students’ love of their school. At New Hanover, we hung up our school spirit after the football games and left it there until the next one came along. This was because, outside of athletics, nothing in particular distinguished our school from its peers. Here at Andover, no matter how much we may curse our workload, we are proud to be P.A. students. Our school is unique among its peers for both its diversity and the level of freedom it grants its students. The majority of us made our own decision to come to Andover, whereas back home, plenty of kids would choose not to go to school at all if they could drop out. Whatever we at Andover might be lacking in pure spirit and enthusiasm, we make up for with pride in our school. So, come Andover-Exeter weekend, you may not see every P.A. kid screaming in support of Big Blue. Other than the Blue Keys, you will not see everyone with their face painted blue (though the cold might make that unnecessary.) But, those who do go out to cheer on our boys and girls in blue, enduring bitter cold and wind, will do so not simply because they have spirit, but because they have true Andover pride.