The Big Ten presents itself as conference defined by history, athletic and academic prestige, and dare I say comradery? Events like the BTN Big10K, an upcoming cruise for Big Ten alumni, and lighthearted videos with the B1G mascots dancing to pop-culture songs showcase an aura of togetherness in the conference. However, the question is, are we actually unified? Is the comradery real or contrived? This article seeks to delve into that question first by figuring out what, in terms of B1G comradery, is normal, and what is actually better for the conference. As a Rutgers fan, I will say that the Scarlet Knight gets calls to do things with other mascots far more often than he did in the American Athletic Conference and Big East.
B1G = Awesome
Big Ten universities are pretty awesome. In addition to the history and mostly great athletics, we have many awesome marching bands, established and well-known fight songs, intense rivalries, the biggest stadiums in the country, and some of the best coaches in the business. Big Ten universities are located in amazing college towns, are perhaps the most tradition oriented programs, are known for cutting edge research, and each university is one of the best places one can receive a higher education in the country and the world. Sitting at the dinner table with your fellow Big Ten schools and there is a lot to root for looking left and right. That leads me to my next question in an article full of questions: Is it weird to root for other schools in the Big Ten beside your own?
During bowl game season, I noticed that the commentary was fairly split. "I’m rooting for (B1G team that’s not my own) because go Big Ten!" and, "I will never ever root for (particular B1G team) because I hate them." Which of those is the sentiment that makes the most sense? Allow me to provide an example in myself. I am a Rutgers alumna and diehard Scarlet Knights fan... who also loves Ohio State for their fight songs "Battle Cry" and "Across the Field," their amazing marching band, and the overall greatness of their program. I love Wisconsin because they were the first team I ever knew of and rooted for as a kid, I love their band’s marching style, and their super famous fight song, "On, Wisconsin." I love Michigan State because I greatly respect Mark Dantonio, I think the program that he built at MSU is one that any lesser team can look up to, and he’s very normal as far as GOOD college football coaches go. In general, I will pretty much root for almost any Big Ten team when playing a non-conference opponent. When I explain this to people, I very often elicit negative reactions through some type of "GASP" or a super confused head turn.
I don’t know if this is normal or abnormal in the B1G because my sample size is not large enough, but I know that most of the Rutgers fans around me also root for the conference in general. Perhaps this is because we are new and the "HATE" sentiment that is apparently so popular hasn’t really set in for us yet. However, of the Big Ten fans and alumni that I have met in real life I have noticed that, they have expressed the idea of root for your team, acknowledge your rivals, but recognize that we’re all B1G. The Big Ten fans that I have met were representatives of Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State, Maryland, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, and Wisconsin. Including Rutgers, these are only nine representatives out of fourteen and the handful of people I’ve met from each certainly don’t represent their entire respective fanbases, but it certainly seems like at least some comradery is fairly widespread among B1G programs.
At the same time, I recognize that you’d be hard pressed to find a Michigan fan rooting for Ohio State in any context.
Some teams in this conference are your team’s arch enemy, I know. But is it arch enemy in the same vein as Eggman vs Sonic, Joker vs Batman, Link vs Ganondorf? Or is it more arch enemy like your sibling when you’re in that phase of where you hate each other through and through for a prolonged duration? (Yes, only children... this is real and you were lucky). I’d like to think that the arch enemy of the Big Ten as a whole is the SEC or another Power Five conference, but to echo above, there were situations where B1G fans were rooting for Alabama over Michigan State this past season.
What is College Football For Again?
What creates a better in-conference game day? The vicious, cursing, yelling, throwing items at you experience, or the, "hey, my team is gonna kick your team’s ass, but come have a beer and some hot dogs." I believe that the mentality of rooting for and appreciating the B1G in general lends itself to the latter. Of course, I’m not saying that it’s normal to root for the other team when they’re playing yours. I’m also not saying that simply being cordial (aka not being a jerk) to people on game days means you support the entire conference. But on the whole, recognition that we’re all a "B1G Happy(?) Family" has the potential to create much more conference positivity and enjoyment. College Football... it's supposed to be fun and enjoyed, right?
What do you Think?
This is where I ask you all in the comments, what do you think is the weirder mentality, rooting for the B1G as a whole, or only rooting for your team out of B1G context? We all hold one and have seen the other. What is the normal state, and what is better for the Big Ten?