J.P. Giglio is getting some grief after criticizing Tar Heel and Wolfpack fans for cheering for one another's failures last weekend. Some of it stems from his refusal to back down from a ridiculous assertion - I'm sorry, but there's no way a mostly exited fanbase cheered louder at Akron's win than they had when UNC was up 3-0 and recovering fumbles - but it also brings up an interesting question. What is a fan's obligation when it comes to rooting for the other teams in the neighborhood?
Giglio approached it from an avenue of self-interest, saying:
From a purely mercenary standpoint, if your team is contesting for the national championship in football, then, yes, you want all of your opponents to have stellar seasons. Thanks to the backassward, bizarre Butterfly Effect system the BCS has put into place, the most irrelevant of games can change the championship. But I hate to break it to you folks, UNC and N.C. State aren't jockeying for a Fiesta Bowl slot this year. I know, try to contain your shock.
But what if your team is just trying for the best possible bowl game it can get? Then, with a limited number of guaranteed bowl slots - many of them in desolate hinterlands like Boise or Charlotte - you'd want your ACC bretheren to be dropping games right and left, all the better to get you to Florida. And of course, if the team you follow is an abject failure, then you can sit in Durham and root however you please. Good performances in the conference can make you feel better about your losses, while bad ones can take the focus off your program and turn it onto the equally hapless.
Of course, none of this really matters. This is college football. There are 100+ year rivalries. Grown men pound each other into the ground to win little brown jugs and axe handles and other bits of paraphernalia. Nobody's fight song ends with "And hurrah for team in other games whose victory will result in the best possible outcome for our squad." They tell their rivals to go to hell, to fuck off, and disparage the quality of their women and alcohol. And that's the way it should be.
You're damn straight I was cheering for Akron on Saturday. Loyality to conference? The conference just expanded by 33%, screw that. Hell, watching Chuck Amato twist in the wind this week may end up being the highlight of this year's football season, and I'm going to enjoy it.
Ask a Duke fan what the perfect season would be this year, and this is what you'll get:
Enjoying the missteps of your opponents is what makes this sport a thrill to watch. To ignore that and just keep your head down in outcomes and probabilities turns following a team into a task, a job. Let the fans have our joys; let us gloat, taunt, and take thrill in the misery of the guy next door. Save your clucking on how games will look in November to yourself. We'll be over here having fun.