The Garr Report: The Art of the Rivalry

Seeing a rival lose is just as sweet as seeing your team win. (Gregory Shamus, Getty Images)

Seeing a rival lose is just as sweet as seeing your team win. (Gregory Shamus, Getty Images)

One of the best things about sports is a rivalry. Not rivalries like the Jets-Patriots, where it’s all talk and drama. I’m talking about the Bruins-Canadiens, Lakers-Celtics, or Ohio State-Michigan. Rivalries that have rich histories, classic, hard-fought battles on the field and just the right amount of trash talking off of it. Those are the best. Hating another team is almost as fun as cheering for your own. Watching a team I despise fail has given me joy numerous times (mainly because the teams I cheer for don’t have the success rate I would like them to have).

I think most people could agree with this. If you’re a true sports fan, you have a list of teams that you hate. Going to Ohio University and being a guy “from” Michigan (I was born there and lived there for one year, so not really) there is no team I hate more than Ohio State. Every year I want the Buckeyes to fail as much as possible. I expect every Ohio State fan to hate the Wolverines and hope for the worst for them, too. It’s a rivalry. Without the hate, there is no rivalry.

Back in April, a day or two before the National Championship game between Louisville and Michigan, I made the joke with one of my friends that he obviously would be cheering for Michigan in the game. He was an Ohio State fan, but to my surprise he said yes. He said it would look good for the Big Ten.

The first thing I did was Google “Teams in the Big Ten” to make sure OSU was still there, because nowadays I couldn’t tell you what teams are in which conferences. Then I just stared at him with a shocked look. How could he, a Buckeyes die-hard fan, cheer for Michigan? He wants the conference to look good? Look good to who?

I understand the conference gets money for games like this with all the TV time and other little things, but as a fan, you’re not seeing any of that money. So what’s the point of cheering for your rival, especially if it’s one of the biggest rivalries out there?

I never see it when it comes to professional sports. Over the last week the Tigers have been battling the A’s in the ALDS. Every Indian fan I knew was cheering for the A’s. Why? Because they don’t like Detroit. They don’t like the team that has won their division three years in a row. They don’t like the team that beat them 15 times this season, including multiple series sweeps. That’s what makes a rivalry. Indians fans aren’t going to cheer for them to win it all. Why would they? So the AL Central, which includes the 99-loss White Sox, looks better? That doesn’t make sense. And it doesn’t make sense in the college world either.

Look at Alabama’s dominance, and in fact, look at the dominance of the SEC as a whole. Everyone in the nation understands that the SEC is the best conference in college football, and has been for almost a decade. So as an LSU or Auburn fan, were they really pulling for ‘Bama to beat the Irish? The SEC has nothing to prove. Even if the Irish did win, the SEC would still be the best conference this year, and for the foreseeable future.

I didn’t say all of this to my friend who was pulling for Michigan in the National Championship as an Ohio State fan, but I probably should have. At least now I’m able to share it all with you. Rivalries are one of the best things about sports. It’s the love for one team and the true hatred for another, and seeing your hated team fail can almost be as satisfying as watching your team succeed. Rivalries, not conference support, are what make sports what it is today.

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