Rivalry: it is one of the greatest aspects of sports. From the college ranks to the professional level, rivalry games have provided us with some of the best, most exciting and memorable games to watch. These rivalry games not only tend to bring the best out of athletes and their teams, but also give fans the opportunity to be part of something greater. In these games, it is not just a loss at stake, but pride as well. There simply is something about beating a rival opponent that makes the victory that much sweeter.
Don’t believe me? Just ask senior men’s basketball player, Michael Wilder, who scored 24 points and added 13 rebounds on homecoming night against Long Beach State as a sophomore.
Take a look at the Big West men’s basketball standings. As of last week, the first place spot belongs to Long Beach State, the perennial power-house in the conference. Right behind them: our very own UC Irvine Anteaters.
If you weren’t aware, there exists a very competitive rivalry between both schools, going back eight years when both athletic departments came together to create what is known as the “Black & Blue Series.” The goal for this alliance: to create a new sense of pride and excitement for students and alumni.
“College is all about rivalries,” Robby Ray, Director of Corporate Relations for the UC Irvine Athletics Department, said. “We formalized this rivalry in ’05 in hopes of ingraining some of the same passion we see from other school rivalries and generating that spirit and excitement for our own students.”
Since then, it has become an annual tradition for both schools to face off in “Black & Blue” rivalry games across all sports. At the end of each year, the school with the most wins in these games receives a surf board trophy bearing the inscription of the annual winners, provided by Duke’s of Huntington Beach, which is located 12 miles away from each school.
“Long Beach State is geographically our rival,” Ray explains. “There is so much to this rivalry. It is Los Angeles versus Orange County, UC versus Cal State.”
Long Beach won the inaugural series in 2005 and repeated in 2006. The Anteaters, however, went on to take the trophy in the next three consecutive years from 2007-2010. Long Beach regained the title in 2011.
As of last week, Long Beach leads this year’s series 9-5 with three games coming up this week. On Friday, January 25, the men’s volleyball team will host Long Beach State at the Bren Events Center at 7 p.m. On Saturday, both the men and women’s basketball teams will travel to Long Beach for a double-header, with the women tipping off at 1 p.m. and the men playing at 4 p.m.
With the rivalry heating up, expect a lot of exciting games in the near future and keep your eye out for Long Beach State on the schedule. The Long Beach men’s basketball team visits UCI in the last conference game of the season on Saturday, March 2, in a game that can potentially decide the Big West conference champion.
The rivalry extends further than the court or the field, however. Recently, men’s basketball coach, Russell Turner, declared the UC Irvine student section, the “Antourage,” as the best student crowd in the Big West.
Some might beg to differ.
I would give the advantage to none other than the Long Beach State “Maniacs,” who fill the seats at nearly every home game in the iconic Walter Pyramid. The student group, started in 2007, has created a lasting legacy of Long Beach athletics fans and supporters who not only make the Walter Pyramid the most feared arena in the Big West conference for opponents, but play a pivotal role in the outcome of the games.
The emergence of the “Antourage” has helped the Anteaters defend the Bren with a 6-1 record at home this season. They have shown that they can be just as effective as the “Maniacs” of Long Beach and will continue to grow as the university continues to grow. With both teams atop of the Big West standings, it is the perfect time for this rivalry to take off.
Long Beach’s tagline this season: “We believe in black and gold.”
Anteaters, do you believe in blue and gold?
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