U.S. leaders could learn a thing or two from Idaho high school rivals

Posted April 12, 2016

Rivalries often bring out the worst in people, a notion that has not gone unremarked in this — or perhaps any previous — drawn-out presidential campaign, starting with the winnowing of the field to decide each party's candidate.

One of the recent low points in what has been a pretty classless battle for the Republican nomination came recently when Donald Trump used photos to compare the physical beauty of his wife to closest rival Ted Cruz's wife, an action Trump now admits was a mistake.

It's not, according to historians, even close to being the meanest or lowest that presidential wannabes have sunk. Several historians say that honor belongs to the slingfest staged by Andrew Jackson and John Quincy Adams for the election of 1828. And yeah, that involved the reputation of one of the candidate's wives, too. Adams' camp suggested that Jackson's wife, who'd been married before, was not divorced yet when Rachel and Andrew Jackson married. A hint of bigamy back then was not something anyone took lightly and that wasn't even close to being the only nasty volley lobbed by both sides during that campaign.

Since I wasn't around for it, I can't guess how I'd have responded to the slings and arrows of that day's race. But the rivalries I've seen building politically during my lifetime — and particularly the partisan battles of the last few years — have left me both exhausted and angered. I believe that a Congress controlled by either side might actually block funding for a proven cure for cancer, if it originated with the other party. Substance or benefit doesn't seem to matter as much as which side can claim victory. And it's both exhausting and disheartening.

Recently, news stories about a high school sports rivalry have me thinking about the pointlessness of such die-hard political hatefulness, dished out by both Democrats and Republicans. They fight each other and, as the race heats up for the nomination, they fight within their own parties, too.

Kuna High School and Bishop Kelly High School, both schools in Ada County, which includes Boise, Idaho, could offer lessons in setting aside hard-fought rivalries in favor of humanity, decency and sportsmanship. Their two communities should be extremely proud.

A friend recently told me about it, so I went looking for stories. Three years ago, a Kuna High School football player, Boone Bartholome, suffered a spinal injury during a game between the two schools. He was temporarily paralyzed by spinal cord bruising, according to a recap by Idahopress.com.

Action on the field stopped as players prayed for him and in the days that followed, the Bishop Kelly community helped raise money for him, too.

Recently, that show of humanity has come full circle with the announcement that a Bishop Kelly coach has a form of bone cancer called acute myeloid leukemia. As teacher and coach Derek McCormick undergoes treatment, Kuna High School has launched the "McCormick Strong" campaign to raise at least $5,000 to help with the costs of McCormick's chemotherapy.

When the two meet on the field of play, neither team's going to lose sight of the goal to win. Nor should our political leaders lose sight of their different ideologies about how best to craft policy and serve their national constituencies.

But there's a real parallel between these high school athletes and America's supposedly grown-up political players. The kids seem to remember that everyone involved is human and that it's possible to have friendships, cooperate and be respectful, even while they're trying to reach a goal.

Our politicians ought to consider that, sometimes, that's the very definition of a win.

Email: lois@deseretnews.com, Twitter: Loisco


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