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By Brad Spencer
Here's the Merriam-Webster definition of the word "rival": one or two or more striving to reach or obtain something that only one can possess.
Oak Park lacks a special rivalry, has for years. Its nonexistence is unfortunate, mind-boggling, and really just plain dumb. The egos, once bruised, once buoyant, have all evaporated. School administrators, athletic directors, coaches, have come and gone. No one's really sure why it went away in the first place. But it's time to bring it back, or at least start discussing the possibility of bringing it back in the very near future.
What is it? An OPRF vs. Fenwick football game, of course.
There's really no reason why such a game shouldn't be played. The two local schools go head-to-head in numerous other sports. Football on Friday night would draw plenty of fans and gate receipts, and provide plenty of spirit and energy to the community. Even non-high school football fans would likely be intrigued about attending such a game on the basis that it's a community event. Heck, Oak Park could even host a village festival around it.
The new football coaches at both schools — OPRF's John Hoerster and Fenwick's Gino Nudo — for sure wouldn't be averse to such a game. Coaches want to play anyone, anytime, anywhere. They want their teams put in pressure situations. They want intense, well-oiled, well-coached competition. For Hoerster and Nudo and the athletic directors at both schools, it's right in their backyards.
"At Fenwick we're always evaluating and assessing what's best for our athletes and students. To look into this possibility we'd have to collectively sit down and determine if it would be beneficial to everyone involved," said Fenwick Athletics Director Scott Thies when presented with the question whether Fenwick would be willing to renew such a rivalry. "But right now, it's not something that's been a topic of conversation."
You know what's also right in the backyard? A Division III college football stadium. A perfectly neutral site would be right down the street at Concordia University Chicago in River Forest. The best time to play such a game might be the season opener. This weekend, OPRF opens against Fenger, a CPS school with an enrollment of 767. Fenwick travels to Hales, a school of 246. Concordia doesn't open its season until Sept. 1.
Thies, a former football player at Fenwick whose team did not play OPRF, hinted that on a personal level he'd like to see such a game. Well, at least I think he hinted at it.
"I like for our kids to have a good athletic experience and if that was something that was right for the kids at the time, we would definitely look into something like that again."
So the doors haven't exactly been opened, but maybe there's been a knock. Maybe what we have here is one of two or more people striving to reach or obtain something that only one community can possess — a great rivalry.