Pick on someone your own size

By Emma Goodwin

Growing up, my mom always wanted me to come here, to her alma mater. She would tell me about her past experiences as an Illini and about the school’s biggest rivals.

There was actually a list of schools that I wasn’t allowed to go to based on how much she hated them because of the rivalries. (It was all in jest — I think).

At the top of the list was Northwestern.

I can hear her now: “They always would say that they were the Illinois Big Ten school,” or “They always thought they were better than us, but that just wasn’t true.”

She was shocked when I got here and told her that students don’t really seem to hate Northwestern as much as they maybe used to.

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    I’ve observed that students have a general distaste toward other Big Ten schools, but I can’t think of one school that everyone detests equally. And based on the students that I asked, neither can they.

    In fact, when I asked students who they think our biggest rival is, Nick Reinberg, a senior in LAS, and Sam Weinstein, a 2014 graduate, said “we don’t have a rival.”

    Justin Licke, senior in Engineering, said, “By default of T-shirts I’ve seen, Michigan.”

    Emily Kroeger, sophomore in LAS said, “For basketball, it’s 100 percent Mizzou. Academically, I would almost say Indiana or Purdue. For football, I want to say Michigan.”

    The lack of consensus doesn’t stop there.

    Kelsey Wort, freshman in LAS said, “I’d say Wisconsin, but that’s just cause I’m from Wisconsin and that’s who I hate the most.”

    Nadia Hatoum, junior in LAS, said, “I know people don’t like ISU.”

    Which is true: If you go on Yik Yak and take that as an indicator of who our rival is, you would think Illinois State University is our biggest.

    But a rival should be more than just a school that we pick on, especially when we don’t compete with them on any athletic field.

    A rival should be a school that is worthy of our competition and recognizes us as a valid competitor as well. I came to college thinking that there would be one school — such as Northwestern — that was a major competitor in every way — academically and athletically.

    In my mind a rivalry is always fueled by football, or whatever sport is most important to that school.

    Some claim that ours is Michigan, but its rival is Ohio State, a rivalry even recognized by ESPN. We sometimes fall back on Purdue because it has a similar amount of talent when it comes to football. Most schools aren’t our rivals simply because they’re far too good for us to compete with in terms of sports — namely, football.

    When faced with athletic disappointment, students seem to stop caring about winning, or even attending, games.

    I don’t think the issue is that people don’t care about sports at our school. Spirit and athletic involvement as a fan is such a major component of going to a Big Ten school, like Illinois.

    With the lack of school pride and the fact that we don’t win many football games, especially compared to other schools, it’s harder for people to get excited about aspects of Illinois life that are big points of tension where a rivalry is concerned.

    It’s a bummer that we don’t have one specific rival that all students recognize and one specific game to look forward to every year. That’s a part of the college experience at such a big school that I think we’re getting cheated out of.

    Having a rival and having school pride are so connected that if one is present, the other likely will be, too.

    We have a lot to work on as a school to create a huge fan section, on and off the field, that our players would be proud of, and vice versa. I think this could help us create a rivalry. Having a rivalry with another school is important because it perpetuates and encourages pride for our own school.

    But a rival shouldn’t be created because of what some T-shirts say and who we hate on for always being at Monday night Joe’s — hint, hint, ISU. A rival should be a constant motivator to be better.

    Hopefully everyone who goes here thinks that the University is the best school in the land. If we can all agree on it, we can start defending that image.

    Emma is a sophomore in LAS. She can be reached at [email protected].

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