Every sports team in the world has that one game.
The one circled on the calendar that players, coaches and fans know the team must win. The event that compels fans to scream at the top of their lungs and relish in the despair of supporters of the other team.
Rivalries are one of the greatest things in sports. They bond people in their mutual disdain for the other team, and they often spawn traditions that transcend the sport itself.
The spirit of a rivalry is perhaps the strongest on the collegiate level, where often the game becomes a way for an entire student body to feel superior to a competing school.
I spent the better part of a week researching, reading and interviewing people about the annual meeting between the men’s basketball programs at Montreat and Warren Wilson.
As a community that is home to more than its fair share of passionate sports fans, the Swannanoa Valley is fortunate to contain a pair of colleges with established sports programs. And the community appeared to be keenly aware of this in the mid 1970s when the Rotary Club sponsored the Little Brown Jug game between the Owls and the Cavaliers.
What followed was a 17-year tradition that old copies of The Black Mountain News reveal to be one of the truly special winter gatherings in the Valley’s rich history.
I imagine that the annual meeting at the former Owen High School brought old friends together in a warm place on a cold night.
Distant relative had the opportunity to catch up about the holiday season that had just passed, and co-workers shook hands as they filed into the gym to see the two schools square off.
And everyone was getting together to support a scholarship that enabled Valley students to attend college in the Valley.
I was enchanted with the idea that the Owls and Cavaliers would play what the record indicates was an intense game every year and that the winner would hoist this miniature whiskey jug filled with “Genuine Swannanoa Branch Water.”
My time researching the game led me to wonder if a return of this tradition would be a great thing for the Valley.
And after attending the first of two games this season between the Owls and Cavaliers, I no longer had to wonder.
Returning the tradition of the Little Brown Jug would be just the beginning. I believe that there are enough passionate sports fans who would enjoy the yearly thriller to break the monotony of a cold, gray winter.
Let’s bring this tradition back.