While in Alabama the son-in-law shared a conversation he had with several of his classmates at the Army Aviation School about rivalries in sports . . . in particular he was curious as to why there was so much hatred between rival schools and teams. He clearly did not get an answer that seemed to suit him as he brought up right before the first game of the University of Nebraska Cornhusker football on television. He wanted to know WHY.
Of course being a diplomatic individual, I allowed the daughter to attempt to explain why there was such intense emotion between rivals . . . it had no effect upon his understanding. I thought the daughter would be able to shed some light on the subject having been born and raised as a Cornhusker, but nothing she said made common sense to the son-in-law. All he said was, “I understand all of that, but what makes people hate another team?”
I am a Boston Celtic fan . . . I own one share of stock in the Celtics from when they were in the public stock business . . . I have been to French Lick, Indiana . . . and, I have been a fan all of my life. Being a Boston Celtic fan makes me a natural enemy of the Los Angeles Lakers. The Lakers are Boston’s biggest rivals and have been going back to the Minnesota days. The rivalry has been played out countless times over the decades and there is no love lost between them or their fans. Why? Because . . .
I am a Baltimore Orioles fan of the Eastern Division of the American League . . . I have been an Orioles fan most of my life . . . I have endured the ups and downs to root this team on . . . and because of that love I cannot stand the New York Yankees. In baseball my favorite two teams are the Orioles and whoever is playing the Yankees. Those damn Yankees! Why is there no love for the Yankees? Because . . .
I am a University of Nebraska Cornhusker fan . . . have been since that day I first stepped on Nebraska soil back in 1974 . . . I bleed red . . . I know the words to their corny fight song . . . and I cannot stand Oklahoma . . . or Texas . . . or Iowa . . . or Missouri . . . or any team that lines up against my beloved Huskers. Why the animosity? Because . . .
That is the best that I can do . . . because. Why? Well, because the son-in-law is right . . . there are no justifiable reasons for such animosity . . . such hatred . . . to be felt between schools or teams. There are no good reasons to hate another team . . . it is a game . . . a competition . . . and in the end one team wins, the other loses, and everyone can walk away and still be friends. But competition brings out the worse in us humans . . . we all want to win . . . we all want to be a part of the winning team . . . we all want to be the best. For that reason we use whatever weapons we can use to get the upper hand. We berate the other team . . . we demean them to nothing . . . we belittle them . . . we want to make them disappear . . . in the hope that we will win. It goes against our God-created nature. Why? Because . . .
I cannot answer my son-in-law’s question, but I can understand where he is coming from . . . most of the time. The time I cannot understand is when anyone plays the Huskers . . . then it is all bets off. It is a shameful act of partisanship with no real rhyme or reason. So come Saturday the Nebraska faithful gather to root for their team to destroy their rivals in a game of football. It is an embarrassing display that repeats itself over and over through each generation of Nebraska fans.
But I think that there is a saving grace for the Husker fans . . . it comes in a ritual that started long ago and is played out at the end of each home and away game wherever there are fans. It begins as the clock is winding down to 00:00. The fans stand and begin to clap and continue to clap as the visiting team—winner or loser, leaves the field. It is a symbol of grace to recognize the humanity and effort of the other team . . . of the rival who once stood opposite of the home team as the dreaded and hated enemy. Why? Maybe because there is grace . . . maybe because there is embarrassment at one’s behavior of hatred. Whatever it is, it is moving.
Why? Because . . . I don’t know. All I know is that I hope that I never lose sight of that gracious act to recognize in my rivals their humanness. They aren’t that much different than me even though they wear some pretty crummy colors and root for some terrible teams. They are okay . . . but, to play it safe just don’t play my beloved Huskers!