School Spirit: Not Just Lip-Service

In my efforts to lick my wounds, I offer you all a challenge: offset the mad-man ramblings of one Dale Earnhardt when he quipped “second place is first place loser.” Have we raised our standards so high that we can’t even see the feet we’re standing on anymore? Seriously. I’ve often spouted about how I’m blessed to teach at Faith Lutheran…but make no mistake, it can sometimes be a “everybody gets a gold star” type of place. That’s not the real world. That’s not how life really is. Take it from an actor who met more closed doors that open when making a living in Chicago. You gotta have a tough skin, because sometimes life doesn’t happen to fall into place the way you expect it to.

Last night at the annual Faith Lutheran Homecoming Lip Sync event…the Senior class was defeated by the Junior class. (I was the adviser of the Senior class, along with my dear friends Chris and Christian.) Some say that the results of the judging were unjust! Some were outraged! Some wallflower seniors shed tears! One student threw a roll of toilet paper. We all deal with anger differently, I guess. I went to the drive-thru of McDonalds and inhaled two cherry pies in record time.

Allow me to explain what a Lip Sync is, first. Every Homecoming has a theme. This year’s was “VEGAS.” Every Homecoming event circulating this theme had to do with an individual Vegas casinos. The Lip Sync competition is one that pits classes against each other in spirited rivalry as they cut a four-minute music mix based on the given theme, and perform a costumed performance to the music, while attempting to lip sync to the vocals, as an ensemble. The theme for the Lip Sync event was HARD ROCK CAFE, and the seniors were given Queen, Journey and Rolling Stones as their music selections. The Lip Sync is truly one of the most attended and fun events we have on campus. (Even the teachers perform in a faculty skit. It gets really silly!) I’ve always loved it because it demands the students to work as an ensemble and draw on each others’ creative spirits.

Ours was REALLY cool too! The story followed a group of seniors from the hall (with various crazy hall passes) to the bathroom where there was a party going on. (Stall 54!) The Asst. Principal bursts in a gives everyone lunch detentions. While at lunch we meet some rather colorful lunch ladies, some boot-scooting girls and some Harlem shuffling boys. After the boys fall in love with the lunch ladies…the Principal comes in and issues a Saturday detention, enforced by the Saturday detention campus police (on bicycles…including a tiny clown bike.) The students are disgruntled…but in the end one brave student says “hey, guys…let’s get past all this…after all ‘We Are the Champions.’” Cue music. Everyone ends up very happy and unified…and we take a class picture. It was a very fun 4 minutes.

I’ve always thought that competition is a good thing. I don’t coach any sport, but the second we begin doing contests “just for fun” is the day Rome falls. I can’t imagine any red-blooded 4A school in the country suiting up for a friendly game of ball where they didn’t keep score. Wouldn’t happen. So, in this case, the Lip Sync is judged. I would say the vast majority of the time, the Seniors win…simply because this is their last hurrah! They usually pull out all stops and generate a lively, energetic and touching offering. Something they can be proud of. This year was no different and I was proud to be an adviser.

With that said…I find myself a bit disheartened today. Like every heated competition, there must be a winner. When that winner is announced, surely there will be a group of people who are upset by this. Well, the dust settled…my group of seniors were defeated (and by a bunch of Juniors! The audacity!)…and I found myself facing a handful of faithful lip stinkers who have taken the defeat very personally and are steadfast in their theories that the school is “out to get them” or “hates the senior class.” One student even punched a hole in our foam board restroom stall that we made. (Ironically, he was the one that the toilet paper as well. Restroom rage?)

Please allow me to put forth my perspective: I think the senior class worked a lot of hours perfecting dance moves, pulling together creative ideas, making costumes/props, and including people from all four corners of the class dynamic into every faction of the offering. It was inspiring. Were there those that rolled their eyes? Yes. Were there those who didn’t care as much? Sure. But overall…I’d say that the class represented themselves very well. I was there from day one…I saw how this coming-together of minds morphed from a puddle of goo into a full-fledged production. I saw people struggle and sweat. I saw the spirit.

Now, did the winning team struggle? Did they overcome trials and tribulations? Did they inject even half as much spirit into their offering? Who knows! I certainly don’t. I hear grumblings just like everyone else…but I can imagine that they had their share of trials as well. And I’m sure everyone can agree that everyone wants to win. But, here’s the thing…(and I’m sure some seniors have personal, or big picture gripes about what they are experiencing this year versus what is deserved)…there is no perfect system. Like every audition I conduct…I am to be trusted to make a decision that will affect a bigger picture. Those judges were picked by student council and it’s up to them to issue the final decision. If the seniors would have won…we’d be facing the same uphill climb with the Juniors. They’d be mad….etc. Now, one might argue that because last year the Junior (now Seniors) under my direction again (sheesh! I’m cursed!) came in second place….and we had a REALLY cool offering. But we’re not talking about last year…we’re focusing on this year, and the stuffy Gym atmosphere, and the new judges, and the alpha and omega stars which were aligned and the fifty-thousand other things that made this particular lip sync unique.

Now, before all the seniors who read this hit the Stumble Upon button, grumbling madly…I would encourage you to think about this…school spirit is what YOU make of it. It’s not a magic power…it’s not something granted or earned….it’s not something someone is entitled to. It’s a mind-set.

If you took: kindness / optimistic / determination / courage / thoughtfulness / faith and Hawaiian Punch and made a crazed milkshake…maybe with a dash of Red Bull…that’s school spirit. It’s what you feel when your home team scores a touchdown. It’s what you feel when every member of your class puts their hand in the circle and you shout “TEAM!” together. It’s what you demonstrate when you high five someone who just did well, or comfort someone who feels sad. It’s a frame of mind that supports you and guides you and helps you make positive choices. I argue….it’s the influence of the Holy Spirit working through you.

School spirit is like Bigfoot. Do we really need proof that it exists? If everyone in the room agrees that it does…that’s enough. And that’s what’s FUN about it! (Frankly, that’s what’s fun about Bigfoot too!)

I’m sad for my senior students. I have the great fortune to look into their eyes and see good people. Even those buggers who are naughty…(you know who you are)…I stand behind them with my hand on their shoulder and I tell you, they are good people too. That’s the thing about Faith Lutheran, it’s a school that truly does care. It’s an imperfect place…and there is room to grow…but no one wants to be on the receiving end of a second place trophy. While I argue that this contest was in no way personal…and that my students can use this experience to help paint the color of the fabric of their character…I will say that it sucks to lose as a senior to the juniors. I tip my hat to them, as they did a fine job. But, I hope that the four-minutes of Lip Syncing isn’t what these students will take with them on their personal journeys after graduation. I hope it’s a bigger scope of experiences.

Did you know that Jack Nicklaus (some would say the greatest golfer of all time) came in second place 19 times, in 19 separate major golf championships?

Did you know that Star Wars (a film in a year that redefined cinema in nearly every regard, and was considered to be a shoe-in for Best Picture) lost the Best Picture Oscar to “Rocky?” (Gotta love the underdog irony there.)

Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears were both runners-up on Star Search before becoming world-wide music icons.

Al Gore (probably one of the most famous runner-ups ever) received more popular votes than any elected President ever….still lost to George W. Bush.

This is absolutely no consolation to the efforts demonstrated by the class of 2012. But, I would argue that while upsetting, it gives us all something to talk about today. (Even if it is commiserating.) And after all, isn’t that what spirit week during Homecoming is all about? A chance to come together? I mean…let’s say we win our football game this Friday. We’ll walk away…together….going “WE ROCK!” But, if we lose this Friday…hypothetically….then we should be able to walk away….together…going “DARN YOU BULLDOGS!” Here’s the thing…there’s a saying “that which does not kill us makes us stronger.” I’m not sure I LOVE the saying…but I am a huge fan of teaching students to have a thick skin.

Instead of adopting the “pick yourself up and dust yourself off” mentality…I suggest we think of things this way: If we’re all trying to be SCHOOL SPIRITED…even if we fall on our faces…we’re still moving forward….together.

The students are disgruntled…I understand that. But, I’m letting you all know…I feel strongly that we will all be able to champion through this situation. Seniors deserve a chance to shine! If it isn’t going to be as the winners of Lip Sync, then let it be as good sports.

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