ACHTUNG: The following is not a “fair and balanced” story. It is an editorial by the editor.
I hear tell the powers that be again have shut down any chance to renew the “Border Wars” season opening football contests between neighborhood rivals Hopkins and Wayland.
The “Border Wars’ series started in 2012, renewing the gridiron contests that used to be held regularly in the 1950s and 1960s. This renewal lasted for four years, and Hopkins won all four of the matchups, two by a touchdown or less.
I hear tell that some coaches and officials have said they worry that because Wayland is a much larger school, the games will not be competitive. Yet Wayland has not prevailed in the games since 1969, so that contention doesn’t seem to make a lick of sense.
Other than the argument about competitiveness, I have not seen nor heard any explanation from officials for terminating the neighborhood rivalry games.
It’s been my understanding the four games held between 2012 and 2015 were wildly popular and successful in terms of bringing much-needed revenue into both schools’ athletic coffers. As I said a couple of years ago, the gate receipts, money spent at the concession stands and sales of T-shirts advertising the game raised plenty of money to help the athletic boosters’ groups and athletic programs for both schools.
One very good source informed me that the difference between the last Hopkins-Wayland season opener in 2015 and the Wildcats’ debut at home in 2016 against Grand Rapids Union was striking. About a thousand Hopkins fans and a larger contingent from Wayland attended the 34-28 nail-biter. I was told that less than 50 came from Union a year later.
The contrast in numbers translates into a compelling financial reason to keep the series alive. And this doesn’t include the decrease in transportation costs because the schools are geographically close.
Hopkins in the last two seasons has had to travel long distances to Manistee and Buchanan. Wayland had its long trip to Adrian in 2016. Besides a long bus ride, it’s very costly for fuel, and fan support is severely reduced for gate and concession receipts.
The vast majority of people I’ve talked to in Hopkins and Wayland have agreed with my assertion the series should continue because it’s serves as a pleasant kickoff to the season in August and everybody seems to know one another, so it’s a matter of community pride and community spirit.
Yet these sentiments are brushed aside by the coaches and athletic directors at Hopkins and Wayland who are making these decisions. It reminds me too much of legislators ignoring the wishes of the public to vote instead on behalf of a small group of people.
So the next time I see or hear the Hopkins or Wayland athletic programs plead poverty and seek the financial help of the people, I’ll take a cynical attitude and perhaps ask why they didn’t manage their money better and do what is more financially prudent for the schools and more popular for the fans.
I suppose you could say I am more than disappointed that the “Border Wars” have been retired, perhaps permanently.