Rivalry is rife with inherent jealousy.
It is where preconceived notions fistbump anger and resentment, where petulance flourishes like a bacteria we cannot kill. Rivalry exists when we opt to look in the mirror and try to see what's not there instead of what actually exists, where we cast unreasonable emotion at each feeling that doesn't conform to our own ideals.
Rivalry hurts because it makes us accountable for things said, not because of losses on the ballfield. Rivalry is in our own minds, a thing we fight to downplay as much as hype, because ultimately, rivalry is our own coming of age story. Rivalry is our own doing, of course, because the more we play it up at the onset, the more we're forced to account for it after the fact. Rivalry, if embraced, allows us to write our own script, with our own highs and lows.
Rivalry is rife with inherent jealousy.
There is hate in sport. There is a want amongst teams that are incapable to rise and claim thrones held by those qualified, and there are both geographical and socioeconomic forces at play each and every time certain franchises clash in meaningful scenarios. But hate is not rivalry. Hate envelopes much of competition because of outside effects between fans and cities, not because of of actions that define the caps worn by opposing teams. Competition is fostered, underdogs chase favorites, and when the playing field becomes level, teams generate mutual respect and, ultimately, equal footing.
Rivalry is not rife with inherent jealousy.
Rivalry amongst fans is rife with jealousy, but rivalry amongst the players being paid to play a game is not; rather, it's rife with respect and, more importantly, concentration and dedication. There is no fear between Joey Votto and Matt Holliday, nor is there still consternation between Brandon Phillips and Yadier Molina. There may have been, at one point, but that's not why these teams are where they are and why we, as fans, follow what we follow.
Don't listen to it. Don't allow yourself to fall victim to the stories that will run about a fight from years ago featuring players not in this game. Don't let images of Scott Rolen, Chris Carpenter, Jason LaRue, or Ramon Hernandez dictate how you feel about these upcoming games. For the love of God, don't take a word spoken by Tim McCarver seriously.
Rivalry isn't about that. Rivalry is about concrete expectations. It's about being able to look at a schedule in March and penciling in your attendance at August games because you know what you can bank on seeing happen.
Rivalry is expectations. It's as simple as turning a calendar page, as predictable as a Joey Votto walk.
The Cincinnati Reds and the St. Louis Cardinals are rivals, and it's not because of the 2013 standings. It's not because of a fight that happened 3 years ago. It's not because of hate, greed, jealousy, or being irrational, either.
It's because they're both damn good baseball teams, and it's because it's become easy to predict they would both be damn good baseball teams. They're not just damn good teams; they're damn good franchises.
Rivalry is predictability. It's knowing not only the colors in the opposite dugout, but what to expect when the specific numbers on specific jerseys step into the batter's box. It's knowing there's professionalism staring you down from the opposite direction.
It's knowing that whether it's April, August, or October, it's important, because the other team will never be irrelevant.
It's why the Chicago Cubs have no rivals. It's why the Cincinnati Reds and St. Louis Cardinals have lots.
Rivalry is not Viva El Birdos swapping jabs with Red Reporter; rivalry is the reason we know their blog's name and why they know ours.
Rivalry begins tonight, and regardless of how this weekend turns out, we're blessed with the opportunity to watch rivalry drag us through the rest of the season.
Basic rivalry is built upon what was; real rivalry is built upon what you can expect.
For this weekend specifically, expect a great one.