Sports, Column, Men's Basketball, Men's Hockey, Football

True Sports Rivalries Are Reciprocated

Once again, my column spot has come into rotation, and all I have on my mind is some good, old fashioned hate. About a month ago, I published a metric to consult when considering one’s level of hatred toward any given football program in the ACC. This week, however, my reflection on hatred is inspired not by my personal heated feelings, but rather by generally accepted distastes and the event that is going down in Conte Forum on Friday.

It will be one of the biggest nights of the year for the Boston College men’s hockey team. In case your midterm schedule has meant that you haven’t left Bapst and/or connected to the Internet and/or talked to a soul for the last month, you should know that BC is playing Boston University on Friday night in what is probably about the 1000th meeting between the two programs.

Needless to say, it’s a rivalry—a heated one with tons of history that is made even more intense by the geographical proximity of the schools—but it may in fact be the only rivalry that BC engages in that has any relevance.

Hear me out. In the big revenue sports, it’s pretty easy to nail down a program that is thought of as the big rival but, in my opinion, some of these so-called grudges are undeserving of their statuses as rivalries.

First on my list of unfounded rivalries is the one between BC and Notre Dame, which is primarily centered around football, but also trickles down into non-revenue sports as well as into hockey and basketball (though it is outshone by others in both of those cases).

I think this rivalry is stupid. Maybe it’s because I’m not Irish, and I’m a bad Catholic, and I had pretty much no awareness of BC or Notre Dame before I got here apart from the viewing of Rudy in my seventh grade health class, but I don’t really get it. To me, there’s nothing worse than a one-sided rivalry, wherein one school makes it a huge deal, counting down the days until its “rival” comes to town so that fans can verbally spar with them and be generally rude in the beautiful way that only a rivalry allows. There’s a huge problem, though, when only one of the schools is interested in the rivalry. You’re pretty much throwing your insults at a brick wall as Notre Dame ignores you and makes obscene gestures at USC.

In football, at least in this era, Notre Dame has no reason to weigh the game against BC any more than the other games on its schedule. The Eagles’ mediocre-on-a-good-day status that was the flavor of the Spaziani era has rendered BC football insignificant in the eyes of Notre Dame.

Sure, there’s history between the two, but there’s also something wrong with considering your main football rival a team that, one, you don’t play every year, and two, you get flattened by each time you meet.

BC needs to step back and take an ACC rival. Sure, Notre Dame has its tentative status as not-quite-ACC for football, but having a rival within the conference that is a bit more evenly matched would be far more appropriate.

My suggestion? Virginia Tech. It’s a program that, much like BC, had a strong streak in the mid-to-late 2000s, but has since fallen. As both teams fight back toward national relevance, the series between the two at 3-2 VT since 2010 after the Eagles’ win on Saturday, they are in similar places in their programs that would make a rivalry interesting and exciting, rather than consistently one-sided.

Moving on to basketball, the rivalry has something going for it in that the teams face off consistently every year, but once again, as BC engages with Syracuse, there’s the huge issue in that the BC game is far from the biggest game of the year for the Orange. It’s a powerhouse program, while BC is, to say it kindly, rebuilding.

Syracuse has Duke and UNC to worry about, and to the Orange, a BC game is a throwaway. Even though BC pulled off a win last year, it was unable to sustain any sort of success thereafter, thus suggesting that the upset was a fluke and not enough to make Syracuse actually consider BC a threat.

Once again, the Eagles need an ACC rival who will actually engage with them, making it a more legitimate grudge match. My vote would be for Wake Forest—another team that, lest I repeat myself, has a history of being decent, just as BC does, but needs to climb back into the ranks just as the Eagles do.

Hockey is where a BC rivalry strikes gold. BC vs. BU has it all. They’re two of the most respected programs in the country, often meeting each other as ranked opponents, and the games are highly contested. They live literally on top of each other—there’s no escaping each other’s fans as they flood the Green Line, and they both have such a strong tradition of excellence—BU has five national championships to match BC’s—that when they meet, every game counts, despite the fact that hockey teams play more than 30 games per year.

On Friday night, when students who are Gold Pass point poor start lining up outside Conte and players prepare for what is sure to be a hard-fought game, they will be engaging in a rivalry that actually matters because the hard feelings are reciprocated from just down Comm. Ave.

One-sided disdain is irrelevant—it’s when it starts getting thrown back in the other direction that the rivalry heats up, and that’s exactly what can be expected on Friday when what is sure to be a physical, intense game chronicles yet another chapter in BC’s great rivalry.

Featured Image by Graham Beck / Heights Senior Staff

November 6, 2014