Updated Thu, Jan 26, 2012 3:39 pm
Rivalries and competition are part of our daily existence and they certainly are part of university life. For the most part – rivalries are good things and are between entities of comparable abilities and mutual respect.
There are special rivalries in life and especially in sports. Some are new-found and some go back hundreds of years. Some are limited to a particular sport like the Ohio State-Michigan football rivalry and some university rivalries are more all-encompassing including every sport, campus culture and even academics.
Such is the case between Ohio University and Miami University – two schools who are similar in so many ways and distinctly different in others. Quoting the video opening to last week’s Ohio-Miami basketball game: “Two schools separated by 182 miles – 187 games – 200 years of history –200 years of emotion, passion, battles, hatred, respect, countless moments, memories, character…There is nothing better than playing your arch rival – arch rival -- …”
We cannot speak for Miami alumni, students, and supporters but we know at the Ohio end of this rivalry, passions run deep and memories are long. I can remember hotly contested Miami games from when I attended school here decades ago. Ohio students of today have their own memories of buzzer beaters and the thrill of victories and the agonies of defeat. It is part of our culture. It is part of our overall university experience.
In expressing our collective emotions about this rivalry, both sides are inclined sometimes to over-generalize, to demonize the other side, to speak in hyperbole and to use descriptive words that are used to perturb your rival – even if they are overblown. It’s not actual hatred or truly demeaning. The words are challenging and more often invective used to pump up supporters more than to defile the opposition.
Such is the case with a video WOUB featured as part of Bobcat Sports Showcase highlighting various athletes and members of our community speaking about how they viewed the rivalry with Miami. It was intended to be light-hearted, fast-paced, and descriptive only of the importance of this rivalry to some members of this university community.
It was not intended to be mean-spirited, hateful, or truly insulting.
There is a huge difference between the good-natured teasing featured in our video and true hatred which was recently reported between some Ohio State University fans and a high school football recruit who decided to go to Michigan instead of OSU. It is reported that the young man received actual death threats from some misguided Ohio State fans.
The Miami Student, the student newspaper at Miami recognized the difference between rather benign verbal sparring and rhetoric truly intended to harm or threaten. On Tuesday, the Student ran an opinion piece about our video written by Editor-In-Chief Sam Kay.
He interviewed Lou Horvath (one of our interviewees) and as a result, the newspaper’s editor understood the nature of our video. He even said: “Much to my chagrin, he (Horvath) turned out to be a nice, likable guy.”
“It does seem a little sad (for them) how much the Bobcats care about their rivalry with us, but perhaps we should put a little more effort into the relationship. My conversation with Horvath convinced me that the Bobcats are "frenemies" worth having,” Kay added.
The Miami Student also got in a late jab of its own by saying: “We can also beat OU off the athletic field. While I have to respect their outstanding journalism school, we all know Miami is the best place to come for an undergraduate education. Besides, we might rescue a few future students from Athens. That is, if they can get into Miami.”
The Miami Student also did a poll to the question: “What is your reaction to Ohio University’s rivalry video.” The largest percentage – 29 percent – said “it’s a classic sports rivalry. Bring it on.” Other students opted for more disparaging (in jest) comments about Ohio University and its students. Some 24 percent said “OU Who?” and 21 percent said “Glad to see they finally figured out that newfangled YouTube machine.”
The Miami Student’s punches landed but no offense is taken. It is just part of the ongoing give-and-take sparring between elements of the two schools. Such banter has existed for generations. It is just part of a long and strong rivalry.
The rhetoric may be flamboyant at times and the characterizations on both sides, I’m sure, miss their true marks but the jabs and counter-jabs are part of an ongoing legacy of competition. Please, think about it for a moment. True rivalry exists only between foes that have mutual respect for one another.
Such is the case with Ohio University and Miami University.