Sports are a wonderful thing, mostly. I say “mostly” because there are some sports which are a bit hard to comprehend without putting the time in to learn the game, looking at you cricket. Regardless of what sport is your favorite, which ones you enjoy and even those you despise, they all have one thing in common; one small, or giant, thing that binds two groups of people together.
Dear readers, I am talking about rivalries.
Rivalries give an extra edge to any game of the season. A big rivalry game in football can send a team to the playoffs while the other stays home with a cranky fan base. Long standing rivalries can divide co-workers, friends and even family.
It’s not a huge secret that I am an Iowa State fan. I was born in Ames and had grandparents who worked for the college. I was hard-wired to be a Cyclone. Any rivalry game with Iowa is fun, but the football rivalry is best. Nate Shaughnessy, Spencer Daily Reporter’s former sports editor, and I used to rib one another over the Iowa/Iowa State game.
In fact, in our text exchange over the 2019 contest between the two schools, he informed me he has never laughed so hard over a blunder to blow a game. As an Iowa State fan, I had to take it in stride because, well, it was a terrible blunder to blow a winnable game for the Cyclones.
The game wouldn’t be as much fun if the two schools and fan bases got along all the time. It’d be boring when they play the game. Social media lights up during a “hate week” period any time two rivals lock horns on the gridiron. Some people are just trash talking for fun while others, well, they go a bit too far.
Memes were created around Iowa State’s football blunder, and Iowa fans gleefully posted them to get under ISU fans’ skin. State fans, if the situation were reversed, would have done the exact same thing.
The Iowa and Iowa State men’s basketball game this past season had that huge social media blow-up over a player leaving his shoes on the court. Shoes on the court. Shouldn’t be a big deal, but because it was from these two teams, it became one.
Iowa fans will constantly call Iowa State little brother and say the wins mean more to them, and Iowa State fans refer to Iowa as That Team Out East.
This is why rivalries are fun.
It doesn’t matter what level of sports they exist in either. Even high schools have heated rivals they take on. Storm Lake has Spencer and Cherokee as their big rivals and those games are always the most fun to cover.
One of my favorite student section chants in these rivalry games is “football.” This refers to a losing team in basketball chanting “football” if they won the football game. I don’t know why but it makes me chuckle because even in defeat, there is a way to get a win as a student section.
Some of the more fun rivalry games come on a student section theme night. Theme nights are great regardless, but they add a bit more to a rivalry game. Some student sections do a theme night while traveling to a rivalry game. Not sure why, but hey, kids just want to have fun.
However, seeing a rivalry end can also hurt. Storm Lake will not play Cherokee in football this upcoming season so the Battle Axe remains on the shelf. Despite Storm Lake rolling past Cherokee all four years I have covered the game, it’s still a rivalry that both towns get fired up for.
To see that disappear is disappointing for both schools and their fan base. However, Storm Lake does see Spirit Lake return to their schedule which might make for a better game.
Some of the best rivalries are between players. Magic Johnson and Larry Bird were credited with helping to save the NBA with their rivalry, in addition to the entire Lakers against Celtics tilts of the 1980s.
Even inner-squad rivalries might help a team reach new heights, or completely destroy it. Just look at the Shaq and Kobe Lakers for examples of both.
The NFL has a ton of rivalries forged by years and years of playing in the same division twice a year. The Packers and Vikings seem to be the biggest in the Midwest and having seen both sides, it’s intense.
I lived in a household for years with both Packers and Vikings fans and every time they played, it was an intense day. The winner was boastful and the loser told the winner to shut up. Those might not be the exact words, but sometimes words cannot be repeated in print.
This is what makes sports so much fun. Just those moments of joy or the despair of defeat in the final seconds. Take time to appreciate both the hate and love in a rivalry.