November 23, 2006

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Nashua Publisher's Note: I miss the BG slaughter
By†Jeff Rapsis

Itís Thanksgiving, time for all good Nashua residents, or at least those who went to high school here, to attend the annual Turkey Day football game, renew old acquaintances, and remind yourself why youíre so glad high school is over.

But I have to say, since the city built two high schools, itís not the same without Bishop Guertin to kick around anymore.

To me, there was always something compelling in the annual clash between teams that were so spectacularly mismatched. With its ďDavid and GoliathĒ aura, it was almost Biblical, with lessons in it for everyone.

On one side, you had Nashua High, which year after year fielded a powerhouse state-championship-winning squad. And then there was Bishop Guertin, a relatively small Catholic school that at the time didnít even have its own cheerleaders. (They had to import them from Mount St. Mary, the all-girls school in the cityís north end.)

During high school, I got close-up views of the action thanks to my status as sousaphone player in the Nashua High School Royal Purple Panther Marching Band, which attended all the games and played the deathless ďOur DirectorĒ march every time our team scored a touchdown.

I didnít care one whit about football, but the Thanksgiving Day game was always such a big deal it was hard not to get caught up in the excitement. It helped that by late November, it was often so cold that my fellow brass players would keep their valves loose with peppermint schnapps and other stronger stuff that no one could quite identify.

Out on the field would come the Bishop Guertin squad, ready to face another 56-0 humiliation, at which point we were urged to be polite and show our good sportsmanship. Donít use words like slaughter, we were told.

Fat chance! We jeered the hopeless enemy like the Romans must have jeered the Christians, at least before they changed their minds about all that. Waiting to play Our Director for the 12th time in a row that morning, I didnít learn a thing about football, but I sure learned a lot about mob psychology.

And on the years when BG actually gave the Panthers a run for their money, a whole new set of lessons came into playólessons about humility and overconfidence and the mistake of underestimating your opposition. The annual slaughter was such a ritual, when it didnít take place, the effect was doubly shocking.

All of this added up to high drama every year the teams locked horns on the field at Holman Stadium. The fact that the stands had no seats (at least they lived up to their names at the time) was all part of the fun.

Now we have two relatively equal squads bashing it out at Stellos Stadium, with the outcome always uncertain. And whatís the fun in that?