Sports Opinion: Tam-Redwood Rivalry

By Nell Mitchell

The Tam-Redwood rivalry is alive. Ask almost any varsity athlete at Tam and you’ll get the same response.

As a member of the track and field team for all four years of high school, the week leading up to the Redwood meet is hands down the most stressful and anticipated of the season. The schedule is always the same: Redwood is the last meet of the year and without fail the MCAL championship is on the line. To me, our relationship with Redwood is the epitome of a high school rivalry. When we go up against Redwood, the stakes are always higher and the competition always fiercer.

Matchups with Redwood are always prefaced with the mentality that Tam must win for bragging rights at the very least. “They’re [geographically] the closest public school in our league,” senior varsity soccer player Kallie Hukari said. “You always want to be better than them in every sport.”

Before competition, tensions are high based solely on a desire to prove we are the better school. And once in competition, the rivalry is even more evident. As a            senior, my passion to crush Redwood has grown throughout my high school career, and many other seniors share this experience.

“The soccer games [against Redwood] are definitely more heated than other games. It’s way more intense and there’s definitely the most amount of yellow cards and red cards,” senior varsity soccer player Holden Trnka said.

Senior varsity baseball player Nick Kennison has also witnessed the heightened tempers against Redwood from his time on the field. “When I was a sophomore on the [varsity] team, there was a [Tam] senior who ran into the [Redwood] catcher at the plate and they got in a fight and he got ejected,” he said. “That has contributed to our lasting rivalry.”

Even in track, a non-contact sport, there is fierce competition that has led to nasty encounters. Redwood runners have their elbows out, some girls even pushing or spitting over their shoulders in distance races and leaving our girls with no choice but to push back.

Student behavior at games speaks for the rivalry louder than anything else. Senior basketball player Jordan Jackson, a transfer from Redwood as of last spring, has seen it from the other side of the court. “When I played [Tam] for the season opener last year, you guys were really, really rowdy,” he said with a laugh. In the stands, Tam students were stomping  on bleachers until they broke and taunting the appearances and performance of the players on the Redwood team. While this felt uncomfortable and immoral, I felt justified by the desire to win and the mob mentality, and found myself yelling with the rest of the student body. Tam students perhaps take more joy in rooting against Redwood than we do in rooting for our own team. It’s games like these that fuel the flames of the rivalry.

The animosity exists beyond athletic venues. Just this past month, a stream of more than 2,000 angry, combative, mocking comments were exchanged between Redwood and Tam students on an Instagram post after Tam’s loss to Redwood at our homecoming football game. The comments ranged from Redwood boasting “we [could’ve] beat y’all with no hands running backwards the whole game” to Tam students saying “at least our school doesn’t look like San Quentin” to other far more personal attacks between students that are not fit to print.

While seemingly petty, the stream led to talk of a fight and although nothing happened, both police and administration got involved in making sure there was no physical confrontation.

But where does the hatred come from? In many ways, I think that opposing Redwood is a part of our identity as the Tam student body. When we’re all in the stands chanting, we are united. We all play different sports and have different social circles, but we can all rally together when it comes to a face off against Redwood. We are unified against a common enemy.

The rivalry also may have roots in the judgement we pass about our rival school. While I know many Redwood kids who are perfectly nice, when I look at Redwood as a whole, I see them how many Tam students do: a school with preppier clothes, nicer cars, and a self-righteous attitude, even though in a lot of ways, they may not be much different from ourselves. Junior Jacob Berg, a varsity baseball player, put it bluntly, “They’re just arrogant and no one likes them.” The Redwood attitude that we as Tam students detest may be a broad generalization, but Jackson didn’t do much to refute it. “It’s kind of true, Redwood is very stuck up,” he said. “I’m happy I transferred to Tam.” And that’s all the affirmation we need.

The Tam-Redwood rivalry is as strong as ever, and with two more seasons of sports ahead of us in the 2016-17 school year, we can guarantee more than enough clashes to prove it.