Imagine this moment: the Auburn Tigers are tied with their biggest rival, Alabama. The Crimson Tide are lined up for a field goal to close out Auburn. Alabama’s fans are celebrating and knocking back a couple more beers in happiness. Meanwhile, Auburn fans are praying for a miracle, but preparing for a loss. What unfolds next is something that is now cemented in sports history: Alabama attempted the 57-yard field goal with a second left in the game. The ball came up short and an Auburn player snagged it out of the air. He took off and in a flurry of blocks and jukes as he made his way down the field. Chaos ensued throughout the stadium and in living rooms for all who were watching. The player sprints to the end zone to finish off the Crimson Tide 34-28 and pandemonium ensued. This is what rivalries are made of. Rivalries in college football are great for everyone involved in them.
The weekend after Thanksgiving is rivalry week across college campuses. Ohio State plays Michigan, Alabama takes on Auburn, Ole Miss faces Mississippi State and so on. Friendly banter is passed back and forth by fans of both teams. Signs are made taunting the rival school, chants are screamed by fans at the game and most importantly fans participate in now-common practices. My favorite practices are by fans from Ohio State.
The week of the Michigan game, fans begin replacing their m’s, which would signify Michigan, and instead replace them with x’s; for example Michigan would become Xichigan. In my hometown, there is an even mixture of Ohio State and Michigan fans. So, rivalry week is a week of intense trash talking. At my dad’s work, his coworkers will sneak to the microphone to either play their favorite school’s fight song or even whistle it.
These games and practices can get out of hand. For example, former Buckeye Marcus Hall was ejected from the 2013 rivalry game and proceeded to flip off Michigan fans while on his way to the locker room. In an even more shocking moment, one Alabama fan went over the line during the game against Auburn. Auburn has trees that grow on their campus and students had a tradition of throwing toilet paper onto these trees. In 2010, a man named Harvey Updyke went to Auburn’s famed trees and poisoned them with an herbicide. Updyke was charged with first degree criminal mischief and had to serve jail time. While these things may still happen due to competitive people, if fans and athletes are controlled, rivalries can still be great thing and fun for all.
The people who are most affected by rivalries are players and coaches. These men come to college with the big stage in mind. Every Ohio State commit comes to college raring to go up against Michigan. Rivalries are things that go down in history and fans remember the games for what seems like eternity. On top of this, the players and coaches desire to win, which is already at an extreme high, is even greater as the fear of losing pushes them harder than ever before. No matter the teams’ records or the performances earlier in the year, teams always show up against their rivals. My high school basketball team always played the best game of the year against a school close to us because we viewed them as rivals. Players were making every effort they could to come out on top. This is the same for college football as players are fighting extremely hard to win the game.
Due to this intensity, fans get to view great and entertaining games. In the NFL, you can see they always play hard and want to win, but it is a business. Players are on the field to make money for themselves. In college football, players are still trying to make a name for themselves, but they cannot really do that without the success of their team. So, the team is everything to them, which means in key rivalry games, the entire team will show up to try and win every aspect of the game. Fans get the viewing pleasure of men putting all of their effort into the game and the results. These games typically end up being closer than expected and are fun to watch as great feats of athleticism are showed.
Finally, the games are good for the television stations that air them and the colleges the game is played on. Viewership goes up astronomically during big games and rivalry games. For example, the weekend after Thanksgiving, the Ohio State and Michigan game became the highest-rated game in college football history for a regular season game on FOX. Furthermore, many fans attend the great game and even if they cannot fit into the stadium, they still sit outside tailgating and watching the game on T.V.
While rivalries can get the best of some people, the majority can handle themselves and have fun. If universities and fans alike condemn the negative actions of a few, all problems can be erased. Rivalries are great for all who are involved and will definitely continue to be popular for many more years.