Point: The Case for pulling for your rivals
By Joel Devick
College football is unlike most sporting events out there. The fan loyalty runs deep, the passion is real and the loathing for the opposition is fierce. When it comes to your team’s rivals, the contempt for the opponent in that particular game that you share each year can reach another level. There are high stakes involved including, at the least, bragging rights. I believe that if your rival team, whoever it may be, is not your opponent for the week, you should pull for them. It may be tough to do for some fans, but after all, the better both teams are, the better the game.
I’m not saying you should go all out every week and call yourself both a Tigers’ and Crimson Tide fan, a Wolverines’ and Buckeyes’ fan, a Cowboys’ and Sooners’ fan and so on and so forth. The ties between every rivalry run deep, and the reasons for disliking the other team are usually what lies at the core of each fierce rivalry. The moment schedules are announced for the upcoming season, the diehard fanatics, coaches and players will all have the game with their mortal enemy circled on the calendar. There’s no changing history, and that is what makes rivalries satisfying.
I love a good rivalry game as much as anyone, and college football does them better than anyone. This is exactly why a rivalry game with both teams being good is better than a matchup with one or no good teams. Typically, you can throw the records out the window for both teams in any rivalry contest worth its salt. It will matter to both teams, fan bases, and everyone involved. It should never be an “easy” game for either team because of how much it matters.
Unfortunately, any matchup that looks lopsided going in will suck just a little bit of tension out of the game itself, no matter how heated it may be. No one likes to have an idea of how things will play out. People want to have hope their team will rub in the victory after the final whistle blows. Not only that, but claim the key loss out of the one or few their rivals had on the year and, if both teams are good, be the game that determined the conference title or maybe even more.
Some fans want to see their rival lose every game, but I argue to them: what fun is that? The better your rival is the when you face them, the more weight the game has, the higher the stakes, the harder the fall and the sweeter the win.
Counterpoint: Rivalries are there for a reason
A rival is, “one of two or more striving to reach or obtain something that only one can possess,” according to Webster’s Dictionary. Rivalries in sports are just this. Two teams that do not like each other for whatever reason face off, and in the end there can only be one winner. Although some might argue that when “their” team isn’t playing against their rival, it is OK to cheer for the rival team, this devalues the entire concept of a rivalry.
Rivalries like Michigan versus Ohio State or Auburn versus Alabama have been going on for years. Getting caught on one of these campuses sporting the wrong colors can earn you a severe dose of heckling, trash talk or even fists. To a Michigan fan, the idea of cheering for Ohio State, no matter who it is playing, is straight up blasphemous. Although this may seem a bit over the top to someone looking in from the outside, it is this unrelenting distain for the other team that makes these rivalries so special.
Clemson and South Carolina have one of the biggest rivalries in college football. No matter who the Gamecocks are playing, Clemson fans find a way to poke fun at the struggling football program. For Clemson fans, the only thing better than a win on Saturday is a win on Saturday and a loss for South Carolina. Clemson fans enjoy seeing their rival struggle all year and then being able to beat up on them in the last week of the season. These two fan bases rarely cheer for the other team.
If fans were to start supporting their rival team on a regular basis, the rivalry would slowly devolve into just another game. Rivalries are built on hatred and distain, and to stay rivalries, they need to be just that.