The following short, humorous allegory is inspired by the vignette of “Conservatown vs. Liberalville” in the book “Predisposed” by John Hibbing, Mark Alford and Kevin Smith. If you don’t get it, let’s cover that in the comment section.
Every rural county has the spectacle of Friday night high school football and Center County Ohio is no exception. On the third Friday of every September, the entire county is agog at the annual rivalry of Rightville vs Leftward Valley. Let’s review some of the coverage of last year’s game.
Rightville Sideline Interview – Coach Bob Smith
Commentator 1: I’m here with Bob Smith, coach of the Rightville Fighting Fundys. Coach Bob, you have made a lot of claims about fundamentals and you have criticized the experiments of Leftward Valley Coach Flowerpot Jenkins. What’s bothering you about Jenkins’ new ideas.
Coach Bob: Vince Lombardi said football is about blocking and tackling. It’s not a ballet. It’s not arts and crafts. It’s a place where young men learn that there is a path to success – a right way to do things.
Commentator 1: Yet many of the newer innovations, the west coast offense for example, have been very successful.
Coach Bob: They have been successful because the opposing team gets sidetracked. When your defense is distracted by movement and foofy routes, it forgets to fill the gaps and tackle.
Commentator 1: But, as Coach Jenkins has pointed out, you yourself have adopted some of the new approach to passing offense – crossing patterns and deceptive routes for example.
Coach Bob: Well… I…. I certainly believe in innovation. I tend to adopt things proven to work. When something shows itself successful repeatedly, I adopt it. The problem comes in when innovation becomes a substitute for…
Commentator 2: …blocking and tackling? Thanks, coach.
Leftward Valley Sideline Interview – Coach Flowerpot Jenkins
Commentator 2: Joining me now is Coach Flowerpot Jenkins of the Leftward Valley Caterpillars. Let’s talk about the elephant in the room, Coach Flowerpot. Your team was “The Warriors” for many years – why the name change?
Coach Flowerpot: Well, as you know, we became concerned that the name “Warriors” was too martial. It literally has the word “war” in it! Plus it had a sort of solitary air to it – one man against the world. Football is teamwork!
Commentator 2: Ok, but why caterpillars? I don’t think I’ve heard of any team called the Caterpillars.
Coach Flowerpot: It was an inspired choice! Sam Fellows, our biology teacher, pointed out that a caterpillar’s body is a collection of many moving parts. To achieve motion, he has to get a lot of legs and segments working together. It seemed a perfect metaphor for a team. It was also one of the few animal names without a constituency. And the mascot costume holds 6 people now – opening up 5 new opportunities for our drama students!
Commentator 2: Well, those are certainly reasons. Coach, you are known for innovation, what do you have in store for us today?
Coach Flowerpot: You’ll just have to wait and see.
The Rightville Fundys took the field in their Grey uniforms marching in step and chanting “Fundys block, Fundys tackle” while the marching band played a stirring fight song. The Caterpillars came in led by their national champion dance squad with ribbons and a phalanx of tambourine players. The new bright yellow and green Caterpillar uniforms made quite a splash, although some fans found the face and antenna on the helmet a little jarring. The crowd was moved by Robert Smith’s baritone rendition of the national anthem, while Leftward Valley’s Fawn Warren played a traditional Iroquois flute and danced counter clockwise.
Once the game began, the Rightville Fundys received the ball first and drove down the field with solid, off-tackle running by junior Bob Smith to the Caterpillar 22 yard line. Kicker Bob Smith (a sophomore) kicked a field goal. The game remained 3-0 until the third quarter with the only notable play being a fumble by quarterback Grenalda Smortsengrammer of the Caterpillars. The turnover came when the Caterpillars switched things up, putting all the running backs and wide receivers on the offensive line. This left 285-pound Grenalda, normally a right tackle, handling the ball. Jenkins’ only comment regarding the fumble was, “It seemed crazy enough to work.”
In the third quarter, the Caterpillars scored a touchdown on a brilliant punt return by senior Flippy McGee who improvised his way through dozens of missed tackles by Bob Smith, Bobby Smith and Robby Smythe into the end zone – a tour de force of individual effort. The kicking team celebrated by facepainting each other. The Fundys countered with a march down the field using short passing plays and off tackle runs, knocking back the tiring Caterpillar defensive line with textbook blocking. In a final push, Bob Smith (a freshman) leapt over the top of the right guard and into the end zone – where he and his teammates prayed briefly after they celebrated.
With the Fundys leading 10-7 and time running out, the Caterpillars engineered a drive down the field to the 18 yard line. The drive featured a ballet-inspired innovation where the offensive line managed a plie in unison followed by a massive push driving the defense back and opening a hole for running back (and interpretive dancer) Beauty Dawn.
Stalled on the 18 yard line, kicker Maypole Blackenfish kicked a game-tying field goal, narrowly avoiding a blocked kick by Robert Smith.
The game ended in a tie as it has every year since 1945.