I remember eighth grade relatively fondly. I had a good group of friends at school and was settling in on an academic path that would ultimately prove very beneficial to me. I didn’t have a future playing sports, so I (as a total nerd) shifted my extracurricular focus from football and basketball to debate and pep band, focusing instead on things that would help me get into a good college. That kind of thinking was par for the course at a prep school like mine, The McCallie School in Chattanooga.
Another belief that was instilled in me pretty quickly when I reached the McCallie campus as a seventh grader was a passion for McCallie football, and subsequently, a thorough and completely irrational hatred for That School Across The River, known secondarily as Baylor.
The 75th game between the Blue Tornado and the hated rival Raiders will be played tonight, although the series started in 1905, McCallie’s first year of existence. The game was put on hiatus for nearly 30 years (between 1941 and 1970), but it has since served as Chattanooga’s preeminent high school sports rivalry. When held at UTC’s Finley Stadium, the game can draw a crowd upward of 12,000, which is more than the capacity of both schools’ home stadiums combined. For both McCallie and Baylor alumni (especially locals like me), it couldn’t be more clear that this annual event is the only football game that really matters.
Baylor leads the overall series 37-34-3, although the folks who wear red fail to acknowledge two of the defeats because they occurred before Baylor “recognized” varsity sports in 1908, whatever that means. From my reality-based perspective, McCallie is three victories away from tying the series.
The Blue Tornado may only need three years to do so if the current streak holds: a ten-game win streak that started when I was a freshman there. McCallie is 11-2 since I started there in 1996, with the only losses coming during my aforementioned 8th grade year (once in the regular season and once in the playoffs). That was a good year for me and for my future, but it would have been a little better with a McCallie football win over Baylor. It’s always better that way.
Tonight is the night to start a second decade of Baylor football futility and make the parents of smart fifth-graders around the ciy reconsider their decision between a school by a river and a school by a ridge.