Rivalries and Chicken Livers

by Rich on November 13, 2017

There’s an old joke that we’ve all heard about college football in the South. You know the one…”college football in the South isn’t a religion…it’s much more important than that.” It was funny the first fifty times I heard it, but whatever. I only bring it up because we are hitting the rivalry stretch in college football, and while the game may not, in fact, be more important than our faith (one hopes), it can have the same chilling affect on family and friends that, say, religion and politics can have.

Almost every family has it’s own internal struggles when it comes to these rivalries. It’s usually an in-law causing all the ruckus, but not always. Sometimes it’s a sibling. And on occasion, even a spouse. You’ve seen those “House Divided” car tags. Personally I don’t get it, but I know plenty of relationships that appear to work just fine within this diametrically opposed atmosphere.

And for most of the year, we can all live with these differences. Our team of choice becomes one more item to add to the “unacceptable holiday meal talking points” list. Yep, your family isn’t the only one that has one of those. My family’s list also includes the following: presidents, elections, the Pope, chicken liver and 1983 (don’t ask). And college football. In my particular circumstance, there are 3 teams that are rooted for with equal vigor. And they all play each other right around the holidays. It makes for some very interesting dinner table conversations.

“So…how about that Google, huh? Man, you can look up ANYTHING these days!”

“I’m pretty sure we have squirrels in the attic again.”

“Uncle Rich, tell us that story about when you rammed your bike through the basement door because you thought you were Ponch from the hit TV show ‘CHiPs'” (this is a thing that happened.)

Meanwhile, seething just under the surface, is a raging passion that is barely controlled. I wont call it hatred, for I do not hate my brothers-in-law, er…”family members”. But there is a very real and present understanding that if the college football can of worms were to be opened, a vortex would appear over the dinner table. One of those big ugly things like the one in Ghostbusters. And my mom would start crying and begging us all to just eat more mashed potatoes and why can’t we have just one meal where nobody chunks a salad fork across the room?

So we let it be.

I have learned, the hard way, that in this day and age of instant digital communication, social media platforms have, in essence, become our much larger, communal dinner tables, only with annoying pictures, GIFs, and videos. So for the last couple of years I have imposed upon myself my own personal lock-down when it comes to my friends and family from the “dark side”. I try not to be rude or ugly. And I don’t just disappear. I let everyone know up front that I am taking a break from interacting and that once the game is over, I look forward to catching up with them again.

I do it for the same reason that I don’t talk about things on my family’s “Do Not Talk About” list: I love and care about these people. I value the relationships. I don’t want something like religion, politics or football to erase their inherent humanity in my eyes. They are family and friends for who they are as people, not what team they cheer for.

As long as that team isn’t chicken livers. Then they’re dead to me.

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