It seems like the LeBron James vs. Kobe Bryant debate is all over the sports world today. Heck, I wrote my column about it just two weeks ago. But since Kobe’s 61- point slashing of the Knicks and LeBron’s almost triple-double performance in New York, the blogs have been going crazy. It is safe to call this relationship between the two players an official rivalry. And rivalries are one of the best things about sports.
The NBA thrived off a Magic Johnson-Larry Bird rivalry — a rivalry that made last year’s Los Angeles Lakers-Boston Celtics NBA finals match-up one of the most watched ever. Magic and Bird created so much buzz back in the day that they are the reason the buzz has been resurrected between the two franchises.
Basketball isn’t the only sport where rivalries carry a significant load. Rafael Nadal’s victory over Roger Federer has brought on one of the greatest tennis rivalries since the days of Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi. Like Kobe, Federer was considered the best in his sport until the emergence of another young star. LeBron and Nadal represent those young stars, and suddenly sports debates have risen to a new level.
Not only do rivalries create great conversation, but they elicit a passion. When Kobe scored 61 points, Bryant Nation went on the offensive against King James’ followers. However, when LeBron lit up Madison Square Garden a few days later, his supporters came right back. Cleveland Cavaliers and Los Angeles Lakers match-ups have become hot ticket items.
Nothing brings people together more than a common enemy. Look at the Yankees and Red Sox, Dodgers and Giants and Pakistan and India cricket to name a few.
The passion in rivalries is so great that it can make up for dismal seasons. In 2006, the USC football team was ranked second in the nation and was on its way to the national title game for the fourth straight season. However, cross-town rival UCLA (7-6) welcomed the Trojans into the Rose Bowl and registered one of the greatest upsets in college football. They defeated USC 13-9 and shattered the Trojan hearts and hopes for a national title. Ask any UCLA football fan and they will call that season a success just because of that triumph.
With rivalries, there is always something to play for. Whether it’s establishing domination, shattering dreams or earning bragging rights, rivalry games carry extra importance.
That is why at UC Irvine, we need to find that one rival. The one rival we can hate, the one rival we can absolutely hope the worst for.
As of right now, UCI has at least three rivals. While Long Beach State is considered our official rival because of its proximity, Cal State Fullerton and UC Santa Barbara should also be taken into consideration.
Fullerton is rival-worthy because they beat us in everything and have left some stings. They stole our baseball coach a couple years ago and ended our hopes of making the NCAA tournament last year when the Titans defeated our men’s basketball team in the Big West Conference Tournament finals.
UCI and Long Beach State are in the “Black and Blue” rivalry and this one makes the most sense. You want your rival to be relatively close to you so that you can promote its games. In addition, you are more likely to run into a fan from a closer school, so that hate can be amplified.
However, if I were to pick a rival for this school, it would be UCSB. Most kids at UCI have friends at UCSB, and thus attend more of those games. The UCSB athletes are known to be more prone to “trash-talking” and their fans are rowdy.
Last year, the Daily Nexus, UCSB’s campus newspaper, ran an article titled “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Hate UCI.” The writer describes how UCSB is in a search for a true rival of its own, and cites similar concerns as me. I was proud to read that the reason he chose UCI as the subject of UCSB hate was because we always beat them. Last year, we eliminated its basketball team from the Big West Tournament and our baseball team ended its hopes of making the playoffs. I would like to remind them that our men’s soccer team smashed the Gauchos 4-2 in the Big West Tournament final to win the conference.
There is nothing better than beating your rival on the top stage and in the sport that they take immense pride in.
The writer even attacks our beloved Peter the Anteater. He doesn’t even get his name right. He writes, “There’s nothing more infuriating than that dude dressed up as a ‘roided-out anteater named Zot parading around the gym like the complete tool he is.”
This guy was probably drunk like all the other students at UCSB when he was writing this. Yeah, I went there.
After all, who wants their mascot to be a Gaucho? How are Argentine warriors cool? No one even knows what they are, and no one, including UCSB students, can truly describe what they look like.
They may say they have more fun and a better campus. They have Del Playa, we have Newport. They have Goleta, but at least where we live it is safe and clean. Plus L.A. and San Diego are only an hour away.
We are tied on the college ranking at 44th, so there are even more reasons for us to accept this rivalry. This rivalry offers us more benefits, and elicits more emotion. After all, Santa Barbara is a UC, whereas Long Beach and Fullerton are Cal State schools.
UCSB is calling us out, and I am accepting their invitation.
Filed Under: Sports