The Rabbits And The Panthers

There were all sorts of reasons why I accepted a reporting position at the Daily Globe more than nine years ago, but one of the lesser-known rationales was the dilemma I knew I’d face in my allegiance to certain high school sports teams.

I was the editor of the Wabasso Standard for four years prior to coming to Worthington. In that time, I followed the Rabbits during regular season games, through section championships and state title berths.

At a small town newspaper, with just a part-time reporter and some sports stringers, I was often the one with the camera dangling from my neck at those sporting events. I did my best to capture kids making baskets, pinning opponents, smacking balls to the outfield, slapping balls over the net and putting golf balls into holes.

While standing on the sidelines, I’ve been hit with basketballs, volleyballs, a football and even wrestling head-gear. So, when I’m sitting at Target Field and Joe Mauer comes on the big screen to ask us to keep an eye on the game, I do. The one time I didn’t, my oldest brother nearly ended up in my lap trying to catch a homerun ball.

I was never more thankful when, moving to Worthington, I learned I wouldn’t need to shoot another sporting event in my life — at least not for the newspaper!

Anyway, getting back to sports team allegiances…

It was about year three into my stint at Wabasso when the Wabasso Rabbits and the Ellsworth Panthers boys’ basketball teams faced off for a sub-section game in Marshall. By then, my older brother’s kids were students at Ellsworth, and the whole family came to the game. They sat on the Ellsworth side; I sat on the Wabasso side, and while I can’t remember who won, I remember my nephew stomping on a stuffed rabbit belonging to one of the Wabasso fans at the end of the game.

I was a bit mortified, and certainly hesitant to introduce him as my wonderful nephew — my fishing buddy as most Wabasso newspaper readers knew him through my weekly columns. Visions of Nephew Matt playing on that Ellsworth team in a few years made me realize right then and there that I couldn’t stay where I was. I couldn’t be hoping the Rabbits would head to state while watching Nephew Matt want the same for his team.

Since coming to Worthington, my allegiance has clearly been to the Panthers, even when they play my alma mater, the Trojans of WHS. Yet, without any niece or nephew currently playing at the high school level for Ellsworth — and an invite from the Wabasso statistician to meet up at last Saturday’s Wabasso-Ellsworth girls’ basketball game in the WHS gym — I found myself wondering who I should root for.

I recognized certain names from both teams, I recognized parents and grandparents from both teams in the stands; I even wore maroon — you can’t go wrong when the school colors of both Wabasso and Ellsworth are maroon and gold!

And, while I sat on the Ellsworth side of the gym, I chose a spot just a couple of rows behind the Wabasso team. I silently cheered for both teams, because cheering loudly for both would have been a bit confusing to everyone around me.

There’s nothing wrong with cheering for both teams. In fact, it takes some of the stress out of those high school allegiances we hold so deep in our hearts. (Someone may need to remind me of this when I have nephews and nieces playing baseball, basketball, volleyball and hockey games for Ellsworth and Fairmont in a few years!)

The Wabasso girls came out on top in Saturday’s match-up and will return to the WHS gym tonight to take on the Fulda Raiders. Meanwhile, the Wabasso Rabbits and the Ellsworth Panthers boys’ basketball teams will face off Thursday night in Ellsworth for the first round of tournament play. I can’t make it to either game, so I guess my allegiances won’t have to be tested again this week.

I’ll just say good luck to all of the teams.

2 Responses

  1. PJ Bock

    It was nice that you came! One of the reasons that you are a good journalist is that you are willing to delve into subjects (like sports) that you may not be an expert on. Too many people (I could probably be counted among them) are a little afraid to step out of the “comfort zone.”

    As a side note, the 2003 Wabasso/Ellsworth boys’ game was for the section championship. Ellsworth on that game (75-64, think) to earn the first of many state tourney trips. I have to admit that Ellsworth’s streak lasted longer than I thought-it was great to see a school of that size enjoy that level of success.

    1. Julie Buntjer

      I was guessing on the year, glad to see it was exactly as I thought – year three into my four-year stint at Wabasso! Good to see you again PJ – hope you enjoy the game tonight. My meeting goes until 8 p.m., so I’ll have to follow-up to see the final score. And, as you can attest, I am far from an expert on sports … especially hockey! 🙂

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