A Tale of Two Rivalries

Monday, February 13, 2012

In 2003, Roland, John, and I spent New Years week in New Orleans. Although we probably knew there was a Sugar Bowl game on New Years Day, we didn't pay much attention. Before we went, that is. Once we got there, we couldn't avoid the Georgia Bulldog fans. Not only were they everywhere, but they were loud and rude. They also kept us sleep-deprived, coming in drunk at 6:30 a.m. the first night (or morning) we were there and throwing a loud party in the hotel courtyard the last night. And based on they way they acted in public, I'm guessing that they weren't very courteous to the Florida Seminole fans either before the game or after the Bulldogs won. Not a good advertisement for the University of Georgia.

Contrast that with Saturday, when I attended a Rivalry Party at one of 80 locations around the world. These parties were set up to watch the 2011-2012 season's second basketball game between Hope College and Calvin College, and fans from both schools attended. Over the years, the wins and loses have been fairly even, and this year the better team won, with Hope beating Calvin 83-70. (For those of you who don't know, I'm a Hope graduate and the daughter and mother of Hope graduates.)

Hope and Calvin are Division III teams, and they have a lot in common. Hope is located in Holland, Michigan, and Calvin is 30 miles away in Grand Rapids. Both schools have Dutch roots, and they are affiliated with sibling Christian denominations--Hope with the Reformed Church of America, and Calvin with the Christian Reformed Church. These commonalities feed the rivalry, and even the NCAA has recognized the rivalry's strength. (Read the NCAA article here.)

Still, the hallmark of the Hope-Calvin rivalry is not the fierce competitiveness it generates but the sportsmanship and respect that each team and its fans have for the other team and its fans. That's why I'm proud to be part of it.

Last Thursday I listened to my fellow Toastmaster Carol Kelly give a speech titled "Competition." The gist of the speech was that competition is good because it fosters teamwork and perseverance and other good values. But I especially liked this line: "Winners and losers are products of competition, but they're not the outcome."

Because it isn't winning or losing that defines a rivalry. It's the attitude.

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