Written by Shanna Kelly
That’s all right, that’s okay, you’re gonna work for me someday!” Phrases like this have been chanted at sports games for years, but while the chants are not new, the image for this concept has drastically changed into a growing social media phenomenon. Colleges and even high schools have taken social class differences to a new level by “dressing to impress” in name-brand clothing and in some cases, waving dollar bills in the air during sports competitions. This trend has stretched from schools in Kingston, MA, to Yorba Linda, CA. And, yes, even to our hometown of Westfield.
On Sept. 19, WHS held a “Rich Out” at the varsity football game against SPF. As students arrived in Vineyard Vines, Patagonia and Jack Rogers apparel, many ethical questions were raised. For starters, was this taking the rivalry too far and proving us to be the stuck-up rich kids that SPF students claim us to be? Or was this just a good laugh?
I myself participated in the “Rich Out,” but after seriously contemplating all of the perspectives, I have realized that there are a myriad of red flags that coincide with this apparel decision. It is one thing to be competitive and an entirely different thing to be disrespectful. Part of our student section found it humorous, but the “Rich Out” theme may have an unsportsmanlike connotation that leaves SPF offended beyond WHS’ original intentions.
Because both sports programs are extremely successful, WHS has historically centered its rivalry language on class differences rather than on the game itself. Chants have included the claim that SPF needs welfare which, while rude and inaccurate, is a claim that has always been part of the rivalry as we know it. According to city-data.com, the annual household income during 2013 in Westfield was $125,140, in Fanwood it was $120,072, and in Scotch Plains it was $95,244. When it comes down to it, $5,000 or even $30,000 is not much of a difference in average incomes. This decreases the validity of the claim in sporting events that SPF is poor, leaving WHS’ chants confusing and problematic.
That said, as a competitive soccer player, I am aware that rivalries are essential to all sports; they give the athletes a sense that they are doing something important and provide a connection between people on and off the field. School rivalries thrive on school spirit, but ours only seems to make an appearance when the sporting event is against SPF. The statistics above show that the two schools are not only equal or close to equal on the field, but off the field as well. It appears that we are just trying to find a way to have school spirit in any form. The fact that so many participated in the “Rich Out” reflects the school’s desire for a real sense of unity.
Class hierarchy has always been present in sports and in this local rivalry, but the questionable Wolf of Wall Street dress code has added a new element to the scene. The turnout on the Scotch Plains Rivalry Day proved that we are better than any “Raider Nation”; we are one school and one community who will compete until the very last whistle. The question that remains is whether the “Rich Out” was an appropriate, humorous and accurate representation of our WHS community. Let us know your opinion with written or video letters to the editor. You can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.