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East Lyme-Waterford hits all the right notes, as usual, despite the horn blowers

East Lyme — This was Thursday night on the turfed lawn of Dick North Field, another in the allegory that is East Lyme vs. Waterford, another occasion to experience our best high school rivalry in this corner of the world get better with each rendition.

This time: lacrosse. The league championship game, tied by eight-time defending champion East Lyme as the fourth quarter clock expired and later won by Waterford in overtime on the eighth — yes, eighth — goal of the night from senior Caleb Holdridge.

OK, so maybe some readers around here have grown weary of the East Lyme-Waterford thing. Hard to ignore, though, the theater of the games they play in so many different sports. Maybe they could try chess next time just to see if that would go to overtime, too.

It’s one thing to fill gyms and bleachers and watch the unwritten script. It’s another to do it the right way. And this is where East Lyme and Waterford are transcendent.

There’s no denying they can’t stand each other. And yet rather than taking contempt beyond reasonable boundaries, there’s an underlying respect between the two schools that hearkens Bill Parcells’ great line once uttered to Phil Simms.

As they walked on the field to boos and catcalls one day at RFK Stadium in Washington, Parcells said, “Simms, they hate us here so much … they like us.” Translation: things are more fun with you guys around, even though we want to beat the stuffing out of you.

And so the championship game was over a good 10 minutes Thursday night, most of the dramatis personae still on the field, when two inspiring — and impromptu — acts of sportsmanship underscored the respect that’s tethered to the rivalry.

This was well after the superficial handshake line, where players and coaches — eye contact optional — walked past each other, mumbled “good game” and thus fulfilled their sportsmanship obligations with all the sincerity of Eddie Haskell.

East Lyme coach Gary Wight, bitterly disappointed over the outcome, found Holdridge somewhere in the middle of the jubilant Lancers and shook his hand. Looked him in the eye. They exchanged a few friendly words and went on their way.

Not long after, Waterford coach Scott Hicks saw East Lyme senior James McCoy walking dejectedly off the field. McCoy, ever gentlemanly, is a terrific player headed to the University of Hartford. Hicks approached him and shook his hand. Looked him in the eye. They exchanged a few friendly words and went on their way.

It echoed Knute Rockne’s timeless line: “One man practicing sportsmanship is better than 100 teaching it.” Indeed. Sportsmanlike behavior, especially here in the roaring 2000s, is an endangered species. It’s even harder to practice after a dramatic game between two blood rivals. Wight, Hicks, McCoy and Holdridge clearly get it.

Not everyone did, sadly. In the parking lot after the game after the Waterford kids boarded the bus, a Waterford parent, whose car was parked a few feet from the bus, began leaning on the horn of her car incessantly. Not one or two celebratory beeps. But prolonged and loud, maybe 25 times. Unnecessary and insufferable. Even some of the Waterford people, realizing they were in East Lyme’s parking lot, got annoyed. They knew how it looked.

This detail is provided to again underscore that no, not everybody gets it. Sports bring out Lincoln’s better angels of our nature in scarce intervals, frequently hijacked by the horn blowers of the world who we can only pray aren’t teaching their children the same behavior.

Alas, this is about the good that happened Thursday night. The school year is about to end, meaning that East Lyme vs. Waterford will have to wait for the fall. But they sure gave us a good show Thursday, as they have for the past few years in many sports. They hit all the right notes after the game, too, providing us a light for our way, even for all the horn blowers out there.

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.





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