The first showdown over ring-around-the-rosy in the schoolyard was just the beginning. I guess it all started because Laura was willing to stand up to Nellie and her controlling nature. If fighting with Nellie was a school subject, Laura would have aced every test. They had their share of experiences to fuel the rivalry—Jason and the talking machine, Bunny and the fake paralysis, and of course making cinnamon chicken and the mud fight.
What makes for a good rival? In basketball, it usually means that both teams have a shot at winning and you never know who will come out on top. There’s also the element of longevity, a rivalry is built on years of competition. By the time of the mud fight, Laura and Nellie had clearly established themselves as rivals.
For a television series, rivalry is the recipe for success. The competition adds drama to every episode as we watch the dialogue unfold. The good girls want Laura to win and the spicy ladies are rooting for Nellie and her evil grin. The over-exaggerated Nellie reminds us of the girl in our worst nightmares. It’s unbelievable, and that makes it extremely funny.
It seems that Laura is constantly losing the battle. She’s the one getting caught, disciplined by her parents, and forced to apologize… or guilted into doing weeks of Nellie’s homework. But she’s also growing in character and compassion—even for Nellie. Laura doesn’t wish death on Nellie, just embarrassment and a ride down the hill in her wheelchair!
When I was playing high school volleyball, we had a huge rival—The Bearcats—who lived just a few towns away. The matches were intense and it always came down to the fifth deciding game. Our school mascot, The Greyhounds, chanted the famous cheer “Who Let the Dogs Out”, but honestly sometimes the cats sent us home with our tails between our legs. Other times we chased those cats up a tree, standing as proud victors!
The last game of my senior year against the Bearcats is still as fresh as can be. There was this one girl on the other team—a stud. I always dreamed of hitting a ball down the line and taking her out… not with the intention of doing any real harm, just to make myself feel better. Stronger. And maybe a superior volleyball player. Which I clearly wasn’t.
Pride does that to us, doesn’t it? At times, we want to win so that others lose. It’s not about us doing our best, but about outperforming someone else. And it doesn’t just happen on a court or field, sometimes it happens in our homes with our families or in the places we work.
Sadly, there have been seasons when my husband was my biggest rival, like me tackling him in the mud. Or times with my son Tobey, when I’m fed up with his video games and I start criticizing. If I stop and really think, it isn’t how I want to live. I want my life to be known for the way I love those around me.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
1 Corinthians 13:4
I love the episode in season nine when Nellie comes home for a visit. “The Return of Nellie” is this beautiful expression of how Laura and Nellie are no longer trying to outdo each other. Their visit is filled with hugs and laughter about the fights of the past. The arguments don’t seem as important as they used to be.
Do you have a rival in your life right now or maybe from the past? How can you put your pride aside and live love? What if we simply worked hard at being the best we could be, celebrating when others do the same?
Stay tuned for next week’s rival… Caroline and Harriet!