“’Cause I couldn’t go for three.”
–Woody Hayes, when asked why he went for a two-point conversion, despite leading Michigan by 36 points in 1968.
Throw out the records. Rivalry weekend is here at last.
The essence of rivalry week is perfectly encapsulated in Hayes’ quote. Those with a favorite college football team will agree. There’s a passion and disdain involved in rivalry games that boils and festers and presents itself within every human being who takes a side.
Wooo Pig Sooooey. Geaux Tigers.
Animosity finds its way into every small town across a state or region where polite friends become enemies for a week. The small talk at the grocery store turns into a passing glance, with both knowing the opposite’s affiliation.
Roll Tide, Roll. War Eagle.
One school sees the other as a bunch of stuck-up crybabies; those who only look for celebration after the victory and seem apathetic in defeat. The other side says their opponents’ fans take things too seriously; that it’s just a game. The first group are sore losers. The second group is used to losing.
Hokie Hi. Wahooowa.
There will never be love lost between the two sides. No matter the score or the series record, no one feels bad for the other side. Each fan wants their team to beat the other school into the ground so badly that they lose self-respect. When the ball kicks off, they want blood. They want to be able to smile and look their rival pals in the eye on Monday.
Go Blue. THE Ohio State University.
It’s deeply-rooted in something bigger than football. There are no boundaries, and the course is clear. Beat the other side and let them know who’s best, once and for all, although the ebb and flow of sports makes sure each side never gets too high or too low. There’s a day of payment and humility that must come to the side with the current upper-hand. Each year, they hope they have 365 days of boosted ego instead.
The Ramblin’ Wreck. How ‘Bout Them Dawgs?
The kids on both sides know how much it means to the school, fans, coaches, and most importantly, the boosters. Beating them-who-shall-not-be-named is bigger than winning the conference in some places. Some of the kids played against each other in high school. Some were recruited by both sides. There’s familiarity and, like always, it breeds contempt.
P.I.T.T. Let’s Go PITT. Hail, West Virginia.
When one side is on their way to glory, the other can double-up and ruin their season. Throwing a wrench in a historic run is the most gratifying of the rivalry wins. Doing the unexpected and getting a chuckle out of the opposing side’s pain is the cherry on top of winning a rivalry game.
Even those outside the rivalry can take in the game and enjoy it more than they do for an arbitrary game. They know somewhere, half of a state is squirming and cursing. They know people are praying their team will put down their old foes when the clock hits zero.
There’s an extra level of intrigue that sits as a back story for every matchup. You may not live in Mississippi, but the Egg Bowl is just crazy enough of a name to make you tune in for the end. Perhaps you’ve never seen the little towns in South Carolina that are split in garnet and orange, but you’d like to see Spurrier throw his visor even harder than usual. You have no idea how much animosity there is between Kansas and Missouri. Still, you’ll find yourself tuning in to see what the fuss is about.
Not every rivalry game is played this weekend. Bedlam breaks out next week in Stillwater. Army and Navy restore the most epic rivalry of them all in two weeks. Some teams play earlier in the season, but the effect is the same. The hate is high, and the empathy low.
Generations of folks were raised to hate the opposite side. Legacies of graduates have disliked their opposition as soon as they were old enough to walk. On a personal level, rivalry weekends have a deeper meaning.
College football rivalry weekend is here. Let us all rejoice and praise it.
Sports are all I know. Writing came naturally. Sports writer by night & sports writer by night. Philosophy major who thinks the unexamined sport is not worth watching. Always for hire, never for sale. I believe that silence is the virtue of fools and I can’t hear you.