Ohio State-Michigan, Alabama-Auburn, Oklahoma-Nebraska, USC-UCLA, Pittsburgh-West Virginia, and Miami-Florida State: These matchups are the kind of rivalries that college football watchers used to dream about.
There is respect, hatred, bragging rights, and the occasional game trophy on the line for the teams and fans alike.
For years, fans have chosen sides, caused family infighting, started arguments at work and at bars, and rooted like there is no tomorrow for their favorite teams.
But for some reason, it has turned from being loyal to a team to fans feeling a sense of self-importance, greater worth, and the right to trash talk at other conferences because of how a select few at the top do against the rest of the country.
When is the last time you heard a Boston Red Sox fan say, "The AL East is obviously better than the NL East because New York beat the Phillies to win the World Series. Go Yankees!"
Or how about a Cleveland Browns fan proclaim, "The NFC West is awful because the Cardinals lost to our AFC North brothers the Steelers in the Super Bowl!"
That doesn't happen. Only in college football do you hear the perennial bottom-dwellers of a BCS conference disparage another conference because of what their conference champion did in a bowl game or in a high-profile regular season game.
Recently, the Big Ten has become the whipping boy of all SEC fans because Ohio State lost back-to-back national title games to Florida and LSU, respectively. But when is the last time that a team like Vanderbilt or Mississippi State beat, or for that matter even played, a top-tier Big Ten team?
So why do their fans feel they have the right to bash Ohio State and Penn State for their recent bowl struggles?
I am not specifically picking on SEC fans; they are just currently the most vocal about it due to their success in football over the last seven years. With four of the last six titles and Alabama in this year's National Championship Game, the SEC has a right to crow about it, but the lower-level teams are beating their chests like they actually won the big games themselves.
I realize that being a fan of the Buckeyes, many may think I am just crying sour grapes. Having attended Kentucky, I do watch a lot of SEC football as well and have an appreciation for how they play. It is not a matter of who wins or loses; it is how the fans handle the success of others in the conference that their own teams cannot achieve.
When the Buckeyes lost to Florida, my SEC friends had a good laugh at my expense. When LSU won the following year, you would think my friends had won the lottery. But they are mostly Kentucky fans. They generally loathe Florida and LSU, but somehow my friends felt they had earned a free pass to pile on with the Gator and Tiger fans.
When the USC Trojans beat Oklahoma to win the title for the 2004-2005 season, does anyone remember the fans of 1-10 Washington calling out the Sooners and Texas? It is utterly ridiculous that some people act this way.
It is not just college football fans that practice these shenanigans. ACC basketball fans do the same thing.
When Duke or North Carolina have great teams, the worst of the league claim they are better than the SEC, the Big 12, and the Big East because of what the top-rated Tar Heels and Blue Devils have done on the national stage. This is regardless of the fact that these less than competitive teams are sitting with 20-plus losses and dropped games to Ivy League and Patriot League teams on a yearly basis.
More and more fans are leaning towards this trend in most college sports. There is no clear reason why this started. It may be when the media started buying conference broadcasting rights rather than individual team rights. If a certain station is the official station of a conference, all of their commentary and analysis tend to be biased towards their contracted league.
If you watch NBC, you hear about how great Notre Dame tradition is. CBS screams the praises of the ACC and SEC. ESPN just got the rights for the future SEC games and gives a rub to the Big East. Fox Sports leans towards its broadcast partners in the Pac-10 and the Big 12.
It is real easy to look at the last five to 10 years and jump on the bandwagon of a certain team or conference when they are currently having success and the media keeps pumping up the legend of the last 48 months.
A true fan sticks with his or her team through the great seasons and the long droughts alike. Feel free to appreciate another team's style of play or respect another conference's dominance over a short period of time. Root for others in your team's conference in bowl games and tournaments if you please. All of this is typical fan behavior, and it does not put a blemish on the feelings you have for your favorite team.
Do not pat yourself on the back and feel the need to bash other teams and conferences based on the success of others. Do not feel superior to other conferences that you don't play against yourself because others in your conference won a game. Do not hide in shame when your team goes 1-11 and then turn around and rip a 10-2 team that lost to the best your conference has to offer.
There is a lot to say about fans showing passion—just make sure it is directed in the right direction. Support your conference, defend your team in good times and bad, and talk smack to your biggest rival like your life depends on it.
Just don't go overboard with the misdirected hatred and the ludicrous superiority complex because of a few great teams that happen to be aligned in the same league.
Please pick a team and go with them; don't piggyback on the prosperity of a conference. Stop basking in their glow when 364 days out of the year you are hoping the other team's entire roster comes down with the swine flu the week before you play them.
Now it is off to have my wife beat me at Wii Sports again and then wait on the abuse I will take from her friends about how they are better than me too.
But that is a rant for another day.