In what is clearly a strange set of circumstances, the ESPN family of networks is currently airing two live football games. Though nothing about that is strange, the fact that one channel has my college alma mater's rival, West Point, and another is broadcasting my high school alma mater's cross town rival, Foothill High School, is definitely unique. As I flip between channel's, I am left wondering about the relationship amongst rivals.
According to wikipedia, a "rival" is a competing person, company, a team. Personally speaking, a rival should not be confused with the term "adversary," which brings with it a connotation of hostility. The point at which a rival becomes an adversary is when the relationship is no longer healthy. Throughout my athletic career, the focus of much of our (note I never played individual sports and was always a member of a team) energy was directed towards beating our rival. All of the while, our motivation was the bragging rights we hoped to earn after beating our rivals. Though that was the reason we put in the extra blood, sweat and tears, the benefit had little to do with what the scoreboard showed at the end of any of our games. While pushing ourselves in hopes of edging our rivals, we become stronger, faster, more focused and a more cohesive unit. In essence, when we truly connect the dots, we realize our rivals made us better.
Though we are accustomed to associating rivals with athletics, the truth is they are prevalent wherever we turn. There are rivals amongst countries, military services, private companies, neighbors, friends, siblings and coworkers. As long as they do not become adversarial, they result in stronger economies, a more capable Department of Defense, more value delivered to the customer, a tighter/cleaner/safer community, improved and more capable individuals/teams/families.
As a matter of practice, I support both Foothill and West Point and consider myself lucky to have friends from both institutions. Because of my rivals, whether it be academic, athletic or at the workplace, I am better in every facet of my life than I would be if it weren't for them.
With that, Go Army! (Though you won't catch me uttering "Beat Navy!" Everyone has to draw the line somewhere.)