It gives sports fanatics a premise on which to hate. If you’re part of the Raider Nation, I have every right as a 49er Faithful to hate you with every ounce of my body.
Another beautiful facet of sports rivalry is that you can’t be impartial. No one takes a football fan seriously if they say, “Oh I like both teams equally.” There’s no such thing as equanimity between rivals.
With respect towards the Niners/Raiders rivalry, gold and silver are never paired together (men, take note). Of course, this wouldn’t surface in a professional situation. Only when I choose to don a Rice or Montana jersey does the hatred become apparent, and the classic rivalry continue.
The same goes for collegiate sports. When asked to name the biggest football rivalry in the nation, most would immediately cite the Michigan/Ohio State matchup to be tops, and there is no denying the national attention it annually receives.
When asked about basketball, few would hesitate before mentioning the tension between Duke and North Carolina.
Although most college students would love to put their school in one of the top rivalries in the country—much as I would love to put U of A vs. the “other” Arizona school in the top spot—kudos must be given where they are deserved.
I have been fortunate enough to be descended from a long line of basketball lovers. I have family spread throughout the country, and almost every one of my aunts, uncles, grandparents, and cousins have attended a school with a great basketball program.
Unfortunately, this has led to a rivalry between my father and his mother’s alma maters.
My grandmother attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, while my dad chose Duke University for “the best years of his life.” In due time, I too became a rabid Blue Devil fan, toddling around in Duke gear, cheering and clapping when Christian Laettner took the floor, and sadly rubbing my dad’s back when the Dukies couldn’t pull out a win in overtime.
It wasn't until recently, however, that I realized—try as I might, I couldn’t hate the UNC Tar Heels. I had always thought that by default, if I was a Duke fan, I absolutely had to hate the Tar Heels with a passion until it hit me: Maybe I really, actually, truly don’t hate them.
My dad doesn’t hate UNC, my grandmother doesn’t hate Duke, and both have more of a ‘right’ or ‘claim’ to do so than I did. I didn’t even go to Duke for school, and am a generation removed from the rivalry. Maybe all this time I was living with an expectation that was purely my imagination.
Granted, if you’re a Red Sox fan, it is against the officially unofficial code to marry a diehard Yankees fan—unless you compromise in some way or another or ignore each other’s fanhood, which most likely is not going to happen.
And even though my non-hatred for UNC basketball stands, I’ll always keep with me an unwavering sense of loathing for the Oakland Raiders. There’s no balance there.