It’s Schrödinger’s cat. Nobody going to a restaurant because it’s too crowded. Pretty much every major plot point in the 1985 American science-fiction adventure-comedy “Back to the Future.”
It’s a quandary that’s perplexing me.
If you’ve been paying any attention to the mats this winter, or even just skimming the sports section of your favorite newspaper, for that matter, then you probably know the paradox that I’ve been alluding to for going on three paragraphs now.
That is, of course, the human nature-defying ability that some athletes somehow have to go from good pals to cutthroat competitors in the blink of an eye and sound of a whistle.
Enter Indian River High School senior Zeke Marcozzi and Sussex Central High School senior Luke Hudson.
Both of them leading the way as captains this season for teams with state-title aspirations. Both of them leading the rankings as favorites for an individual state title at 182 pounds this February. Both of them as fierce a competitor as they come, wrestling for rivals schools separated only by a short stretch of highway.
Like Kobe and Shaq, Jeter and A-Rod, or, for some reason, Ronda Rousey and pretty much anyone, Marcozzi and Hudson could easily hate each other.
But they don’t.
Off the mats, they’re actually good pals. They’ve been wrestling together since the eighth grade at Selbyville Middle School, go to all the same summer tournaments, and even go toe-to-toe and help each other out in the wrestling room during the off-season.
Sometimes Marcozzi wins. Other times Hudson does.
After Hudson got the best of Marcozzi with a 6-4 overtime victory in the finals of the Battle at the Beach tournament this past December, Marcozzi returned the favor the very next week when he took down Hudson 5-3 in the finals of the Delcastle Invitational.
That two-point trend seems to be as wide a gap as you’ll see anytime the two heavyweights square up, which should happen quite a few more times, with the stakes continuing to rise as the season goes on.
“Before the match, we’re friends. During the match, we’re enemies,” Marcozzi said to put the rivalry in perspective. “Then, after the match, we’re friends again.”
Like I said — it’s a quandary that’s perplexing me.
But considering how often these types of rivalries go the other way — even, and especially, at the professional level — paradox or no, it’s definitely refreshing to see. There’s a lot to be said about an athlete or a coach being able to keep a cool head, shake hands and say “Good game” even after a loss (although, to be completely honest, it would be a total bummer if those Jim Mora “Playoffs?” freak-out Coors Light commercials didn’t exist).
Surprisingly, it turns out that Marcozzi and Hudson actually aren’t alone in what you could probably consider to be the greatest paradox in sports, whether it be in the pros or right here in our own back yard.
So, while you’re trying to remember how exactly you know that Schrödinger’s cat reference (it’s from psych class) or find that Jim Mora commercial (definitely worth a YouTube), here’s a couple other athletes that can apparently somehow flip the friend-or-foe switch at will, like Marcozzi and Hudson.
Peyton Manning and Tom Brady (football)
Without a doubt, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady will go down as two of the best quarterbacks of all time and, similar to Dan Marino and John Elway or Troy Aikman and Steve Young, will most likely remain in the same conversation when it comes to the NFL history books.
Of the 17 times the faced each other before Manning retired last season, Captain America had gotten the best of The Admiral in 11 of them, whether Manning was slinging leather ovals while rocking royal blue horseshoes or orange ones.
They’ve both won multiple Super Rings, broken multiple passing records, and earned a ton a frequent-flyer miles booking round trips for the Pro-Bowl when it was held in Hawaii. They’ve even thrown to a couple of the same receivers throughout their careers, with Wes Welker and Austin Collie seeing action on both sides of the trenches.
Off the field, and post-game handshake-wise, however, ego has never gotten in the way of what was once one of football’s greatest rivalries, despite the fact that Peyton is a direct blood-relative of Eli Manning, who — considering the two Super Bowls he’s spoiled for the Pats — to say the least, probably hasn’t exactly earned himself a very high ranking on the Brady speed-dial.
Steve Kilby and Pat Kilby (boys’ and girls’ soccer)
Even before coach Pat Kilby arrived at Cape Henlopen High School, while he was at Sussex Central, there were still plenty of jaw-wiring rivalry games between him and his father, Steve “The Gaffa” Kilby at Indian River.
In fact, with the two of them coaching both boys’ and girls’ soccer at their respective schools, the “Kilby Clash” can sometimes even go down three and four times a year, depending on who ends up in the Henlopen Conference title game.
Over the years, the battle between blood-related head coaches has often ended in blood on the field (the non-intentional kind, mostly), with plenty of Instant Classics, including the 2015 HAC Championship game, in which “Magic Mikie” Mochiam netted the game-winner for the Indians in overtime.
Then there’s poor Nanny Kilby, who has to figure out whether to root for her son or her grandson, after figuring out whether to call heads or tails during the game’s opening coin toss.
While the post-game handshake is usually more of a Bill Bellichick moment than a Kodak one, it always goes down with that kind of mutual respect that rival athletes and coaches usually have for one another, and even trickles down to their teams, as shown this past October, with the Cape JV team taking it upon themselves to see that IR senior Josh Timmons got a chance to score his second-ever goal.
McKenna Burke and Cailey Murphy (swimming)
With most of our local swim stars coming up treading water in the Sea Colony Sharks program, or just, like, the Atlantic, there are plenty of friendly rivalries among the Indian River High School and Sussex Academy swim teams.
One of the most fun to watch over the past few years, though, has to be the one between IR senior McKenna Burke and Sussex Academy sophomore Cailey Murphy.
Longtime friends? Sure. Longtime best friends, even. Former teammates on the Sharks? You bet. But when the whistle blows, it’s on, as two of the top swimmers for their respective squads take off in the 100-butterfly.
Last year, Burke rallied back to set a new personal record when she clocked less than two ticks ahead of Murphy for a first-place finish and to help lead the Indians to the win. This year, it was Murphy turning the tables when she managed a handful of wall less than a second before Burke, and the Seahawks earned the victory.
It goes without saying, but the 100-butterfly probably isn’t one you want to miss when conferences roll around this February.
Ricky Bobby and Cal Naughton Jr. (fake NASCAR)
You can imagine my disappointment when I finally found out that “Talledega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby” was not actually a documentary.
Even so, there’s no question that the “Shake and Bake” team of Ricky Bobby (Will Ferrell) driving for team Wonder Bread and Cal Naughton Jr. (John C. Reilly) ranks among sport’s greatest best-friends-turned-bitter-rivals-then-turned-best-friends-again.
One second they’re slingshotting each other to victory and breaking Wonder Bread at the dinner table after saying grace about their version of the Dear Lord Baby Jesus being in an all-angel band and singing lead vocals for Lynyrd Skynyrd, and the next second John C. Reilly is stealing Will Ferrell’s family and trying to smother him to death with a pillow.
They put all that aside by the end of what I was really quite sure was a documentary, however, and end up winning the fake NASCAR championship and going to Applebee’s together again and stuff like that. That’s Hollywood for you.
Well, that’s it. Whether it’s friends, foes, rivals, paradoxes or Lynyrd Skynyrd, one thing is for sure: We’ve got some pretty good rivalries to look forward to this winter.