Sunday, August 31, 2008

Conference Rivalry

Everyone knows that just one year ago, Appalachian State beat Michigan at home in one of the greatest college football upsets of all time. There were a lot of storylines that came out of that game, but the one I want to point to now hasn’t been talked about much. That story is how overjoyed the rest of the Big 10 was that Michigan lost.

If you go on YouTube, you can see the shaky, homemade videos of people watching the final moments of that game. Videos of thousands of fans cramming into the bowels of the Horseshoe, or standing on pillars in Beaver Stadium to get a glimpse of a TV screen showing the last plays. You don’t even need to be able to see the final blocked field goal to know when it happens – the crowds explode in cheers and go berserk , chanting “thank you” to the Mountaineers and “overrated” to the Wolverines. Fast forward to the end of last season and the beginning of this one. At both the National Championship game and this season’s opener in the Georgia Dome, LSU and Alabama fans brought out the “S-E-C” chants after thrashing their opponents. Two very different reactions that bring up the question: How acceptable is it to cheer for your conference rivals?

Some die hard fans would say never. As an Ohio State fan, you always root against Michigan, no matter what. Their loss is your win, and anything that negatively effects them is good for you. That loss to Appalachian State was like Christmas in September. But thinking about it from a different angle, their loss also brought down the conference as a whole, which was bad for the Buckeyes. So when Michigan wins it is good for the conference and thus also good for Ohio State. Both viewpoints are based on love, but they’re distinctly different.

Love for your team can be seen as deep, while love for your conference can be seen as wide. Your love can be somewhere in the middle but it can’t be both. Your love for Texas can’t be deep unless you always root against Oklahoma and Texas A&M. At the same time, your love for the Big 12 can’t be wide unless you always cheer for Oklahoma and Texas A&M when they play non-conf games.

So what does it say about the Big 10 teams that rooted against Ohio State? It just means that they have more school pride than conference pride. And the SEC teams? It shows that right now they have more conference pride than school pride. That makes perfect sense, considering the fact that most people wouldn’t argue that the SEC has been the strongest conference the last few years. It’s a no-brainer to cheer for your conference when you’ve won the last two national championships and have the highest out-of-conference winning percentage. So where does that leave the other conferences? Well, they’ve always got their school pride to show, which is easy if you win your conference or finish in the Top 25 consistently.

So the next time you’re watching a big game that’s a matchup between one of your conference rivals and a non-conf foe, try to gauge where your love is. If you want your rival to win, you’ve got the love for your conference, but if you want them to lose, you’re putting your team first. Either one is perfectly acceptable – but you can’t have it both ways.


Brad said...

I think you can have it both ways. Don't get me wrong, I hate rooting for a conference rival. But, considering my Longhorns just beat OU and are now "ranked" #1, you can bet your sweet A$$ I'll be rooting for OU the rest of the season. It only makes sense. The same goes for Mizzou, OK ST, and Tech. I hope their only loss will be to UT. So, while I'm rooting for my rival to win all their other games, I'm actually rooting for my team to come out on top of the BCS (i.e. Love of team).

I really like this site. Thanks to my Pac 10 buds for recommending it. They would never root for a conference rival. Not sure why. I think it's shortsighted in our current situation (BCS).

I also think the cupcake non-con scheduling is deplorable, but it is what it is. You play the hand you are dealt.


Ed Gunther said...

Yeah, that's a good point Brad. The BCS has skewed this whole idea of who to root for quite a bit. But I think it's always been there - it's just more visible with the BCS. Thinking back to the pre-BCS years, teams would still have their schedules beefed up with wins by their opponents, and voters did take those things into account. But you didn't see the blatant conference homerism you do today.

When the BCS came along with it's SoS component, it really drove that point home and gave it a face, so much so that people could easily defend cheering for their rivals because of the way the BCS rankings were set up.

Thanks for reading.