I've always been very interested and involved in sports throughout my life, but as I've grown older I've begun hanging out with more and more people who don't necessarily adopt the same self-destructive lifestyle. In this spirit, I've decided to introduce them to the various tenets of sports fandom in a series of blog posts (Maybe? Perhaps?) that I will title "Sports 101."
Lesson One: Why Your Rival Sucks
Below I will outline the essence of one of the definitive cogs of sports fandom: Abstract hate for an entire population of people based on arbitrary allegiances to a group of individuals playing a game who likely have no idea that you exist.
This is what America was built on, friends.
Now for the purposes of this blog post and due to sheer timeliness (March Madness is just around the corner) I will focus on college rivalries, but many of the reasons your college rival undoubtedly sucks can still be applied to any professional sports rival with slight tweaking.
Indeed, your rival does suck (so badly) and here is why:
All of Their Fans Are So Arrogant/Such Hicks (or Other Ad Hominem Nouns, Depending on Region)
Either one or the other of these attacks can apply to basically any fan base (with both probably working if we're just focusing on the SEC) but this is the bread and butter of most good rivalries -- vapid generalizations. The school that is more respected academically will generally take on the role of being insufferable and entitled rich kids who spend all their time spending Daddy's money and looking down on (insert rival school), even though they're just jealous of them because (yada, yada, yada). On the other end of the spectrum you have the country bumpkins who have been sentenced to four years at their remedial college as a result of barely not flunking out of high school.
Hating actual people can be a difficult proposition as there are other factors to consider such as the fact that they're human beings with thoughts and feelings. But giving tens of thousands of angsty college students and stressed alumni a caricature of what everyone at an opposing institution is like?
Well, that will sell some t-shirts.
And this doesn't even touch on the fans of your rival that did not even attend the school but still maintain loyalty. This group belongs in a different species of terrible altogether -- somewhere between Homo erectus and Philadelphius Eaglus.
You Beat Them in (Sport) During (Period of Time)
OK, let's say a disaster has occurred and you have, God forbid, lost to your rival. You should be feeling several emotions (for the reasons listed above and below) and may even begin questioning whether it is in fact your institution that sucks. Never do this! Your rival sucks, and it is a fact more well-documented than gravity or the cosmos. Before cognitive dissonance can set in, research your school's record against your rival over any number of sports over any period of time. If you happen to have a positive record against them in recreational bowling since the conclusion of the Korean War, hold onto this fact with everything you have and never let go of it! Trust me when I say your rival does suck... but sometimes you have to fudge with the numbers a little bit to realize it.
They Obviously Cheat
Now this is a crucial part of a rivalry -- the incessant belief that the other team always cheats. Now this works on a macro as well as micro level. On one hand, they're clearly a very corrupt institution that has a long history of shady recruiting tactics. If a school hasn't been accused of shady recruiting tactics in some way, shape or form, they probably aren't involved in a rivalry.
The common consensus among your fan base is that your rival would have had their program disbanded long ago but the NCAA (or NFL, or FIFA, or National Middle School Archery Association, etc.) has shown a long history of bias towards their institution. Bias I tell you!
On a smaller level, they clearly pay the referees to make good calls on their behalf, because how else would such a terrible team be able to defeat your vastly superior squad?
Regardless of the final score of your rivalry game, the referees most definitely had a tremendous say in the outcome (Note: This only applies if your team loses the game). You see, any single one of their bad calls could have broken your teams spirit and decided the contest. Don't forget this fact, as baseless accusations that the other team paid off the referees are crucial to any strong rivalry.
You Could Have Gone There But Didn't For Any Number of Reasons
Much of what fuels abstract hate in a good rivalry is the notion, true or not, that you are rooting for your team via an objective choice you made between the two institutions. Now this gets tricky to believe when in fact you did not get admitted to the school that you are in a rivalry with. If such is the case, merely claim that you did get admitted but didn't want to matriculate because of cost, location or the fact that it is the worst place on earth and you only applied there merely so that you could burn the admission letter during a ritual bonfire while dancing in circles singing your institution's (much catchier) fight song.
This is all part of being in a healthy rivalry... with less emphasis on the word "healthy," I suppose.
The Town They're Located in Is Easily the Worst Place On Earth
If you haven't actually visited the town that your rival is located in or otherwise know nothing about it, trust in the fact that it's either boring, dangerous, overrun by hippies, overrun by conservatives or Boston. If you're in a situation in which your rival is located in the same city as you -- don't panic! -- simply apply the same platitudes above to their campus as opposed to the entire town. Even if you visit their town on the weekends to party, it is vital that you never forget that it is a truly awful place that on its very finest day would not be deserving of being converted into a landfill to dump the waste your heavenly locale disposes of.
Those Colors... Yuck!
By now you surely have a good idea of why your rival sucks, but it never hurts to further deepen your hatred by rationalizing how everything remotely related to them is indeed awful. Case in point: Their colors. Now I know what you're thinking "Oh no, what if they have the same colors as me?" Firstly, this shouldn't be a problem as no actual rivals share the same colors. If you find yourself in a rare scenario in which this is the case, fear not, as at the heart of most good rivalries are tremendous double-standards. In this case, you can make your claim that your shade of said color is so much classier than their shade.
In terms of descriptors for other teams' colors, traditionally you're going to want to compare them to some kind of bodily fluid. Use your imagine and have fun with it -- there has to be something that's come out of somebody at some point that resembles your rival's colors!
And for the time being, that should cover the basic reasons of why your rival sucks but of course, don't be afraid to customize. Maybe your rival is really bad at one thing I didn't mention, don't let my omission of this fact deter you from relentlessly hating them for it.
So until next time, happy hating!