If you know me at all, you know how much I love college sports. With football season about to launch and Growing Leaders working with over twenty NCAA athletic programs—I am in hog heaven. I love sports as much as anyone in our nation. Part of what makes them fun, is the rivalries that started as early as a century ago:
- Alabama and Auburn
- Ohio State and Michigan
- Florida and Florida State
- Georgia and Georgia Tech
- Texas and Oklahoma…to name a few.
But I am wondering, now, if this new generation has lost sight of their place. I wonder if college rivalries have gone too far in the minds of some fans. Case in point: two historic oak trees in front of Auburn University were toilet-papered and poisoned, turning the leaves a weird, sickly yellow color. An Alabama fan named Harvey Updyke claimed credit for it. He wanted to incite the first clamor of rivalry in this new football season. What he ignited, however, was just the opposite.
Alabama fans were repulsed by this act, even though it was done on their rival’s campus. Why? They know how many folks drove up earlier this year to help Tuscaloosa citizens recover from the aftermath of a horrible tornado. In fact, Auburn fans launched a website that has raised $55,000, most of it aiding tornado victims in Tuscaloosa. Many folks from Auburn drove up and helped the victims dig through the rubble. It was an act of charity. So—what did Crimson Tide fans do in response to the tree poisoning? Five of them launched a “Tide for Toomers” Facebook page and began raising money for the trees. Five weeks later they presented a check for $50,000. Not bad for a rival.
It seems like some people are gaining perspective. One star linebacker for the Crimson Tide, Dont’a Hightower said, “Sometimes I’m just thinking…this is because of a football game?”
I love football rivalries as much as the next guy. They make the game extra fun when passion and talent join hands on the field. But I think we can lose perspective on what matters most.
Tell me if I am wrong. What role do rivalries play in college or pro sports?