Friendly rivalry, or bitter rivalry?

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 31, 2002

Rivalry can be a good thing. It's a facet of competition and competition leads to improvement, innovation and invention. Rival auto designers design better autos. Rival cooks create better recipes. Rival teams work out better plays.

But rivalry has its down side. When the end result becomes more important than the actions taken to achieve that result, we lose direction. This is when mistakes of a moral and ethical nature are made. This is when corporate spies steal plans and Olympic skaters bribe judges.

What are the motivators? In some areas, it seems to be greed, resulting in insider trading or substituting inferior ingredients. But in most cases, the motivator is pride. This is especially true in athletics, where a fan's identity and pride and self-esteem can become entwined with his team

or his school. Again, this can be good. The drive to make his school the best can create a better athlete, a better math competition

or a better band. By uniting the student body, rivalry can give a sense of community and common purpose.

But all one has to do is look at the political arena to see the dark side of that sort of alliance. In order for this candidate to be the best, we have to point out all that is bad about that candidate. In order for this team to be the best, we have to publicly scorn and mock the fans of that team. And so the rivalry that should have been a positive thing,

promoting unity and innovation, becomes a platform of negativity. On that same high school level, it translates into vandalism and fights and aggresssive, abusive behavior. Sadly enough, sometimes that behavior is not from the students, but from their parents, who share the same feeling of connection to the high school team, either through their own status as alumns, or a vicarious connection through their children.

This weekend, we see many traditional rivalries acted out on the football field. This is good – tradition is also part of that community-building experience. We only hope that all concerned, parents, students and fans, keep it a friendly rivalry, and not a bitter one.

Have a good time at the games tonight and keep it fun.