What Makes a Good Rivalry

Billy RayCorrespondent IDecember 28, 2008

The BIG GAME is coming up. Your favorite team has a date with destiny. It is here again, time for the annual grudgematch against your most hated nemesis, the Skunks of Southwestern Delaware State School for the Flatulent.

Whether it is in high school, college or professional, every team has it's rivals. As a fan, it almost becomes your duty to loath the very mention of this rivals' name or the sight of their mascot.

It is not unheard of for some fans to consider ANY season that includes beating the hated rival to be a successful one. Going 1-11 may be perfectly acceptable to certain fan bases if that one victim is that rival. If this solitary victory ruins the rival's  season, so much the better.

Nor is it uncommon to hope your rival loses every game they play. Many times, fans will celebrate a rivals' defeat against anyone as much as they will their own teams' victory.

But think about this: What does it say about the strength of your own team if its' main rival goes '0-fer' every year? What if your adversary's mascot is called the Cuddly Bunny?

The point here is that teams are defined by rivalries. If your biggest game every year is against a top team that is itself annually on a championship chase, then it probably reflects well on the quality of your own program.

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I know it goes against the grain of many fans to believe that ANYTIME your rival wins a game, it is a good thing. But if they lose every game, where is the honor and glory in your team giving them a thorough butt whipping?

You see, if you beat them, everybody says "Well, your were supposed to win." God forbid if you lose to them because then you must endure the inevitable ration of "Wow, your team REALLY sucks!"

Do you see where I am going with this? It becomes a no-win situation.

A good rivalry demands an opponent worthy of respect and one that will generate a genuine sense of accomplishment when a hard fought victory is attained. This is why it is not necessarily a bad thing whenever your nemesis wins a game. Beating a worthy adversary only enhances your own teams' reputation.

Where are the bragging rights if you defeat a team that led by a mascot that might be mistaken for an overgrown Beanie Baby? Is it possible to brag to anyone about the BIG GAME where your opponent is called the Chippy Chickadees? Will anybody be impressed that they beat the snot out of the Scrappy Squirrels? I highly doubt it.

No, to qualify as a respectable rivalry, your opponent also should have a quality mascot. A ferocious, tough animal. A warrior or mythical creature. Or, a natural disaster can work just fine.

Okay, it may not be your fault that your beloved team's main rival is the Sisters of Perpetual Pain and Suffering. However, when your mascot is on the sideline putting a beat down on a nun, real or not, it will not reflect well on your school. There is nothing to gloat about.

I should also mention something about what makes a good fight song. I'm no musical expert so maybe I'll just tell you what I believe a fight song should NOT say. Anything with lyrics saying something like "don't hurt yourselves" or "please have mercy on us" probably isn't going to intimidate your opponents. You will be better off not even playing it at your games.

If your team actually happens to be the Skunks of Southwestern Delaware State School for the Flatulent, I was not trying to demean you in any way. I'm sure you are very proud of your school and team. I hope you have a great season. I would like to give you a few common sense tips, though. Don't sit too close to the student section. Don't tease the mascot. And PLEASE don't light a cigarette in an enclosed arena.