Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Review of "Love Thy Rival"

This was a book that I picked up only because it was free, but it was a book that would have been worth paying for as it was a good mix of sports, humor and thoughts on human behavior.
“Love Thy Rival” by Chad Gibbs
Baseball, American Football (Professional), American Football (college), American Football (high school), Basketball (college), Basketball (professional), ice hockey, field hockey, soccer, Yankees, Red Sox, Packers, Bears, Auburn, University of Alabama, Oklahoma, Texas, Duke, University of North Carolina, Canadiens, Maple Leafs, Ohio State, University of Michigan.
August 18, 2012
308 pages
4 of 5 stars (very good)
Author Chad Gibbs travels to many different games to understand why fans behave the way they do when their favorite team is about to face their rivals.   Gibbs is caught up in this himself, as he is a fan of the Auburn Tigers football team and the annual “Iron Bowl” game against the University of Alabama is one of the fierce rivalries he writes about in this book.

While there is description of the history of each rivalry and he does describe (sometimes very briefly, sometimes in depth) the action on the field of each game he attended, the goal of the book is to make the reader stop and think about just what these games are – just games and not as serious as some make them out to be.   
Several examples are given to illustrate this to the reader, the most notable being the Army-Navy college football game.   It has been said by many that this is the best rivalry in all of sports, mainly because of what these players will be doing after the games are done.  Gibbs mentions that as well, and says it best that these young men use the game and the sport in general properly – as a pleasant, temporary diversion from real life. 
Gibbs shares stories from fans of each rivalry to show the various degrees of “hate” each one generates.  It ranges from not much at all (Cubs-Cardinals in baseball) to downright rioting (Celtic FC – Rangers FC in the Scottish Premier League of soccer).   It makes the book a very good study into human behavior, and I enjoyed reading each fan’s perspective.

One other item that deserves mention is that Gibbs tells fans of college football or basketball that they should make an effort to go watch the games of other lesser known sports such as softball, track or field hockey.  The latter sport is one he saw while visiting Ohio State for the Ohio State-Michigan football game, and it showed through his writing that he was moved by the experience.

Overall,”Love Thy Rival” is a very good book on sports, fandom, and human behavior.
Did I skim?
Did I learn something new?
Yes.   The rivalries for which I was not familiar with the teams (Sounders-Timbers, Celtic FC – Rangers FC, the high school football game) gave me new insights into those rivalries, the teams and the fans.   The two soccer rivalries were the same sport but very different in intensity and the fans’ attitude toward their fellow fans of the other side.
Pace of the book: 
Very good.  Each chapter is short enough to be easily read, but not too short so that readers who are not familiar with the teams can learn new information.   
While the topic was serious because Gibbs was trying to make the reader understand why “hate” is a term often used in rivalries, I thought the humor throughout the book was excellent.  There are far too many jokes and funny passages to list here, but I will share my favorite one here.
While visiting the Texas State Fair before attending the Oklahoma-Texas game, Gibbs decided to try a new culinary treat – fried butter.  To understand how he liked it, here are his thoughts: “Thousands of years from now, when archeologists struggle to explain why our society crumbled, I hope they will uncover this book and learn it was because we began frying butter.”
While I did learn some new things about different rivalries, I would have liked to see more history being told about some of them.  Some are covered well, such as the two basketball rivalries, but more could have been told about the hockey and baseball ones, for example.
I also found a few instances where name references did not make sense.  Here is an example I found in the Cubs-Cardinals chapter.  Gibbs writes about the feelings of “Tabatha” on the rivalry, then in the next paragraph states that his friend Brandi “shares Hannah’s sentiment.”  Problem is that there was no “Hannah” in that chapter.   Only Tabatha, Brandi and Mike are mentioned as friends who shared an opinion.  Took me the whole chapter to figure out there was no “Hannah.”
Do I recommend? 
Yes.  A fan of nearly any sport will find his or her favorite one here, and a good rivalry in that sport.
Book Format Read:
EBook (Kindle)
Buying Links:
(Note: as of the date of posting, July 24, 2013, this book is free on Amazon)


  1. A lengthy and insightful examination of the Army/Navy rivalry is A Civil War, by John Feinstein (1996). And I second the author's recommendation to enjoy the less-known sports at major institutions. We attended a baseball game at Ohio State, where the quality of play was high, and the atmosphere a bit more relaxed than a football game! Also, tickets were easier to come by. -Muriel V.

  2. Read John Feinstein' s book on Army-Navy a few years ago and it was great. I have seen lacrosse at Marist and volleyball, baseball and softball at Minnesota.. All college sports in that atmosphere are great.