I have a lot of fond memories from playing sports as a kid. The life lessons learned and the bonds formed between my teammates will not be soon forgotten. Not to mention that I had an unblockable baby hook that still strikes fear into the hearts of the alumni of many a YMCA youth squad. Having said that, my one big complaint from my formative sporting years was the emphasis on sportsmanship. I’m all for shaking hands at the end of the game, but when the tiniest amount of trash talk is taken as a threat and a harmless touch foul is received by a chorus of snide remarks from the other team’s boozed up soccer moms, something has to give. Sports need passion. Sports need hatred. Sports, like the rest of life, needs rivalry.
Rivalries are as old as time itself. Ever since one caveman tried to make moves on another’s cavewoman, there has been an individual or group that forces you and yours to band together, united against a common enemy that none of you alone could overtake. Our great nation was founded upon a rivalry with those dentally-impaired folks from across the pond, and it was only by defining ourselves against them that we were able to realize how much we had in common, and how strong we could be as United States rather than 13 separate colonies. Rivalries have even aided our nation in some of its most impressive advancements. After all, us putting a man on the moon was nothing more than a culmination of our giant pissing contest with the Soviets (I could write for days about how great the rivalry between the US and USSR was, but it would basically just be a mashup of the plot of Rocky IV and Miracle).
There are some that argue, mainly from their safe spaces and hunger strike blogs, that rivalries are bad, that it is wrong to have “abject hatred” for an entire group of people just because their name is on our football schedule once a year. These people were the kids who drank the youth sports Kool-Aid, the ones who complained when they didn’t play as much as the kids who worked harder than them, the ones who think that good things will happen to them with little to no effort on their part, the ones who cared more about the orange slices after the game than the final score.
What these people fail to realize that life isn’t perfect because we aren’t perfect. Maybe in an ideal world nobody would hate anybody and we could all sit around braiding each other’s hair to Nora Jones CDs, but god damn it I’d rather be cheering on the sidelines telling the other team’s star player all the great things his mom and I did last night. Rivalries bring out the humanity in us, both the good and the bad, and I love them for that.
Last week, my school played our rivals in basketball, and we handed those pricks the game. I woke up the next day after sleeping through my 8 a.m. and noticed that my hand, which, if standards asks only bears a coincidental resemblance to the new hole in the wall, was inflamed and bruised. As I walked to class, I noticed something funny: The entire student body, even more than the day before, was clad in the school colors, as if to say fuck you to our rivals and let them know the next time we played it would be a different outcome. When describing the iconic Duke-Carolina rivalry, author Will Blythe once said, “To hate like this is to be happy forever.” I couldn’t agree more..