Understanding ridiculous rivalries

Thursday I watched an ESPN 30 for 30 movie called “Roll Tide/War Eagle” in my sport media class.  If you’ve never seen a 30 for 30 film, stop reading this and go watch one now. Seriously. Doesn’t have to be the one I’m talking about, just go watch any one of them. They are on Netflix so you have no excuse.  They are awesome documentaries about sport-related things, and before you say anything about most documentaries being relatively boring, I promise you these are anything but boring.

Now that I’ve finished my plug for ESPN’s movie-making qualities, the movie is about the rivalry between the University of Alabama (Roll Tide) and Auburn University (War Eagle), both of which are in Alabama. This is important because these schools hate each other. I mean really hate each other. It’s impressive, the amount of hate these schools have for each other.

All this hate comes down to one football game a year during the Iron Bowl, in which Alabama plays Auburn. This one football game means everything to each team every year. I mean yeah, they could go undefeated in the season and win a national championship, but none of that stuff matters unless they beat the opposing team in this Iron Bowl.

This sounds a bit ridiculous to me. The whole season coming down to one game? Hating another team so much you are willing to commit illegal acts? (This actually happened when an Alabama fan poisoned Auburn’s famous trees after Alabama lost to Auburn in the 2010 Iron Bowl.)

Why is it these two teams get so much enjoyment over hating each other? In Texas, the biggest rivalry is obviously between A&M University and the University of Texas at Austin.  Every year the game is on Thanksgiving and is a huge deal to supporters on either side (too bad that game is over), but even these schools don’t hate each other as much as Alabama and Auburn.  Most people from A&M and UT can coexist peacefully outside of football, whereas people from Alabama cannot.

In class, we decided that a huge reason this rivalry exists is that there isn’t much else to pay attention to in Alabama. These two colleges are pretty much it for big-time football in the state. There is no professional team to root for, either. Here we have the Texans and the other team (yes, that is intentional) and a ton of D1 schools that have big football programs like UT, A&M, Baylor, Rice, Texas Tech, etc. Most states that have all these teams to pay attention to don’t put as much emphasis on rivalries. In my opinion, we just don’t care as much.

I guess I just don’t understand rivalries, and that is probably me being from Texas and not having parents or family members strongly affiliated with a college. I do get that rivalries can be a good thing sometimes. It brings people to show their school spirit and fires up players; and I think its normal for people to dislike the opposing team; I obviously dislike the least important team in Texas, the Cowboys.  But it’s when people get crazy that rivalries get stupid. No one should care that much about a sporting event or a team where it alters their thoughts about a person that likes their opposing team, because in the end the Tide doesn’t roll that deep, and the War Eagle is really just an eagle.