Are you ready for a war? I sure am

I have a feeling this is going to be a good week.

Columbus East and Columbus North are facing off in girls and boys basketball Thursday and Friday, and it’ll be my first real taste of The Rivalry.

Besides being new, I’m also curious. So I started asking around at basketball practice to understand what all the fuss is about, which has gotten me nowhere.

Brandishing a digital recording device seems to inhibit local athletes from saying what they’re really thinking, so I’ll just have to witness it myself to understand.

Although there was far too much diplomacy for my taste last week, anticipation does seem to be building as game days approach.

North’s Imani Guy said she is looking forward to playing East on her birthday.

East’s Alex Galle said he is happy to get the rivalry game at home during his senior season, while sophomore teammate Max Nolting is looking forward to his first East-North showdown as a varsity player.

“I’ve been watching it ever since I was little, and I’ve always wanted to be out there,” Nolting said.

Now he can. Cross one off the bucket list.

While just about every high school in America has a rival, not every school gym can seat a few thousand people. I’ve experienced some electric environments through the years at high school games, but I’m getting the feeling that they all might be trumped by what I see when the Bull Dogs and Olympians clash this week.

First of all, it’s Indiana basketball. Secondly, for all of the polite explanations of the rivalry that I received from the players, my travels around town lead me to believe that the competition will be fierce.

I’ve received emails from fans of both teams saying that they hope I don’t continue the history of slanted coverage favoring whichever of the two schools they’re not rooting for. I appreciate how much everyone in this city cares. You’re supposed to. While in high school myself, I wanted nothing to do with our top rival, in sports or in real life.

That’s the intensity I’m looking forward to seeing this week — that little extra edge that players and fans develop when it comes time to play your biggest rival.

I certainly don’t want Thursday or Friday evening to end with a player climbing onto the other team’s bus afterward looking for a fight, which I’ve seen happen more than once. But it’s fun to see two teams get as close as they can to that line without actually crossing it.

“We all know each other, so there’s that competitive edge to that,” North senior Paige Littrell said. “I mean, I wouldn’t say we’re all friends, but we like playing against each other. Just that competitiveness, with all the fans and everything, it’s just fun.”

I’m hoping that getting to cover it my first year will be just as enjoyable. I just need to remember to wear black or green, or anything but blue or orange.

Thursday can’t get here fast enough.

Ryan O’Leary is the sports editor for The Republic. He can be reached at roleary@therepublic.com.