Surely, it is passion that makes a high school football rivalry special. It is the telling of stories, the random memory at a stop sign, the tradition passed from generation to generation that builds the rivalry. It is the emotional heights that burn into memory, and the emotional depths that make the heights all that much better.
But over the years, memories change. Some get exaggerated, some fade, some are forgot altogether. Passion can lose some of its zeal when distance gets greater, or time gets longer.
It is the numbers that are eternal. Except for the rare correction of wrongdoing (beware, Barry Bonds) a number doesn't change with the whim of exaggeration, or erode with the passage of time.
The 61st renewal of the high school football rivalry between Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket yielded some interesting numbers. Some, like the 48-6 final score for instance, were surely more interesting to one side than the other.
But just for fun, let's call in the chain gang for a measurement.
(2) Number of team flags planted near midfield in pre-game warm-ups.
(1) Number of Nantucket team flagpoles that snapped in half when a player attempted to plant it at midfield.
(700) Approximate number of burgers sold at the game.
(250) Approximate number of hot dogs sold at the game.
(10) Number of purple or white balloons that floated over the playing field in the first quarter.
(15) Number of times very loud cannon fired before, during, and after the game.
(157) Number of signs supporting Vineyarders on the Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road Saturday.
(1) Number of signs welcoming Nantucket fans
(6) Number of referees having breakfast at the Black Dog Tavern Saturday morning.
(5) Number of Nantucket fans observed attempting to bribe (in jest, we think) referees eating breakfast with free coffee, sweet talk, and very tight jeans.
(42) Largest margin of victory in the history of the rivalry.
(48) Most points scored by one team in the history of the rivalry.
(24) Number of senior players, cheerleaders, and managers honored before playing, cheerleading, or managing their final game at the Martha's Vineyard Regional High School.
(30) Number of football games won during the seniors' four years in high school.
(14) Number of football games lost during the seniors' four years in high school.
(36) Number of Martha's Vineyard players in uniform for the game.
(36) Number of Martha's Vineyard players who played in the game.
(4:33) Span of game time it took the Vineyarders to score four touchdowns in the second quarter.
(8) Number of people watching the kick off from atop Oak Bluffs Fire Department truck Rescue 1.
(35) Number of Martha's Vineyard vs. Nantucket football games won by Nantucket.
(23) Number of Martha's Vineyard vs. Nantucket football games won by Martha's Vineyard.
(2:53) Time left in the game when Nantucket scored its first (and only) points.
(1) Number of spectators injured trying to catch candy thrown by cheerleaders.
(3) Number of crutches on the Martha's Vineyard sidelines.
(2002) The last year Nantucket won the Island Cup
(64) Number of years (combined) that Vineyard head coach Donald Herman (20) and Nantucket head coach Vito Capizzo (44) have led their respective teams.
(6) Number of assistant coaches for Martha's Vineyard
(3) Number of assistant coaches for Nantucket
(7) Number of Nantucket turnovers (not counting failure to field a kickoff)
(100,000) Number of hugs, kisses, handshakes, backslaps, and other enthusiastic greetings upon renewing acquaintance with old friends. (This number is believed to be a reliable estimate, but could not be independently confirmed.) Sometimes, even numbers show passion.