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LET THEM PLAY

Community would benefit from a rivalry renewed

Messenger photo by Britt Kudla: Fort Dodge and St. Edmond played in baseball for the first time in seven seasons last week at Rogers Park.

Last week, Fort Dodge and St. Edmond played in baseball for the first time since 2014.

The Dodgers won the game in the Gaels’ annual Memorial Day Tournament at Rogers Park, but the final score wasn’t as newsworthy as the mere fact that the matchup had finally been resurrected on the diamond.

Our community’s two high schools should be competing against each other on a regular basis in almost every sport. Yet it rarely happens now — especially at the varsity level. Not in volleyball anymore. Or basketball. Or tennis. Or softball.

We’ve heard every explanation — or excuse, depending on your point of view — in the book. It doesn’t always cooperate with postseason seeding. There aren’t enough open dates on the calendar. It’s a no-win situation for the bigger Dodgers. Or it just isn’t politically correct, and we’re apparently not collectively mature enough as a city to handle such a rivalry.

Save your practical reasons, and stop saying it can’t be done. It’s time to have an open dialogue about making this happen again in every sport — other than football and wrestling — moving forward.

Why? Because it’s fun. Fans like to see it. Kids enjoy facing friends and former youth-league teammates.

Bragging rights don’t have to come with regrets or unsportsmanlike conduct. This is high school athletics — a level of competition that’s supposed to be a lot more pleasurable than many of us adults are making it these days. Stop sucking the life out of it and coming up with a laundry list of arguments for why it wouldn’t work.

We’ve heard it all before. Time to focus on the positives and throw caution to the wind.

Will feelings get hurt? I’m sure at some point. Will there be lopsided outcomes? Sometimes. There won’t always be a competitive balance, as sports and classes ebb and flow at both schools.

We’ve already missed some terrific head-to-head showdowns through the years. Fort Dodge and St. Edmond have produced a wealth of talent on the field or in the gym, yet we’ve had to settle for hypothetical results from fantasy matchups, wondering what might have been far too often.

Josh Porter and David Flattery were recently named activities directors at their respective alma maters. They’re both former standout athletes and high-character individuals who know what it takes to succeed.

Porter and Flattery are in for tremendous challenges, though. Participation numbers have been dwindling. Many programs are struggling just to stay afloat. Even in sports where the two schools share athletes — soccer, swimming, bowling — it’s becoming harder and harder to piece together complete rosters. Specialization is running rampant in some circles; apathy in others.

There’s no better time than now to create excitement and spark curiosity within our own city limits. The more we turn high school athletics into a serious full-time business without balance, the fewer people will truly be on board.

Shelving a Fort Dodge-St. Edmond rivalry represents the old, stuffy guard. Take a page from the playbook of the middle school track coaches this past spring, for instance, and parlay a game or match into a charitable fundraiser. Get local leaders involved. Rally around these events with as much school spirit on both sides as possible.

Think outside the box and loosen those collars. In doing so, we may actually bring our community closer together, rouse lagging interest levels, and inspire a future generation of athletes who will see a whole new side to Fort Dodge pride.

Eric Pratt is Sports Editor at The Messenger. Contact him via email at sports@messengernews.net, or on Twitter @ByEricPratt

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