Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Sports Talk: Don't Hate Just to Hate

As a correspondent sports writer for The Casey County News, I write an weekly editorial column for the publication. Published Nov. 20, 2013.  
I like rivalries. Honestly, would sports be fun without them??

There are different kinds of rivalries. There are the ones that only last a single season or so. These typically spawn from an extremely close game in a pivotal time or some sort of upset. The hard feelings of the losing team usually carry over into the next meeting between the two--sometimes further. Usually this type of rivalry, though, only lasts so many games, before the incident that initiated the rivalry becomes just a memory and part of the history books for both teams.

A good example of this would be last year's Lady Rebel basketball team and the Lincoln County Lady Patriots. Both team returned an identical roster from the 2012 regional championship game (where Lincoln took the title and advanced to state.) The 2012-13 teams were complete with the same roste, same emotions and same fans as the season before, so there was no doubt these two teams were out for each other. As we hoped/expected, the two ended up in the regional final again. Unfortunately, Casey came up just short of the victory and Lincoln repeated their title. The thing is, Casey County and Lincoln County do not regularly "hate" each other and the Lady Pats will be much less of a rival team to the Lady Rebs this year. The rivalry of the past two year's will simply become a memory.

Then there are the long-standing, never going away rivalries. These are hardcore and cold and never cease, even if a decade passes where one of the two competitors repeatedly blows the other out of the water. In many ways, these rivalries stand more because of fans than athletes themselves.

We in the Bluegrass state obviously know a thing or two about this type of rivalry. It's called red versus blue. I have friends who won't even wear the color royal blue or bright red unless they absolutely must. (And doesn't it say something about our mentality in this state when I had trouble even writing that last sentence without using the descriptors 'wildcat blue' and 'cardinal red'?)

But here is what I do find funny and a little ironic about these rivalries and some of its hardest of hardcore fans: they get upset at their opponents rubbing dirt in their faces. I see this on Facebook frequently... one side calls out every flaw of the other--every loss is laughed at, every player who screws up is ridiculed, the coaches are torn apart, and the programs are constantly under scrutiny. Then, I see fans trying to belittle those on the other side for acting in such a way. These people act as if they are above those on the other side because they don't laugh at the losses and failures of their rival and that those who do are lesser than.

But here's my perspective: loving your rivals failures is part of why that team is your rival and not just another opponent. As a fan, you always want your team to win; in turn, this means you always want your current opponent to lose--rival or not. However, you never, not a day in your life, would you ever consider cheering for your rival, no matter what team they are up against. You will never rejoice in their victories.

So while you might say I have a pet peeve for fans who are bothered by their rival fans outing all of their failures, I will admit to another pet peeve that sort of is the reverse of this. While I think it is right and I almost expect a rival fan to give me a hard time when teams, coaches, players or institution screws up, I hate it when someone who is not a fan of my rival decides to hate on my team just for the heck of it.

If I play your school and you beat me... sure, rub it in my face. If you're a true Michigan fan, sure, hate on my Buckeyes all day long. But people who go out of their way to bring up a loss or screw up simply because they know I am a fan of the team--not because they are on the winning side of the failure--that bothers me. That is just someone feeling like being a meanie. (I cannot come up with a more mature way to state that at the moment.)

So, to summarize and get off my soapbox... if you are a Cats fan... don't whine when a Cardinal makes 40-0 jokes... If you're a Cardinal fan... don't act like UK fans are rednecks for making fun of your players' or coaches' faults. As an Ohio State fan, I don't care what Michigan fan talks trash to me, but if you don't know the first thing about college football and simply hear something negative about the Buckeyes, don't choose that moment to jump on the bandwagon for badmouthing a team. Keep sports rivalry fun alive and hate on your current opponents and your rivals... But don't hate just to hate.

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