By MIKE HUTCHENS
MURFREESBORO — One of the very things that has divided Obion County over the years brought rivals together for a common cause.
High school basketball.
Fans from Obion Central and Union City sat side-by-side for four days at The Murphy Center, cheering not only for their own teams, but also their bitter rivals, as the Lady Rebels and Tornado girls each tried to win state championships in their respective classifications.
And while neither succeeded in bringing home the ultimate prize, the sight of Red, White and Blue mixing and pulling together with Purple and Gold was indeed one for sore eyes.
Obion County has regularly turned friends into foes and neighbors into enemies because of loyalties to particular teams and/or schools — often with poor sportsmanship on both sides.
The county has been ultra-successful on the biggest of stages over the years, what with a combined seven state boys’ basketball championships (five for Union City, one each for Obion Central and South Fulton), and a football state title (Union City). There have also been three runnerup finishes in football (all UC), two in girls’ hoops (both OC) and a second-place baseball showing (Union City).
Unfortunately, that sports history has also become radically-competitive within Obion County’s own ranks, too, often taking the shine off what should be the best of times for whichever school is involved.
There was no such pettiness last week, though.
United as one body when either of the two teams played in this instance, local hoop faithful encouraged their respective team, yelled at the officials in unison and generally pulled together under one banner in a display of “One for All.”
Robert Orsborne, one of many in attendance who had loyalties to both OC and UC, had no problem championing both causes.
Orsborne graduated from Union City High School in 1964, but then taught 40 years in the Obion County School System. His wife, Ina, did him one year better, teaching 41 years in the county schools’ classrooms before also retiring.
Orsborne, who coached in the middle school ranks at Troy, has recently kept the scorebooks for both Obion Central teams — proudly sporting his Rebel colors in the process.
He admittedly had no trouble, though, donning the Purple and Gold of his alma mater and supporting the school where his granddaughter is currently a cheerleader. His spouse did the same.
“Everybody I’ve talked to and everybody I’ve seen has really been pulling for each other,” Orsborne said before Union City lost to Jackson County in the semifinals of the Class 1A tournament. “It’s a West Tennessee thing, I guess.We all were really hoping Lake County (a first-round overtime loser to Summertown) would win, too.”
Orsborne says he thinks (and hopes) the actions and attitudes of some that have threatened to take good-natured competition and turn it into unruly and ugly behavior have become fewer and farther between in recent years.
“It’s still a rivalry, and that’s a good thing, but I don’t think there’s nearly as much bad that goes on now,” he said. “I know some people take it serious, probably too serious.
“But the kids, though, they all know each other and they associate with each other. Most of them are friends. I think they see the lighter side of it all and maybe some adults could still learn from that.”
And in the spirit of the occasion, Orsborne hedged slightly when asked where his true allegiance was, then grinned and offered up the new-found ‘one-team’ loyal battle cry:
“I want them both to win.”
Maybe, despite the final scores, both did.
Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published in The Messenger 3.12.12