Big Game Rivalry Week


Rivalry week has come a little early here in southern California. Most of the west coast intra-state rivalries (Washington vs Washington St., Oregon vs Oregon St., Arizona vs Arizona St.) are having their games next weekend. But here in southern California (and up in the San Francisco bay area where it’s Cal vs Stanford), it’s this Saturday for all the pageantry and tradition of the crosstown rivalry between the University of Southern California (USC) and the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) football. These games are almost always exciting because both teams are playing with so much emotion; it doesn’t matter what their records are in a given year, anything can happen. UCLA can have a very bad year but make everything suddenly okay by beating USC and vice versa. There’s always a lot riding on this one game even when both teams have had losing seasons.

With schools this close together there’s always a good deal of good-natured ribbing going on with neighbors flying opposing flags, husbands and wives wearing differing colors as warring alumni, and sometimes parents all mixed up (like a Bruin sweatshirt and a Trojan cap) with kids at both schools. Even the local supermarket has blue and gold UCLA tortilla chips and crimson and gold USC chips, depending on your allegiance. The week prior is full of rallies, concerts, and amazing stories of former years, and you can be sure both schools are guarding their mascot statues 24/7 from vandalism. And of course there is the victory bell which passes to the winner each year and usually goes with the team the following season, getting rung on the sidelines for inspiration.

One of the special things about this southern California matchup is that the NCAA suspends its rule that the visiting team must wear white jerseys and allows both teams to wear their home colors, making a very colorful playing field of UCLA powder blue against the bright crimson of USC. As far as I know, this is the only time this happens. When you think of it, though they are in the home stadium of one of the teams, they are both playing in their home town.

In a time of extreme polarization in this country over politics and the hot-button issues that can turn any discussion into a battleground with opposing sides quickly turning into ugly shouting matches and even worse, it might be good for everyone to borrow a page from Big Game Rivalry Week about how to hold differing views with civility, respect and good humor. One of the true values of sports is that it gives us an acceptable emotional outlet and a perspective on life from a different angle, and we certainly could all use a lesson in good sportsmanship when it comes to civil discourse in our current society.

This entry was posted in Christianity and politics, sports, Worldview and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Big Game Rivalry Week

  1. jwfisch says:

    Am I the only one who is into college football here at the end of the season? Where is everybody? Is this a bad devotional because I didn’t mention God or Jesus or the Bible? Do I have to do that for something to have spiritual meaning?

  2. John A Fagliano says:

    I don’t believe you have to mention God for something to be spiritual. Maybe people are not into sports or college football so it didn’t spark their interest. Now I admit I had nothing to say originally, but since you asked, God’s goodness can be found anywhere including a football game or tail-gate party. And now that I’m here, I will say though, that there are some people who take sports way too seriously and who can be hostile and not civil. I think they are the minority of fans. I also think those who maintain civility about sports also do the same with politics. It’s just that those who talk the most and are the most disrespectful get all the attention.

    • jwfisch says:

      Hmmm. Point well taken. I think what I was shooting for was: Let’s be good sports about political issues. Let’s be good sports all the way around. Being a good sport is acting like Jesus.

  3. peter leenheer says:

    I just got your devotional this morning. It is as you say…sports allows diversion from present problems and focusses on something else. Nelson Mandela used the rugby team of south Africa to create a feeling of unity in a divided nation. His closest associates thought he was out of his mind to use sports in this way, but instead it worked.
    I like NFL and college football but prefer the Stanley Cup playoffs and the hockey season here in Edmonton Alberta Canada. Our Canadian football has the Grey Cup as its national championship trophy and will be played this weekend.
    I have loved sports all my life. It allows me to forget the everyday things of life and just focus on being creative instinctively with your body. That is an incredible feeling all by itself because it brings our raw emotion just for that game. It is exhilarating. I am 75 years old so am going mostly from memory here. I still play golf, it has the speed a 75 year old can manage. It is fun.

  4. jwfisch says:

    Yes. When you watch players jumping up and down on the field, they are having fun. They are blessed to be able to play the game at a high level and so I say they are glorifying God in their bodies. They may not be conscious about that but they don’t have to be in order for it to be true.

  5. Elizabeth says:

    What lovely images — the multicolored jerseys and multicolored tortilla chips! A joyful rivalry, not a venomous one.

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