Thick crowds of people standing on their toes to see the field. Food trucks competing for attention with flashy lights and unique menus. All around are people wearing team jersies, or tutus, or who have painted their bodies in school colors.
It’s Fish Bowl, an annual tradition, pitting crosstown rivals against each other: the Gig Harbor Tides and Peninsula Seahawks varsity football teams. It’s a chance for students, alumni, families and anyone else to come together and have a fun, exciting night. It doesn’t matter what team you support; Fish Bowl is for everyone and almost 5,000 fans show up every year.
“We play for honor and tradition,” said Peninsula JV player Isaac Hermsen.
Fish Bowl got its name because of the salmon dinner that fishermen used to provide before the game to raise money. The game isn’t the only competition between Gig Harbor and Peninsula; there’s also Food Bowl. For the week leading up to the game, the schools compete in a canned food drive for Backpacks 4 Kids. The goal is to bring in the most food and beat the other school, not to mention helping families and children in need.
I guess we just like to compete. And win.
Personally, Fish Bowl is a night for for me to see my friends, eat great food and cheer on my classmates, and that’s exactly what I do. We’ve got green and gold painted on our faces and splattered on our shirts, and yet we’re still underdressed compared to some.
There are your average folks who wear a school shirt, paint stripes or dots on their faces, or maybe just show up wearing their normal clothes. Then there are the people who paint handprints on their legs, show up in school-colored boxer shorts and nothing else, or handmade tutus and tie-dyed shirts. It’s a chance to go wild, supporting your future, current or former school. Showing up without face paint or a colored shirt gets you weird looks.
The game was close the whole time. When Peninsula first scored, it only gave them a three-point advantage and Gig Harbor quickly caught up, reaching seven while we struggled to beat them. Then suddenly we were at 10 and everyone was cheering. I forced myself not to let my hopes get too high. Peninsula is good, but so is Gig Harbor and neither of us was going down without a fight.
I left the field for almost 40 minutes with a friend to socialize and eat. While we were in line for drinks, the people in the PHS bleachers stood and up started screaming. Despite that, I didn’t think that we’d have more than doubled our score when I got back. Still, Gig Harbor wasn’t giving up. The game was long and hard fought, but Peninsula ended up winning 31-21, our second straight Fish Bowl victory.
Everyone was screaming and running onto the field, surrounding the football team, all of who were shouting and jumping. It was a frenzy of joyful, sweaty, slightly dazed people.
“It was a surreal experience, the crowd and everything that played a role in that game,” said JV player Ben Goins. “No game is more important than any other game for us, but winning a game like that, where the whole community is involved, is the best feeling in the world.”
This year was only my second Fish Bowl, but I know it’s something I will go to every year. It’s a tense, stressful night, yet it still manages to make me smile and laugh. Whatever it is I’m doing, I’m enjoying it. Screaming and cheering and bouncing around like an overexcited kangaroo, laughing and joking with my friends, or waiting in line to get a smoothie, there are new sights and smells and experiences waiting to happen. It doesn’t matter that I see Peninsula High five days a week—there’s something different about it at Fish Bowl.
The record now stands at 21 wins for the Tides and 18 for the Seahawks since the first Fish Bowl in 1979.
See you next year.
Lillian Roberts is a sophomore at Peninsula High School.