Just What Is Great Football Rivalry?

Larry SigurdsonCorrespondent IAugust 31, 2008

Great football rivalry is about winning teams defeating winning teams. Too many, otherwise rational fans think rivalry is just about hating other teams and their fans. 

Prior to the Oregon - Washington game, I was proudly wearing my Oregon Green, when I ran into an equally proud Oregon State fan sporting their Orange and Black. We spoke for several minutes about the excitement of the pending season. Then on parting, the "Beav" shouted at me, "Go Huskies!"

This is totally illogical. If anything, if the OSU fan had said, "Go Beavers," that would be a true sign of support for his team. Or if he had said, "Go Ducks," while unlikely with our Civil War rivalry, that would have suggested unified support for the Great State of Oregon. But, "Go Huskies?"

True rivalry is about supporting your team, your college and your state in being the very best possible. The end result of that excellence is a national championship, proven by the defeat of other teams considered the equal of your team.

Great rivalry then is about two undefeated teams meeting on the field and determining who is the better team. Who will walk away with the bragging rights of being the champion? Which team is the total package on offense,defense and special teams?Which coach has better prepared their team to meet the other?

No doubt, my OSU friend was only plying a dig at my Duck pride, but while he may not have realized it, if his wish had come true, it would make the Duck-Beaver rivalry less meaningful-not greater as is the ideal.

Logically, the ideal Civil War game on the last Saturday in November, is an undefeated Oregon Ducks team facing an undefeated Oregon State Beavers team. Both teams 11-0. Both teams squaring off to determine the PAC-10 championship. Both teams fighting to see who will go on to the national championship BCS game. This then, is the ultimate rivalry game.

Rivalries then aren't about hatred of a college, or a team, or it's fans. No, it's about supporting your team and respecting the pursuit of excellence. A great rivalry demands that your rival do well against your shared opponents.

You want them to win—not lose. If your team defeats a team that's lost to every other NCAA team, what are you proving? That your team doesn't deserve a ranking of 115th?

If more fans think about what it means to have a great rivalry, maybe we'll have fewer ugly incidents in the stands and on the field, and greater support for teams.

In fact, if more people thought this through we might even see the NCAA adopt a playoff for the BCS in this century.