Recently I attended a 1A basketball district final game, and it has been a few years since I have been in this type of environment. I realized the game's atmosphere was phenomenal. I did not have an emotional investment in either team, but watching the vigor and intensity from both schools and their fans was beautiful.
After my time at North Tama High, I attended a good amount of Northern Iowa Panther basketball games. The McLeod Center's atmosphere does not compare this to a small Iowa town district finals. Each player represents a part of their small town, and this provides extra flavor to the game. In the previous two years, I went to the Missouri Valley Conference tournaments to watch the Panthers win both times. These wins did not possess the life or death feeling of a close small town Iowa district final game.
People wonder whether big Iowa high schools have the same intensity as the small schools, and this is untrue. The emotional investment in the team is not as strong because large schools are in cities with other schools. In cities like Cedar Rapids or Des Moines, other options exist besides watching a high school playoff basketball game. People do not feel obligated to watch their school in their town.
This lack of pride makes small town schools district final games more intense. Town pride is on the table. The tension created in these games use the rawest human emotions such as angst, elation, and anger. It was beautiful to witness each side trying to get under the other side's skin while the poor zebras took the worst part of it. Everyone wants a win, but only half felt victory.
This vigor and intensity is not exclusive to basketball. During my time in high school, we were successful in most sports, and the important games had the intensity. This intensity was greater because my teammates were friends and classmates whom I known since I was a wee lad. No one wanted to let someone they knew their entire life down. Our camaraderie beat any of the big school's collections of players who went to different elementary schools, middle schools, or AAU programs.
This camaraderie carried into the stands with fans young and old feeling a part of the team. Neighboring towns be darned because they would not stand in our way. No matter win or lose it was a fun ride. This is why I love and will always represent my North Tama Redhawks.
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