College Football: Why We Love to Hate Our Rivals

Tim CroleySenior Analyst ISeptember 18, 2008

A Georgia fan, an Auburn fan, and an Alabama fan all go hunting together one day.

They all meet up during the middle of the day, and the Georgia fan has killed a deer. The other two ask, "How'd you get that deer?" He replied, "I found tracks, followed tracks, got me a deer."

Later in the day, they all meet up again. This time the Bama fan has killed a bear. The other two ask, "How'd you get that bear." He replied, "I found tracks, followed tracks, got me a bear."

At the end of the day, they all meet to go home. The Auburn fan looks about half dead. His clothes are torn, and he is bleeding from head to toe. The other two are amazed to find him like this and ask, "What happened." The Auburn fan replied, "I found tracks, followed tracks, got hit by a train."

We have all heard the jokes before.

We have all shared in the sending and receiving of emails that carry such pictures as the one above, and I'm certain it was created by an Alabama fan somewhere. Oh, how they make me so proud...most of the time.

But why? Why do we fill our lives with such jokes and images?

Do we really hate our rivals?

Well, it seems like it at times, especially in the midst of the season or when the rivalry week draws near.

For Auburn and Alabama fans, the time of the year does not matter.

Both Auburn and Alabama have other schools to play this weekend, but the talk radio programs throughout the state cease to have callers already commenting on who will win or lose that game.

In mid-April you will hear "Roll Tides" and "War Eagles" back and forth just as if it were late November, probing the likes of local news and media on who will win the Iron Bowl this year.

Come on now. How can you predict or ask another person to predict the outcome of a game that is months away? Yet fans will ever do this!

I am sure the same rings true for Buckeyes and Wolverines, or for Trojans and Bruins, or for any great college football rivalry. It lasts all year long!

Texas hates A&M, Miami hates FSU, and believe it or not, Alabama hates Tennessee.

But what makes us love to hate our rival?

Is it simply because it is our rival, and that is the noble thing to do to remain in good standing with our team?

Is it because it is fun and funny and beats trying to accept them?

Or does it run deeper? 

Well, I don't want to get into a history lesson here. We all know that a disagreement between school officials postponed the Iron Bowl game for several years.

We all know that Alabama holds the all-time record.

We all know that Auburn has won six straight, thus closing the gap on that all-time record.

Either way, we know it can get down right intense at times, to say the least.

But then again, it has its lighter moments. Former Auburn head coach Pat Dye, upon being asked how long it would take him to beat Alabama, was quoted as saying, "60 minutes."

Man, why didn't I think of that? Even as a Bama fan I found some humor in that.

Michigan and Ohio State also have some reasons to lay claim as being the best college football rivalry.

Michigan holds the all-time record in this series, but Ohio State has won four straight and seven of the last 10, thus prompting a shift in the power rankings of this rivalry and adding more fuel to the fire.

This rivalry, much like the Alabama and Auburn rivalry, has led to the dismissal or firing of several coaches.

Championships have been determined, seasons have been spoiled, businesses have been disrupted, and even marriages have ended because of such fierceness associated with these rivalries.

ESPN has even made a few laughs off the rivalries, when a few years back there was a series of commercials promoting the rivalries and college football.

One such commercial witnessed a lady Wolverine and a Buckeye gentleman. As the man gets into the car they start talking and it is apparent they are meeting for the first time.

On down the road the lady mentions that she is a Wolverine fan. Immediately the car door opens and the man leaps from the moving vehicle, only to land and roll down a hill.

The lady stops the car to see what is happening, when the man yells from the bottom of the hill, "Go Buckeyes!"

So, of course, the lady speeds away while you distinctly hear the tires squealing.

While that is a great, humorous commercial, and perhaps it displays accurately the hatred between the two schools to the point that fans refuse to even ride with one another, it is intensified by the fact that there is so much reality in it.

Another commercial features an A&M fan refusing to solve the puzzle in a game of Pictionary because the answer is “Hook ‘em Horns.” He would rather lose the game than solve the puzzle. That kind of puts a new spin on the meaning of competitiveness, doesn’t it?

We have books written specifically to be filled with jokes about our rivals. I have even seen DVDs dedicated to jokes directed toward the schools we hate.


We give each other the finger. We scream ludicrous, appalling, and uncalled for names at one another.


Message boards are filled with bashings. Email boxes even more so.


“Bammers” and “Barners” have become words in our everyday conversations.


Perhaps it stemmed from years past. I mean, even the Bear referred to Awbarn as the “Cow College.” Woops, did I just write Awbarn? See, it has even spilled over into my writing.


And these are all the nice gestures!


I’m not too familiar with the names given to other schools amidst bitter rivalries, so I’ll allow the comments’ section to be filled with those.


But going back to my original thought, why do we love to hate our rival?


Are we born with it?


We claim to be “American by birth, and Longhorns by the grace of God.” We claim to “bleed red and black.” We claim to be Vols at birth and Vols at….well, maybe not the last one, but I think you get my point.


We are loyal. We are dedicated. We are passionate. We are college football fans.


Above all else, we love to hate our rivals!


Now, I will admit. Two of my closet and dearest friends pull for Auburn. Scary, right?


They were both even in my wedding! But, as sad as this may sound to some, they are never in my house when Bama is playing.


Sure we talk about the games. We talk about each school. We even joke on one another, but we never bash one another. Never!


There is respect there, because those friendships run deeper. But when friends are out of the way, watch out, because a lot has probably built up that needs to be released toward the “other” team.


So, whether you love to hate Tennessee, and who doesn’t, or you love to hate Notre Dame, nothing else matters in a bitter rivalry.


Whether you love to hate USC, or you love to hate Oklahoma, you cannot budge.


Whether you love to hate Michigan, or you love to hate Florida, it doesn’t matter as long as you let everyone know where you stand.


Why? Because all that matters is that you are a fan of your team and your hatred for the rival will forever be embedded in you as some privilege or entitlement as American citizens and fanatics of college football.


It’s hard to explain at times. And sometimes, no other reason is given except for, “My granddaddy loved to hate that team, my daddy loved to hate that team, I will forever love to hate that team, and if my son doesn’t love to hate them also, well then he will simply be disowned!”


Oh the feeling of loving to hate our rivals. Unhealthy as it may possibly be, it’s like no other feeling in this world.


So, why do you, the college football fan, love to hate your rival?


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