July 13, 2024

What makes a rivalry?

Part I of the Tailgate Society Rivalry Series defines what makes a rivalry so special, as we prepare for the beginning of the 2017 College Football Season.

Texas and Oklahoma take part in the annual Red River Rivalry game in Dallas

The buildup

You’re sitting in your office at work, unable to complete the tasks your boss just gave you. Your mind is on Saturday’s big match-up, a rivalry match-up that has been circled on your calendar since the last time the two teams collided last season. Your body is on edge in nervous anticipation; this game not only determines your fate moving forward in your season, but every fan of your rival is within 100 feet of your desk ready to pounce if they get the win over your beloved squad. You can’t focus. The nerves are too much. To make matters worse… its only Monday.

Memories of past matchups

The moments of the rivalries past float through your mind as the week progresses. The stunning victories and the agonizing defeats of years’ past circulate through your mind as you futilely attempt to perform the daily tasks your boss is chirping at you to finish. Throughout the years, your teams have traded blows, back-and-forth, each creating a new favorite win and a least favorite (agonizing) defeat. For Aggie fans, its great moments like Texas A&M’s comeback over Texas following the bonfire tragedy in 1999; for Volunteer fans, its the heartbreaking memories of countless agonizing Florida defeats over Tennessee, only to find redemption in 2016; its the #1 vs #2 Ohio State v. Michigan game in 2006 in the wake of Bo Schembechler’s passing, all passing through the collective minds of these rabid fan bases as the anticipation grows throughout the week leading up to the big rivalry matchup.

The legends

In addition to the great moments in the series, the legends and villains of the rivalry continue to live within you, whether positively or with a unique level of hatred and disdain. Its the Michigan fan still stirring over Michigan State’s Jalen Watts-Jackson returning a blocked punt to stun the Wolverines in Ann Arbor in 2015. Its the Alabama fan, one second away from a trip to the SEC Title Game, only to have their hearts ripped out by the now infamous “Kick Six” play to send Auburn to Atlanta instead. Its the Iowa State fan still reveling in Seneca Wallace’s monstrous third quarter against Iowa in 2002 which catapulted the Cyclones to a huge win which served as Iowa’s only blemish on the regular season.

Seneca Wallace squeezes past an Iowa defender in a 36-31 Iowa State win over the Hawkeyes. Iowa State Daily

The pregame smack talk

You pack up your pickup truck, car or SUV and head to the stadium hours prior to kickoff, hoping to land a top tailgate spot near the stadium and to begin what is hopefully a jubilant ending to a week-long buildup which disrupted every other aspect of your life. Before your feet touch the ground getting out of the vehicle, you already sense the extra excitement, tension and atmosphere surrounding what you know is perhaps the biggest day of the year on campus, throughout town, or perhaps throughout the entire state or region. You set up your tailgate and raise the flag of your team proudly against the clear blue sky of the brisk autumn day. Within seconds, you hear your first jab of the day: “Go Big Red!” from the Husker fan in Iowa City, or “Roll Tide” as the Auburn fan plants his flag into the Tuscaloosa soil. The intensity only grows as the day progresses, as the beer flows freely and the anticipation grows.

Ohio State and Michigan fans tailgate prior to “The Game” WXYZ

Pre-game jitters hit a fever pitch as fans begin to make their walk into the stadium and find their seats. The band of the opposing team takes the field and begins their fight song, and all you can do its boo at the top of your lungs at a song you feel should never be played in our house! Its probably a good idea to save your voice for the actual game, but simply hearing the Oregon Fight song at Reser Stadium, or “On Wisconsin” at TCF Bank Stadium is enough as your anticipation, nerves, and even anger toward your rival hit a fever pitch, minutes before kickoff.

Alabama takes on Auburn in the Iron Bowl AL.com

The euphoria of victory & the agony of defeat

The game kicks off and teams begin running their offensive and defensive schemes. The jarring between fanbases rises as the game progresses, as teams trade blows and make big plays. As the game reaches its pinnacle, the 4th quarter clock begins to creep down from five minutes to four minutes and eventually to two. Your team is down four and needs a touchdown to win the game. As the clock expires, the perfect spiral pass goes into the endzone for a game winning touchdown. Euphoria takes over the stadium as the perfect ending to the week that was. The play goes down in infamy, just as the “kick six” did in Auburn or Jalen Watts-Jackson did in Ann Arbor. Fans storm the field as players rush the opposing sidelines to grab the rivalry trophy they have worked so hard to bring back to their locker room. The perfect rivalry ending is complete.

The passion

The week leading up to the big rivalry game was filled with many fun and stressful moments of anticipation for Saturday. This anticipation was only matched by the sheer euphoria and nervousness which took place as the ebbs and flows of a game took place, coupled by the sheer hatred and desire to take down the hated rival. These ebbs and flows, the anticipation, the constant jabs all week, the monumental plays (both beautiful and disastrous) and the trash talk to follow at the water cooler at work on the following Monday, all are what make college rivalries so special and ingrained in the culture of sports.

Continuing in this rivalry series

As we continue this series on rivalries, ahead of the 2017 football season, we hope fans can take great enjoyment in the great rivalry moments of their lifetimes, or even remember the agony following certain defeats, in hopes that they never happen again.

In the coming weeks, we will be taking a look at many different aspects of rivalries, including:

  • The best rivalries in college sports
  • How to create a new rivalry
  • Rivalries we have lost
  • Rivalries that have gone too far

The eve of college football is approaching, and we hope this take at our favorite rivalries, their various intricacies, and the sheer passion following them can prepare you for what will be an incredible 2017 college football season!

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Travis Halm
Travis Halm 43 Articles
Staff Writer

Travis Halm is an Iowa State Alum living in Omaha, Nebraska. A native of Haverhill, Iowa, Travis has lived throughout the Midwest and in Texas, providing him insight on the Big 12, the SEC, and a wide variety of other sports topics. Travis follows the Cyclones closely, in addition to the Cardinals, Packers, Texas A&M and rarely turns down a ticket to a good sporting event.

2 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. The best rivalries in college football | The Tailgate Society
  2. How to create a new rivalry | The Tailgate Society

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