Rivalry: is it healthy or hateful?

Matt Firpo

Section Editor

When opening my Facebook newsfeed this week, the first posts I saw were filled with the same hashtag: #southhateweek.

My immediate response to this was, “What’s the point?”

I’m a Troy fan. I always have been and always will be. But seeing this trend struck a chord with me.

I have always been proud of my school and our athletics program. I feel that it provides wonderful opportunities for students to attain a quality education while also being able to professionally perform in their sports.

I was legitimately unsettled by the way that my fellow Trojans were acting. I was also astounded that there was an opposing side called #troyhateweek led by the student body of South Alabama.

I understand that these trends are meant in fun and games, but they also leave me afraid.

Naturally, all sports come with certain levels of competition. Team sports are especially competitive, and culturally, they build a sense of community around those teams.

At what point is it acceptable for us as a student body to “hate” our rival? Using such a strong word has an extreme denotation.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word hate is defined, “To hold in very strong dislike; to detest; to bear malice to. The opposite of to love.”

Though these posts are meant to be humorous and relatable, how are they supposed to build friendly competition between schools when our students are literally saying, whether they mean to or not, that we detest an entire community and institution?

I remember when our rivalry was against the University of Alabama at Birmingham. I attended both games during my first two years at Troy, one at home and one away.

During my time at those games, I remember cheering Troy on fiercely and loyally, but also appreciating UAB’s performance as well.

Now I feel like somewhere as a community we have gone awry. The way we interact with our rival seems more violent and insensitive.

This reflects a movement I see becoming more and more prevalent in society. People are becoming more bold and violent in their statements, especially online.

I understand that there is nothing wrong with a little smack talk between rivals. It builds competition, and it is funny! I commend the student body’s creativity in their posts.

It is one thing to joke about the other team, but using the word hate seems incorrect. To me, hating someone means that that person has lost every ounce of respect in my eyes, and has personally wronged me in some way. Such a word is not derserving of our petty rivalry.

I don’t feel that way about South. Rival or not, I respect the univeristy as an academic institution and its athletic team for the effort and hard work that it puts toward its performance.

It feels disrespectful both to South Alabama and to ourselves to belittle ourselves to hate. Even in the spirit of camaraderie, it does not seem in good sportsmanship to burn our rival’s flag in celebration.

At the end of the day, regardless of the outcome of the game, I want to see both of our teams and students leaving having performed our best, and treated each other with respect.

Right now, I don’t see that. This behavior does not respect our rivals or our own community.

It is especially concerning that this trend was not the product of student enthusiasm, but promoted by our own Student Government Association and other student organizations as well.

When our own student leaders are reinforcing the idea that we have to detest another institution all for the sake of a rivalry, without any real basis, it is terrifying.

I am all for students expressing their school spirit, but not at the risk of someone being hurt when it could have been avoided.

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