Without rivalries, football would be little more than (mostly) fit men scampering around a well-manicured lawn in tight pants chasing a ball no bigger than an obese Chihuahua. Dubious, at best.
Rivalries, however, give us conflict, lend intrigue and substantiate purpose.
Who were the Hatfield’s without the McCoy’s? Dirty hillbillies, that’s who.
The 2004 Red Sox World Series win wouldn’t have been nearly as memorable if the road to the championship hadn’t included a historic run through the New York Yankees and a bloody, sweat-soaked sock.
Ricky “the Dragon” Steamboat fought epic, timeless battles against Ric Flair in the days of the NWA, back when it was acceptable to have a wrestler embrace the persona of a dragon.
You get the idea.
With that in mind, I introduce you to college football’s rivalry week, an enduring testament to competition, exemplified. And in terms of college football rivalry, it gets no better than Saturday’s matchup between Albany and Stony Brook.
The Seawolves, who are 6-0 and leading the Big South, started off 2011 with three straight losses. Since their last blast in the teeth from Brown, however, they’ve reeled off 8 straight victories, including a season-signature walloping of Gardner-Webb, 76-28.
Last week against Liberty, quarterback Kyle Essington was his usual, efficient self, protecting the ball with tenacity of a mother bear guarding her cubs, going 14 of 20 for 250 yards, with three scores and nary an interception to be found. This Saturday against the rival Great Danes, however…
Okay, you know what?
I’m making all of this up. Well, to be fair, I’m not making it up—these are real teams, those are real stats and they really are playing one another this weekend—RIVALRY! But you don’t care (unless you went to either one of these schools, and in which case, I say, huh? Whatever brings you here?). The real story this weekend is the battle between good and evil, light and dark, the Drinker and the Stinker.
In the shadow of the gigantic Arrowhead scoreboard (which seems unlikely, as this game will be played under the cover of darkness), Missouri will battle Kansas in one last chance at supremacy, with nothing but a hundred years of hatred on the line. Though blood has been spilled, families decimated and dreams of slave-ownership crushed like so many rotten tomatoes, this rivalry, both historic and tragic, will reach its climactic conclusion on Saturday night.
Unless you’ve been living under a weathered 19th century headstone, you know that Mizzou is heading to the SEC and KU? Well, after this season, they may just disband that football team and count their losses, once and for final.
Kansas is bad. Powerful bad, as it were, and against a modestly adequate Missouri Tigers football squad, they don’t stand a chance.
There’s a lot to be said about heart, spirit, intensity, and that pesky old “rivalry” school-of-thought. It’s virtually a scientific fact that one always plays twice as hard against a divisional opponent (just ask the Chargers, a few weeks ago against the lowly Chiefs), but all of the back-breaking hatred in the world isn’t enough to carry the Jayhawks to victory over a substantially superior Tigers’ team.
See if I’m wrong.
If recent history is any indication, the Tigers will soundly trounce their border-adversaries, 128-3. If the Hawks have an ounce of moxie within their hollow bones, it may be 55-10.
Regardless, it is my firm prediction that this classic battle between good and evil, light and dark—well, you know the rest—will end in a decidedly unspectacular manner. Imagine the confederates driving an M1-A1 straight into the fray, a drunken Gary Pinkel poised precariously on the half-track.
For KU, it just doesn’t seem fair.
Turner Gill went into the battle with a powder-loaded hand cannon; he’ll come out in pieces.
Farewell, rivalry; you were fun while you lasted.