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Rivalries are supposed to be good things

3 February 2011

Gophers – Badgers, Vikings – Packers, Red Sox – Yankees, Tom – Jerry

Rivalries are good things. They add intrigue. They create legends.

Rivalries bring out the best in people. They can push people to bring their best and elevate their best to entirely new levels. Unfortunately, they can also bring out the worst in people. I have seen way too much of the latter lately.

The Vikings had a pretty brutal year, and the Packers are Super Bowl bound, and over the course of the year, I watched a lot of smack talk bounce back and forth between fans of each team. Some of it got ugly. Some of it got inappropriate, and some of it seemed to attempt to go as far past the line as possible.

You can put me at the front of the line when it comes to enjoying a little smack talk leading up to, during, and after a game. For me, most of my interactions revolve around the Gophers, because they are my team. I bleed Maroon and Gold. I know the date of every matchup between the Gophers and the Badgers. Even if the Gophers called up a bunch of high school freshmen and the NCAA gave the entire Packers roster an eligibility exemption to play one game for the Badgers, I’d still bet a beer on the game with my buddy Pete – the same bet we’ve placed on everything from Men’s Hockey to Women’s Gymnastics. I would cheer fanatically for the entire game, until every one of our players got broken in half and carted off the field. There is nothing I want more than to see the Gophers beat the Badgers – no matter what the sport. I hate the Badgers.

The important distinction is that my hatred for the Badgers is fueled by my respect for them. I want them to win every game except when they play us. It makes the win mean a whole lot more. Why would I want them to be terrible? Where is the fun in beating a terrible team? Beating a rival is fun. Beating them when they are highly ranked or having a great season is even more fun. I want to see my team rise to the occasion, elevating their game to a new level to beat a rival. It is fun to watch my team play well, and even in blowout wins over bad teams, a good team can play terribly, only playing well enough to win.

Maybe I’m old fashioned. Maybe I’m just old (I mean, I just turned 30!). I still think it’s classy when a head coach wears a suit on the sidelines. I think players that aren’t dressing for a game should do the same. And I think rivalries should be about teams and their respective fan bases as a whole, not about individual players or fans.

So here’s my call to you. Support your team. Put your heart and soul into it. Bleed their colors. Go nuts when they score. Go nuts when the get a big stop. Go even more nuts when they win. But do it with respect.

So on Sunday night, in Super Bowl XLV, go Pack.

It will make it that much sweeter when we stomp you next season.

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