Thursday, December 25, 2008

Rudolph and Football

Merry Curmudgeonly Christmas + Football

Rudolph the Red-nose Reindeer: Is it just me or does the Rudolph song smack of hypocrisy? Let’s take a look, “All of the other reindeer, used to laugh and call him names, they never let poor Rudolph play in any reindeer games.” Rudy was the object of taunting and bullying. His peers ganged up on him, blackballed him from the fun and games. We can presume that if there was a reindeer fraternity at Reindeer University, he would have been blackballed from membership. In a word, Rudy was excluded. Why? Because his nose was red. Maybe some of the gossip held that Rudy was a drunk and not fit to pull Santa’s sleigh, although the Big Man himself was said to sip a toddy or two that awaited him at the homes of the little kids.

Then one foggy Christmas eve, the Boss decided to further humiliate Rudy by using him as a fog light. Seeing the outcast get attention, the other bullies became toadies, “…then all the reindeer loved him, as they shouted out with glee.” What a crew! It would serve them right if one of the tricks they played on Rudy that day was to serve him Ex-lax laden brownies and warm milk. Bah, Humbug! (P.S. I didn’t get the bailout I really wanted for Christmas).

Clairton legacy wins and loses: My favorite dentist and Clairton high classmate Dr. Ron, and his wife and fellow classmate Adele sent me a recent newspaper clipping about Pennsylvania State High School Football Championships. First, a little history about Clairton High School. During the 1950s Clairton was a mill town that personified the American dream. Many of the residents were first and second generation Americans whose families had migrated from Eastern Europe and beyond. They found work and prosperity mostly in the steel mills around the Pittsburgh area. By the late 1950s Clairton High School was bursting at the seams with war babies and was blessed with the best in music, sports, and academics. To alleviate the overcrowding a second school was built in a semi-rural bucolic location on Old Clairton Road. The inaugural class at Thomas Jefferson High School was comprised solely of former Clairton High School classmates. Curiously school rivalries did not develop between the two schools as their populations grew apart.

Fast Forward a half century: The demographics of both schools changed over the years. The recession in the steel industry of the 1980s crippled the Clairton economy and many of the best and brightest who left for college found more promise in jobs elsewhere. The community that fed Thomas Jefferson High School continued to thrive as white collar workers and business owners fled the rundown city whose tax base had withered, and moved to the newer, cleaner, more rural climes. The parent school struggled as the newer school thrived.

Football remained paramount: The one area in which the two schools stayed similar was athletics. Both schools continued to thrive. As Clairton shrunk in size and played in a smaller division the chances of the two schools playing one another faded. That is not to say strong links did not exist. One of Thomas Jefferson’s most successful coaches was a Clairton grad as were many parents of Jefferson students. Still, both schools played their sports in what Future Shock author Alvin Toffler might describe as “…in isolated proximity of each other.” Though their paths did not cross as opponents, they made history this year.

Class A and Class AAA championships: A couple of weeks ago the Pennsylvania high school football championships were held in the Hersheypark Stadium in Hershey, PA. Clairton High School played Steelton-Highspire for the Class A state title. Both teams sported identical 15-0 records coming onto the game. At halftime the teams were tied, not only in points but in speed and grit. But once the second half began, as so often happens in football, the ball bounced the other way for the Clairton Bears and they finished the game as runners up. Still, not too shabby.

The Clairton-spawned Thomas Jefferson Jaguars entered their AAA title game against heralded Archbishop Wood. The Jaguars stomped the Vikings 34-7 to become state champs for the second consecutive year and three of the past five seasons. Their record over the past seven seasons is 92-8. Just as the first year graduating class had an affinity to the Clairton Bears, so must many current and former Clairtonians be proud of the Jefferson Jaguars.

A little blogging music Maestro… “Rise to Glory” by DJ Quik.

Dr. Forgot

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