Rivalries are meant to inspire pride of one's own school, club, organization, or whatever. While some rivalries also involve good-natured (and sometimes not-so-good-natured) ribbing, vandalizing the opposition's property with spray paint absolutely the wrong way to go about it.

I come from a family that has ties to both Mater Dei and Reitz. My Mom and her brother graduated from Mater Dei while my Dad and several of his brothers and sisters (he's one of 12 kids) attended, and graduated from, Reitz. When the time came for my brother, sister, and I to attend high school, Mom won out (although I don't think Dad put up much resistance) and we all three went on to become Wildcats.

From that moment on, it was all about the Red and Gold, and anything with a Blue and Grey color scheme was not allowed.

20 years ago this past May, I walked out the doors of Mater Dei as a student for the final time, but my pride in the Red and Gold has remained. To this day, and I presume for the rest of my life, I'll always pull for the Wildcats to achieve greatness in whatever athletics, academics, or community services the student body is involved in.

What I can't, and won't, take any amount of pride in is the actions of a few "bad seeds", "misguided youths", or whatever you want to call the individuals responsible for taking what should be a friendly, albeit fierce, rivalry between the two schools to an unacceptable level.

If you're not familiar with what recently took place on the Reitz campus in the wake of Mater Dei's victory over the Panthers in their annual football rivalry game, I'll let the following pictures do the talking.





(To see the full gallery of photos, click here. However, please know some photos contain graphic language)

This is no doubt some sort of retaliation for the statue of the Virgin Mary on Mater Dei's campus being spray painted blue in advance of the game last week, which was uncalled for in my opinion as well.

If you look at those pictures and think, "Oh, it's just kids being kids," you don't get it.

Kids being kids is throwing rolls of toilet paper through tree limbs (something I did several times in my teenage years), or spraying shaving cream on the ground or on windows. Pranks that only cost the victim the time it takes to clean them up.

What took place on the campuses of both these schools is straight up vandalism by individuals that should be punished by the full extent of what the judicial system allows.

According to an e-mail exchange I had with Evansville Police Chief Billy Bolin, that punishment depends on the amount of damage caused. Damages of under $750 is a Class B Misdemeanor while anything over $750, but lest than $50,000 is a Class A Misdemeanor. Chief Bolin says a Class B is punishable by up to 180 days in jail and $1,000 in fines, while a Class A is punishable by up to 1 year in jail and $5,000 in fines.

Before you ask, "What's the difference between spray painting and toilet papering? Aren't both forms of vandalism?" By definition, I would say, "No." According to the online edition of the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the word Vandalism is defined as the following,

willful or malicious destruction or defacement of public or private property.

To my knowledge, throwing toilet paper in trees doesn't destroy or deface someone's property. I'm sure if you wanted to push the issue hard enough, you could make a convincing argument that it does "deface" property, but that property returns to normal after a good rain. Spray paint removal requires sandblasting, or somehow altering the original facade to cover the damage.

What troubles me the most about this is that a few people got together, concocted this plan, and decided that it was a good idea. I never took part in this annual tradition during my time at Mater Dei, but I do recall the Virgin Mary being Tee-Peed a time or two which only required the janitor, or whomever, an hour of their time to clean up.

The only way this stops is if those responsible are held accountable for their actions, even if that means criminal charges need to be filed. Harsh? Perhaps. But, it will send a strong message to any others who think they can do the same thing and get away with it.

I'm all for a fierce rivalry, and I'll always pull for the Wildcats, but the actions of a few are unfairly casting a shadow on those who want to celebrate the rivalry for what it is; two top-notch schools with rich traditions and great athletic programs who rank as some of the best in the state that just so happen to sit less than two miles apart on the same side of town.

I'm confident there are proud Panthers supporters that feel the same way.

If you have any information regarding the identity's of the individuals responsible for either act of vandalism, contact the Vanderburgh County Prosecutor's WeTip Hotline anonymously at 1-800-78-CRIME.

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