It’s a twitch in your eye at the mention of a particular team, some reserved fire that you patiently stoke for a year, it is open and completely accepted, high profile hate: it is Rivalry Week.
This immense satisfaction comes but a few brief days a year. It’s like an old, well worn, much loved jacket. It’s comfortable, it fits, it’s part of you. Take a normally reserved individual, flip that switch and you have a rabid fan overflowing will expletive filled diatribes capable of shock and awe.
For many Volunteer fans this time has come and gone this season: Florida, Georgia and the 3rd Saturday in October are behind us. The absence of a true instate rival (sorry Vandy) and the fact that Kentucky has not made this much of a contest for the last 27 years has left the Volunteer Nation without a lot of red heat going into Lexington but for other programs across the country, this week brings out the best and worst in fans and players alike.
Family feuds and instate brawls; it is an utter and complete lack of political correctness as college football wraps up its final regulation games before gearing up for bowl season. By comparison, bi-partisan politics are really on the cusp of working together, the Hatfields and McCoys merely had a slight disagreement, and perhaps the North and South Koreans should give the other the benefit of the doubt.
Rivalry games exponentially intensify that year round, unadulterated hate that draws lines in the sand and leaves houses divided. It may be the most important game of the year, regardless of win-loss records. This game erases all that came in front of it and a win could salvage a season, while a loss renders all other wins meaningless.
For the true fan it is not just a football game, it is justification for full-body tattoos, your child’s namesake, the color of your car and the reason you ditched your last boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife/parents etc....
This is a game that players and coaches anticipate all season long, a chance to play with an intensity that has thousands of fans feeding the fire. A grudge match where players hit harder and push longer as they play for pride and to ruin the other team’s season, indifferent to rankings or polls or records. A W is a W but to win 77-0, pass into the endzone with 5 seconds left and then go for 2 is how this game is expected to be played.
Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate
The Iron Bowl
The Egg Bowl
The Beer Barrel, The Golden Boot
Border Wars, Civil Wars
This is rivalry.