Today is the Ohio State-Michigan annual end-of-the-regular season football game. This rivalry is always mentioned in the conversation
of the best in the country. I can’t speak for other rivalries, but I can say nothing gets my blood running hot then seeing those maize and blue colors. I come from a point-of-view that takes tremendous pride in all things Ohio, so this rivalry is part of it. However, I am one of ten (maybe?) people in Ohio who cares more about Ohio State basketball than Ohio State football.
On the surface, it seems rather silly that so many bragging rights, pride, outlandish expectations, and vitriol rest in the hands, feet, and hearts of 18-22 year olds (with the help of their coaches). As a person who works with and whose job depends on the performance of this age group, I know what a daily challenge it is to succeed.
So why does this game matter? 99.8% of the people watching the game have no ability to directly impact the game as a player or coach.
State bragging rights are certainly at stake. The Toledo War started feelings of ill will between the two states.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toledo_War. Because of the similarities in economic production, the two states have competed with each other
for similar resources, although there is a great amount of interdependence between the two as well.
Michigan certainly got a head start in football success, so I believe Ohio State always has the “little brother’ stigma as Michigan set the
bar of success. It took a four decades for Ohio State to be a worthy opponent at a similar performance level.
Since the two programs have been on equal footing, what has been particularly galling for me is that Michigan’s success has often been
linked to the number of Ohioans coaching and playing for the Wolverines. It’s tough to swallow when someone from your own state
goes to success elsewhere, to the point of defeating the home state. While I understand every choice and situation is different, it still
bothers me as an Ohioian. I can’t personally fathom going to work at the University of Michigan if an offer was forthcoming. I have never
understood why an Ohioan would root for Michigan over Ohio State, it seems disloyal to me!
I believe a big factor in the importance of this game is what I would call the “Rivalry Relation”. I would argue that most of us are
competitors in some way, and we use these rivalries to push ourselvesto higher level. The reality is that rivals often bring out our best
efforts. We work harder, prepare more, focus more, and execute with precision to bring victory. We want to be smarter than the smart kid;
we want to be better than the town next door; we want to have the best school; we want to be the team; we want to be the best country. At
their best, we respect the excellence of our rival and are thankful they push us to new heights. If we are watching a rivalry as an
outsider, it can be a source of inspiration that we take into our own pursuits.
Unfortunately, rivalries can also bring out the worst in us. Foolish behavior, violence, hatred, cheating, and others can quickly mar the
great qualities of a rivalry. I think most of us have done something on this “dark side” that we are not proud of. I am amazed, and
somewhat saddened, when players and coaches are denigrated by people, who quite frankly, could not even approach the ability level of those
making history in the game. I have been guilty of doing this in the past and have tried to discontinue this behavior.
I hope this game brings out the best of all involved, and we celebrate how fortunate we are to have the opportunity to see it. Go Buckeyes!
I would love to hear your comments about rivalries.
Here are some great links about the rivalry: