I love rivalries.
Red Sox versus Yankees, Ohio State versus Michigan and even Taylor versus IWU — they all get my blood flowing. When these teams meet up, sports fans like me care.
Why do we care? Because we know the teams will compete at their highest possible level. Players will play through injury, coaches will cook up new strategies and neither team will think about a game later on its schedule. Everything is on the line as both teams look to gain the upper hand in the rivalry.
Unfortunately, both players and fans can let this elevated intensity justify behavior that wouldn’t be acceptable in any other circumstance.
Since when is it okay for a player to go into the stands to attack a fan? That’s what Ron Artest (now known as Metta World Peace) did during a Pacers-Pistons game in 2004.
Since when do fans brawl after a game? Last month, a male Jets fan punched a female Patriots fan after she and a friend had been beating him up following a Jets win.
To some extent, we see this type of behavior also happening in our Crossroads League. Just last basketball season, a Bethel player followed George Jones IV (alumnus ’13) off the court in a not-too-friendly manner after a key IWU win before Taylor Schoen (alumnus ’13) stepped in to keep the Bethel player away from Jones.
I’m fine with rivalries being a big deal, but why do they have to make players and fans more contentious and less discerning?
Really, rivalries should be about bringing out the best in teams and their fan bases, not the worst. I mean, who doesn’t like high-quality, intense sports action or knowledgeable, respectful fans?
Let’s do our part, whether we are athletes or sports fans, to make rivalries something more than petty conflicts between teams and fans who hate each other.