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I.C. MURRELL — Rivalries reveal who we are

Somewhere in the sanctuary of First Baptist Church of Nederland, Monte Barrow took it all in.

The friendships, unity and music filled the air of a special worship service. It was an evening of peace for the longtime Nederland resident, who quarterbacked his high school football team many nights at nearby Bulldog Stadium in the 1980s and has ascended to the role of head football coach at his alma mater.

Like many other weeks in the fall, game week was about to begin for Barrow — and Port Neches-Groves coach Brandon Faircloth. But this week isn’t like many others.

In Nederland, Port Neches and Groves, an air of Madness abounds when the Bum Phillips Bowl nears. If it were not for a capital “M,” madness would be hard to tell from a worship service that brought PNG and Nederland fans together.

For all the trash-talking a rivalry can bring — even among pastors — never in the three Bum Phillips Bowls I personally witnessed have the Bulldogs or Indians so much as got into a scuffle between the lines. Aside from a rocketing red flare from the PNG student section to the Nederland sideline two years ago, pranks hardly come to light.

That’s a sign of values shared by three towns that share two school communities. It also shows the values we hold dear in Mid- and South County: faith first, family second, football third.

To paraphrase Barrow, football has been known to unite and divide homes, if only for one week of great fun, of course. He himself is married to a former PNG cheerleader.

Instead of trading barbs during warmups, locking arms and walking across an opponents’ 50-yard line logo, or — heaven forbid — poisoning an oak tree at a rival campus, Bulldog faithful and Indian nation partake in a spirit for school and community. The hours spent overnight trying to secure the last few tickets for a game that draws upward of 12,000 fans are all worth it.

But that one peaceful Sunday night in the middle of town, a higher spirit was felt. The camaraderie in that service and coming-and-going through a crisp, cool evening — football weather, that is — were enough to turn green leaves into different shades of color and ring in a holiday season.

Mid-County Madness has set a high standard for spirit within a rivalry from which Hatfields and McCoys could learn. Conflict that’s only settled within the lines is a much more pleasant affair than conflict that draws battle lines.

I.C. Murrell is the editor of The Port Arthur News. He can be reached at ic.murrell@panews.com.

About I.C. Murrell

I.C. Murrell was promoted to editor of The News, effective Oct. 14, 2019. He previously served as sports editor since August 2015 and has won or shared eight first-place awards from state newspaper associations and corporations. He was born in Memphis, Tennessee, grew up mostly in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Arkansas at Monticello.

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