COLUMN: What is a rivalry?

This weekend, the Central Michigan football team takes on its long-time rival Western Michigan for the 82nd time.

“I love Western,” senior safety Jahleel Addae said. “Nothing motivates our team more than playing them.”

Addae’s words are a telling example that few words in sports get one's blood pumping more than the term rivalry, but what does it really mean?

To find the answer, this reporter turned where most do in today’s world: Google. After clicking on a few links, one thing became apparent, defining rivalry is much harder than one would think.

In fact, several sites simply said; the act of being a rival. Thanks a lot, Google.

After a much harder search than expected, I found an answer I liked. It read, “Competition for the same objective or for superiority in the same field.”

In the field of sports, rivalry games trump all. They drive their sport; rivalry games provide a background for tension-filled, high-drama moments. And that is what makes athletics great.

So, is a rivalry really all about championships? Some of the best ones would say, yes.

In college basketball, it's North Carolina and Duke. The two schools, which are separated by an eight-mile stretch of US-505, battle every season for the Atlantic Coast Conference and national championships. Together, the two schools have won 48 of the 73 ACC Championships.

In college football, Michigan and Ohio State have the honor of being the greatest rivalry. The two have decided the Big Ten Championship between themselves an amazing 22 times.

Perhaps it’s the unforgettable moments that define a rivalry?

The Red Sox and Yankees in Major League Baseball have provided a few. Like in the 2003 ALCS, when the rivalry exploded in front of a national television audience when the teams brawled in game three at Fenway Park.

The altercation resulted in the 72-year-old pitching coach of the Yankees, Don Zimmer, being thrown to the ground by Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez.

If that doesn’t describe a rivalry, what does?

The CMU/WMU rivalry might not be in the national spotlight as much as some of the others mentioned, but, in the state of Michigan, the only thing these two groups of fans agree on is the color gold.

On Saturday, fans donning both brown and maroon will fill Kelly/Shorts Stadium, and only one side will leave happy. The other has to wait another year for a chance to say their team won.

And maybe that’s what makes a rivalry; the passion of the teams and fan bases involved. In other words, it is hard to describe what a rivalry is, because it means different things to different people.

There might not be any championships or “superiority” up for grabs on Saturday, but when CMU and WMU get together, school spirit, pride and bragging rights are on the line, and from what this reporter can gather, that is what a rivalry is all about.


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