For those of you who argued that games at the University of Richmond would be more fun if the Spiders had a legitimate rival, I hope you've been watching ESPN this week.
This is the week that I start to dream about in October: Rivalry Week. It is my favorite week of the regular season, because the margins of victory are usually small and there's nothing I love more than a good rivalry.
Rivalry is not a term I use lightly. It actually makes me upset when announcers refer to two teams as rivals just because they play in the same conference. They're not.
I also get frustrated when people think that teams are rivals if they've had a few close games in recent years. It takes decades, not years, to build the level of animosity between teams and their fans that typifies all the truly great rivalries.
It's not just that one side wants the other side's team to lose. Fans of rival teams don't like each other, at all.
Have you ever been having a nice conversation with someone and then find out he or she liked your most hated team? I made the mistake of telling a former employer that I supported his alma mater's rival, and he said he would have punched me if he were also a 19-year-old girl.
Have you ever seen those commercials for ESPNU with the "Never Graduate" slogan? The one where they're on a blind date and the girl from Michigan says, "Go Blue," causing the guy to roll out of the car and yell, "Go Buckeyes!" is my personal favorite.
I read articles about married couples or families torn apart by team allegiances and know exactly how they feel. One of the things I love about sports is that I've made good friends simply because we follow the same teams, but the opposite is also true.
I've managed throughout the years to maintain a few friends who support my favorite teams' rival teams, but there's always something in the back of my head that tells me not to trust them.
I think this was ingrained into my head as a child, because I was the third generation in my family to attend the same school. I attended it for eight years, but it went from kindergarten until 12th grade, and we all despised our rival school.
It was another private, all-girls school, located one mile away. In high school, we even took classes together. Many mothers at the summer camp where I work act as if but I am always quick to contradict them.
Sure, I made a few friends at the school because we played club sports together or went to church together, but those were the very rare exceptions. The similarities made us want to beat them more, because if we lost we didn't want to see them in class the next day.
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If you look at the rivalry week lineup, you'll notice that proximity is a big factor. Most of these schools are from the same conference, in cities not too far from each other.
The best example is Wednesday night's game between the University of North Carolina and Duke University, which are located just eight miles away from each other. The University of Florida traveled more than 700 miles to play the University of Kentucky on Tuesday night, but the conference ties still made it one of my favorite rivalry week games.
One of the ways you can tell what a team's rivals are is to go to its bookstore. The four schools I just mentioned have T-shirts specifically targeting other schools, with messages such as "Beat [a rival school]" and "Doesn't a rivalry usually involve TWO teams with a chance of winning?"
If you go to the Richmond store, you'll see a bunch of Richmond shirts, which is great, but you'd have no idea who our rival is. The usual response is that it's Virginia Commonwealth University, which did draw the biggest crowd of any basketball game this season, but it's not quite the same as the games you'll see this week.
As a special promotion, tickets to last night's men's basketball game between Richmond and Duquesne University, another team in the Atlantic 10 Conference, were $3. On Sunday night, the asking price on eBay for two tickets to the Duke-UNC game was as much as $3,500. Clearly, rivalries can draw revenue as well as fans.
If you love rivalries as much as I do but didn't know about rivalry week, there's no need for you to worry. It's not over yet. Valentine's Day is usually filled with love, but this year it's going to be interspersed with a lot of hate.
On Saturday, ESPN will be broadcasting Georgetown University against Syracuse University, the University of Texas against the University of Colorado, the University of Cincinnati against the University of Pittsburgh and Ohio State University against the University of Wisconsin.
Some people say that the games in March are the only ones that matter, but I disagree. The teams that don't win now will never get the chance to play in March.
This week, stands will be fuller and fans will be louder. Objects will be thrown, kicked and burned after victories, and after defeats. The side effects of rivalry week are extreme, but that's exactly why I love it.
Contact sports editor Barrett Neale at email@example.com
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