IF THE HAT FITS: Rivalries bring us closer together

Sep. 9—Who doesn't love a good rivalry?

Those games mean a little bit more. Records can be thrown out the window, and you can expect chaos to ensue.

Look at some of the great rivalries across sports, like Yankees vs. Red Sox, Green Bay vs. Chicago, Ohio State vs. Michigan, Duke vs. North Carolina, Oklahoma vs. Oklahoma State, or the Dallas Cowboys vs. the world.

All of these are great examples of heated rivalries across many sports. And we've enjoyed some great rivalry games locally in this young football season as well. Last week, it was Hartshorne vs. Wilburton in the Battle of Gowen Mountain. And this week, it was McAlester vs. Ada.

I love the energy of rivalry games because of the extra-sharpened edge to both the crowds and the teams. It's all about bragging rights and proving that your team is the one that is better than the other — at least until it's time for the next season's game.

But for as much as these games seemingly divide us, they also almost inexplicably bring us together. I know, that sounds a little ironic. But before you start blasting Alanis Morissette, let me explain.

Think about what it's like in the days leading up to a rivalry matchup. Everybody on your side has an excitement level turned up to 11, you're finding yourselves incorporating your school's colors in every outfit, and you're letting the other side know just how you feel that they're on the wrong side of the fence.

Game day comes, and the atmosphere couldn't be more electric. And until the clock hits those final zeroes, everyone from players to coaches to the fans are giving it their all.

But it's after the stadium lights have been turned off where something incredible happens.

There's the playful ribbing of your friends on the other side of the aisle. There's the "just wait until next year" sentiments that inevitably come in the retorts. And there's the shared camaraderie of having just gone through that experience together — something that those who aren't part of the rivalry just can't quite understand unless they were in it themselves.

I think one of the best examples of this is the annual Army vs. Navy football game. It's a fantastic game to watch, and not necessarily because of the football.

To see all the cadets losing their absolute minds in the stands, letting loose and sending more than a few intense verbal jabs at their opponents while clad in their pristine dress uniforms is quite the sight to behold.

But as the National Anthem plays, and as the game ends and they sing their academy songs, it's the incredible men and women of our armed forces getting to show that — despite our differences — we're stronger when we stand united.

I fully contend that nearly everything in sports is an allegory for life lessons. It's why I love telling the stories beyond the game, and why I think it's important to step back and share those lessons together.