It is that time of the year in college football where rivalry games take center stage and grab the attention of people all around the nation, football and non-football fans alike. For me, this is a good thing and a bad thing. I love it how more people are brought into the picture because it gives the game added importance. The buzz is infectious and everyone seems to become intoxicated with it. While this is awesome, I do get turned off by the people who come out of the woodwork for their one game of the year. For that one week they are football/ trash talk experts. If the team is fortunate enough to make the postseason, these gloryhounds will probably emerge from the mud once again to “support” their team. Yeah, these people annoy me. My point of this post is not to focus on these types of people, however. Rather, for today’s post I would just like to offer some pointers on how to cheer/build up your team during rivalry week.
Rivalry football games are so intense because usually supremacy of a certain geographical region is at stake. Whether it be a high school battle to be the king of the north side of town or a contest to see which university rules the state, this geographical supremacy is a big deal. When you live in a certain area, you want to be the best. If you are not the best, that means your neighbor who supports/attends/plays for the other school is. It is tough to concede that the school you live and breathe for is second fiddle to another school in the same area. Many times, rivalry games carry with it an incredible amount of baggage. Placed on the football game are the politics, cultures, traditions, and reputations of both schools. You win the football game and all of the ideals I just mentioned triumph over the ideals of the other school. You hear this all the time, but rivalry games really are more than just football games.
Because of the magnitude of these games, it is so important to support/defend your team in the right way leading up to, during, and after the game. I see so many fans, many of these are the people who have little knowledge of football, go completely overboard during rivalry week. They will do anything and everything they can to publicly demean and trash the opponent. The key word here is publicly. I will say it right here, I hate my rivals with a passion. There is a burning hot fire in me that hates everything that these certain schools stand for. However, most of that fire stays inside of me. I really think you make yourself look like a fool when you stick it to your rival in a loud and obnoxious way. Some of the Facebook and Twitter posts I see are ridiculous. Some of the profanity-laced rants people go on are flat out embarrassing. It is easy to let your hatred for your rival overshadow the love for your school. Don’t let this happen.
The following cliché is so tired but so true at the same time: “Anything can happen in a rivalry game.” From my own personal playing experience and from the experience of watching hundreds of rivalry games, this is fact. Because of the unpredictability of rivalry games and because of the respect that I feel is due to an opponent, I advise against going around like a lunatic during rivalry week and saying that your team is going to win. Okay, it is cool to have confidence in your team but why set yourself up for the backlash that is going to come your way from the fans of the opponent if your team happens to falter? The ammunition that is given to someone after another person guarantees victory and it does not come to fruition is very powerful. You bet your ass that I utilize this leverage to its full extent when someone on the other side incorrectly predicts victory. Sorry, but I am not going to let you live that down. You were cocky enough and misinformed enough to make such a bold statement that I am not going to let that pass by. Please everyone, never guarantee victory in a rivalry game.
Another thing that I cringe at during rivalry weeks is when people use those generic, recycled jokes. You have all heard these….i.e. Did you hear that they can’t have any more parties at (enter school name)? The guy with the recipe for the ice graduated. * What are the longest three years of a (enter school team) life? His freshman year. * How do you get a (enter school name) graduate off your porch? Pay them for the pizza. These jokes are unoriginal, too easy, and not funny. Think of something original that might inflict a little bit of a sting on your rival. Use material that capitalizes on something unique about the other institution. Use current events to come up with something that has not been said before. Just please don’t use a “Why did the chicken cross the road?” lame one-liner to poke fun at your opponent.
So how do you talk trash in a rivalry? It seems like I have shot down a lot of methods. Don’t go overboard, don’t be overly confident in the ending outcome, don’t go crazy on Facebook, don’t tell stupid jokes. But there are several ways to build your team up while putting your rival in their proper place. If you are fortunate enough to be on the side of a rivalry where your team has a winning record, definitely ride this for all it’s worth. Nothing says that your institution is better than the other when there is a big gap in the win-loss record. This is something that won’t change at the end of the game on Saturday so you are safe to coast without it throughout the week. If your team does happen to lose and some idiot fan from the other team gets in your face, just let them know where the series stands. Tell them to talk to you once their team gets remotely close to the amount of wins that your schools has. If your team does not hold a winning record in the series look in other areas. Is your school more prestigious than the other? Better graduation rates? Prettier campus? Better town? Take this to the bank. Let your rivals know that they can have a simple football game in exchange for the better facilities, superior academics, and the better post-college lives that your institution boasts. Okay, what if your team happens to be on the short end of a lopsided series and your school lacks the prestige and success of your rival? Simple, embrace the underdog role and stress your pride for your school. Let them know how happy you are to be a part of your institution…let them know that you would never switch over to another school in a million years. When you take grasp of that underdog role, you are in pretty much a win-win situation and you take a lot of your rivals’ trash talking power away from them. When you take this stance, you can spin a loss. Play the other team tough and you can say that there is no way in hell that game should have ever been that close considering the size, recruiting budget, and facilities of the other school. You can pretty much count it as a win. And if your team somehow does manage to pull it out, go nuts. Make the opposing team feel absolutely awful. Let them know that if your school had access to everything that the rival school has, your team would not lose in a thousand years.
My biggest point of this post is to have fun with your rivalry week and be sure to set yourself up in a way that after the game concludes you will save yourself any embarrassment, loss of reputation, or excessive abuse at the hands of your rival. Make yourself a plan of how you are going to conduct yourself going into rivalry week and know how you will react in every possible situation. Although you won’t always win the game, you can always come out looking like the bigger, better, and more intelligent person. Represent your school right. Don’t Blink.