On the coat rack of my heart, my high school will always hang its hat on a higher peg than Harvard will. So when people started braying last week about "The Game," my thoughts turned instead to the Turkey Day classic that since 1888 has featured my alma mater against another Baltimore public high school.
The City-Poly game, the third oldest high school rivalry in the nation, has left its mark on more than the heart of this City grad. Indeed, the effects of the rivalry might better be gauged by the toll of buses and students that herald the annual passage of the game.
When I came to City, at least a bus a year had all its seats ripped out as some crazy sacrifice to a City Black Knights-Poly Engineers fight, and students were occasionally flung from machicolations on Baltimore's Memorial Stadium, hazarding their limbs for the sake of tradition.
Four years ago, Poly erected a new school closer to the suburbs. The purpose of the move was obvious; "Poly wants a cracker," detractors screamed. At the same time, my school's population dipped to an all-time low, and we began to lose City-Poly games.
The dwindling masses of City partisans over the years had also seen the loss of certain high school perquisites. The marching band, which used to perform with rhythmic braggadocio, no longer existed.
Last Thursday only our cheerleaders were in form. And as City fumbled away an early drive, the pattern of the last four years prevailed. Poly's squad, an amalgam of working class whites and northwest Baltimore blacks, stomped my alma mater, 29-0.
At least our stands were noisy. "Whop, whop, side th' head; whop 'em upside th' head, hey hey hey," was now the staple cheer.
In my section of the stands, reefers were moving, bottles of T-bird were draining, and the choruses to a chant were deafening.
The only high points in the game as far as we were concerned were Delvin Bank's 70 plus yards in copping the league rushing crown, and a fourth quarter one-handed interception by halfback William Brown. And in the second half, alumnus Ben Kinard, who two days later started for Maryland at quarterback in a 42-9 shellacking of Tulane, dropped in to mock the '73 Black Knights.