Rivalry isn’t always a bad thing.
I’ve been dealing with it my whole life in my household. There was no way around it for me, having lived with three other competitive younger brothers. Even small, seemingly meaningless things such as who gets the last ice cream bar in the freezer or who gets to pick the channel when watching TV turn into a competition. Let me tell you, it’s in my blood.
It was almost natural that there’d be some level of competition or rivalry between my siblings and me. My dad passed down his fanaticism of the Philadelphia Eagles to me, but all three of my brothers chose different teams to root for. One of them, Gannon, even chose to root for the Giants.
But the college football rivalry has always been there between my brother Darien and me. When I was younger, for whatever reason, I became a University of Michigan football fan. For whatever other reason, Darien became a fan of Ohio State University football, Michigan’s biggest rival for over a century.
So every year in late November, we would sit down on the couch and scream and yell for our respective teams to win. I’d be decked out in maize and blue and he’d be wearing scarlet and gray, and we’d watch our favorite teams battle it out for three hours.
Every year except one, Ohio State won. Year after year, I’d watch as my Michigan Wolverines fell to the mighty Buckeyes, and I’d storm up to my room, sometimes even crying. The rivalry between us got so intense that after one game I locked myself in my room for the rest of the day and wouldn’t let anyone in.
Eventually, once I left for college at Lehigh, I dropped my affiliation with Michigan, because I had become a Mountain Hawk. While I was definitely excited to be at Lehigh, I always sort of missed the friendly — or sometimes, not quite-so-friendly — rivalry he and I had over that football game. It was something we both looked forward to each year and brought us closer together.
That missing feeling only lasted one year.
Last fall, my brother Darien’s college search came to its end. He was accepted early decision to Lafayette College.
The first thing that came to mind was, “How on Earth could anyone consciously choose to go to Lafayette?” Once my Lehigh bias faded away, though, I was obviously happy for him. A new and even stronger chapter of our family rivalry had begun.
It almost seemed natural that he ended up there. While many Lehigh students won’t dare admit it, Lafayette is indeed a good academic school, so it was logical in that sense for him to go there. But a part of me will always think that he went there to continue the sibling rivalry.
Even though he hadn’t started school there yet, last year’s 27-7 defeat to Lafayette at Yankee Stadium was heartbreaking on a new level. For anyone who’s ever had a rival, whether it be in sports, academics, some other club or your personal life, you always feel the need to win.
However, rivalry doesn’t always equate with malevolence, even the one between Lehigh and Lafayette. In some cases, it’s this rivalry that has helped bring the two schools together.
Each year, the schools battle against each other in the Lehigh-Lafayette Challenge to see who can raise the most money for their school leading up to the game. With this, the spirit of rivalry leads to more money for each of the schools and is an exciting way to fundraise.
When a member of the Lafayette football team passed away this summer, many people from the Lehigh community reached out to offer their condolences. After the Lehigh Athletics bus crash happened this October, Lafayette reached out to provide support.
It’s this rivalry that builds a sense of community, something that many schools may not have the privilege of experiencing. Le-Laf week helps build school spirit, which helps each of the schools. In the end, it can bring us closer together.
On a personal level, this positive aspect has now created a new rivalry with my brother. Not a single game of The Rivalry has happened while we’ve both been enrolled in college, yet I already feel closer to him.
It may seem ironic that a bitter football rivalry would be something to expand a brother relationship, but in this case I think it has. At the end of the day, it’s not about the game. It’s about that personal connection people have with their school. And for the rest of my life, I will embrace that connection.