I hate my rivals, but not because of the reasons you might think. I hate them, because they are like me. They are more like me than I am ever comfortable with, and I think I know why.

Before I explain my theory, I need to first define of what a rivalry consists. My definition of a rivalry is more speculative than factual. In order for a rivalry to exist, I believe there needs to be an above average level of intensity concerning the event, alongside a proven track record of equal chances at winning.

Photo taken by Katherine Mackin

Katherine Mackin| The Cento Friendships remain tense when rivalries become involved.


Most often we associate location for the formulation of rivalries. If you live at “x” location, you support so-and-so, and if you live at “y” location, you hate so-and-so. However, while rivalry based upon proximity exists, this is not the strongest form of it. In fact, it is fairly weak in relation to the nature of true rivalries. True rivalries form out of an unspoken competitive drive that develops between two teams. This unspoken competitive drive is my reasoning for developing my “Mirror Theory”.

In short, the “Mirror Theory” shows that I am my rival. In other words, when someone says “You have met your match,” they are speaking to a much larger truth. As I mentioned before, a rivalry develops out of an unspoken competitive drive. That’s the beauty of it. Anyone can become rivals with someone else; they just need to share enough similarities. The more similarities they are, the stronger the potential rivalry may be. In terms of the mirror analogy: the stronger a rivalry is, the more similar the opponents will look when gazing into a mirror.

A brief analysis of some of the strongest rivalries in the entire world is required to test my Mirror Theory. In order to correct for sport prejudice, I will use contrasting sports: soccer and basketball.

There is arguably no larger rivalry in the world of soccer than the two La Liga (a league in the National Professional Football League) giants FC Barcelona, and Real Madrid. Why are FC Barcelona and Real Madrid such big rivals? They are essentially the same team. Both teams radically alter their playing style to tailor to their super-star. They then cast the rest of the team to fit the style of their best player.

FC Barcelona forward Lionel Messi benefits from highly technical finesse players who can find his exquisite runs in and around the penalty box. Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo benefits from highly athletic aggressive players who can accentuate his physical prowess in the box and in the air.

Their playing style may be different in definition, but when reading between the lines it is quite obvious they are the same team with the same agenda. Thus, the rivalry supports the ultimate pissing contest of “my player is better than yours.” Therefore, when looking in a mirror, Messi sees Ronaldo just as FC Barcelona forward/winger Neymar sees Real Madrid winger Gareth Bale.

Because we are in the Bluegrass state, it’s only fair we touch on college basketball. University of Louisville Men’s Basketball Head Coach Rick Pitino and University of Kentucky Men’s Basketball Head Coach John Calipari are more similar than anyone would like to admit. This is worth talking about simply because the rivalry has nothing to do with the players. A strong rivalry persists between the two teams.

However, no one would argue that the rivalry already hit an all-time high. You can thank the coaches for this. Both men won an NCAA championship, Calipari winning one in 2012 and Pitino winning right after him in 2013. Both men coached in the NBA and then returned to the collegiate level. Both men began their head coaching careers in the Northeast basketball quadrant.Both men live and breathe a high-octane offense system with an even more aggressive defense. The list goes on and on.

These two men have unknowingly become perfect rivals. There is a reason that Pitino and former University of Kentucky Head Coach Tubby Smith are not as strong of an example. They were never similar enough. The rival currently hits closer to the threshold of similarity, and because of this, the Mirror Theory holds true.

In conclusion, even though I hate my rival, I am thankful. I am thankful to have someone will drive me to be my best, beat me at my worst, and provide some of the greatest moments for achievement. I have found the worst best friend I could ever ask for, and I hope you cherish yours as much as I do mine.


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