Respect within rivalries

Just as I walked into Palmer Auditorium at the University of Montevallo for last year’s College Night, the Purple and Gold cheerleading squads were facing off.

Unlike football or basketball, where each team’s cheerleaders eye the opposing squad from a distance, these Purple and Gold cheerleaders were shouting at each other from a distance of about three feet at a decibel level somewhere between “Manhattan jackhammer” and “space shuttle launch.”

One of my staff members observed that it might be the physical closeness that allowed for all the competitive energy. This observation caused me to wonder whether College Night might be one of the finest examples of civil discourse in the world today.

Perhaps our students have learned the magical art of competing within a spirit of love and mutual respect.

Every year in early February at Montevallo, this magical combination of rivalry and respect plays out over the course of Homecoming in a variety of ways. Purple and Gold alumni playfully tease each other, yet each can recount times when the opposing side probably had the better program.

Ribbons find their way around trees all over the Main Quad, and somehow the quantity of purple and gold seems to balance. If one tree has a bit more Purple, the next one has a bit more Gold.

The Purple themes stress family and unity. “Our circle shall not be broken!” The Gold themes stress inclusivity and outreach. “Why is there a hole in our circle? Because there’s always room for one more Gold!”

I believe the world is even hungrier today for these themes of Purple and Gold than when UM was founded in 1896.

Our students have mastered the art of disagreeing without being disagreeable. If only our nation’s leaders could master that same art.