Blake vs. SPA: a history of wrecking the anatomy of St. Paul Academy

Alex Feldman '13, Staff Writer

The best part of a sports season is not the hype, the fans, or even the recognition. It’s the rivalry, the competition between the “good team”, and the particularly dislikable team from the other part of town. Rivalry games are not always pretty, but they are hard-fought games where previous win-loss records do not matter and expectations are set-aside for a few hours.

On October 7, the Blake football team took on the Saint Paul Academy Spartans on the 100th anniversary of the original game played on November 3, 1911. Blake defeated the Spartans by a score of 49-8 in a game that was described by the St. Paul Pioneer Press as a “Pound[ing]”. Thursday night marked a triumph in a football season that has been fraught with tough losses and missed opportunities.

But when the game began, nothing, not even the brown, 1950’s throwback jerseys, mattered as much as winning the game. With a win, the Bears improved to 57-23-6 all-time against SPA. The record stands as such due to the dissolving of the original Minnesota Independent School league, which made scheduling games between Blake and SPA difficult.

However, Blake’s football rivalry with SPA is more than the number of victories and losses. The game started after Blake head of school Charles Bertram Newton sent a letter to the head of SPA asking to start up a game for Blake’s “second team which is perfectly useless (I can’t imagine a much worse aggregation of players), the boys averaging about ninety to one-hundred pounds and ranging form thirteen to fifteen years of age.” It is rumored that during the inaugural game, the teams decided to let the winner of the game choose their school colors, since both teams had similarly colored jerseys.

Though Blake won the 1911 matchup 8-0, SPA ended up with the desired blue and yellow colors. Molly Dunning surmises that, “Blake allowed SPA to keep their colors as consolation. After all, it would have been the gentlemanly thing to do since SPA, established in 1900, was also seven years Blake’s senior.”

It’s nice to know that some things never change. A century ago, SPA was regarded as “that other boys’ school across the river”. This aversion to Saint Paul Academy has been carried in the 21st century by players such as Jamie Carter ’12, who stated, “There are not too many teams I dislike more than Breck, but SPA comes pretty close”.

Perennial dislike of SPA’s football team truly shows that every game in this heated series matters. If you lose, you won’t just hear about if for one year. You may hear about it for decades.

When all is said and done, rivalries such as SPA are bigger than the players that participate in the athletic conference because they bring out the best in everyone involved. This is obvious in the context of the night of October 7th.

The bears were finally able to maximize performance on both sides of the ball and play for the entire game. The hundredth anniversary game brought out the qualities in the bears that make rivalry games the best kind of athletic contests out there.