Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Aztecs and Gauchos – Not Rivals, but Kindred Spirits


- by Matt Hurst

I’d like to think that my co-author on this site and I were destined to become friends, regardless of how we met. Major League Baseball may have brought us together, but without even knowing it, we were already brothers in a way.

At least that’s how I feel about anyone from my sister school.

Josh Suchon went to San Diego State. I went to UC Santa Barbara.

Despite our teams sometimes matching up – and even more next year once SDSU joins the Big West in everything but football – the Aztecs and Gauchos are not rivals. We really are both kindred spirits.

Both cities are tourist flocking spots and are each buoyed by the beauty of the beach. San Diego and Santa Barbara each have a mix of the extremely rich, people trying to make it so they can live in the city and college students.

And, let’s be honest, both schools have the reputation as being a party school. And there is nothing that Josh or I did in our four years at each that made those reputations deteriorate. What you called a wild party, we called Wednesday.

Both schools have good fan bases – SDSU in men’s hoops and UCSB in men’s soccer – that give a huge home advantage and each has a large alumni network proud that they were all able to earn a degree despite perfecting keg stands rather than perfecting statistical problems during their experience. 

Aztecs and Gauchos each brag about how much liquor they can consume and debate whether the blondes at SDSU or the blondes at UCSB are hotter. But, really, how do you compare 9’s and 9’s all the time? 

But, rivals? No.

Rivals have something that happened in the past that created a boiling point or there is jealousy or some sort of bragging rights on the line. 

The Dodgers and Giants have been rivals for years because they played each other all the time in New York, moved to the West Coast at the same time, have had their fair share of fights on the field and in the standings. That’s a rivalry.

USC and UCLA are rivals because they are the two major universities in Los Angeles and there are shreds of jealousy that run deep – Bruins fans are jealous of USC’s football history and titles and Trojans fans want UCLA’s basketball legacy. That is a rivalry that includes major bragging rights through an alumni network and a city.

But the Aztecs and Gauchos are not rivals. And probably won’t be even though every Olympic sport will pit them against each other. 
At UCSB, you can't walk anywhere without seeing the ocean. 
It’s because there is a level of underlying respect for each other. “You took a mid-term after an all-night bender? So did I!”

Josh and I each wax poetically about our college years when we both were up and coming journalists who learned how to work under a heavy buzz and still produce clip-worthy material.

We both have an overwhelming sense of pride about where we went to school, despite the fact that our athletic teams are never in any national title chatter. In any sport.

Which is fine. See, each school is considered an underdog despite all of the recruiting advantages we both have (school on the beach, good degrees, beautiful students, etc.) because SDSU and UCSB are mid-majors that have to compete with the top dogs. And it’s not often pretty, but when there is an upset it galvanizes the fan base better than a conference title ever would. The underdog is a dangerous thing in sports and when you’re considered an underdog you have a chip on your shoulder in more than just who you root for. You have a sense of pride that overwhelms you like no other school could. 

At SDSU, aka Montezuma Mesa, is equally tough
to concentrate on your studies.

Wow, you root for Duke hoops … what’s next, cheering for childhood obesity at McDonald’s? Your favorite college football team is Alabama, geez, what was it like rooting for the Harlem Globetrotters?

Gauchos and Aztecs have similar backgrounds and stories and because of that, the location of each school and the joy of knowing you earned a degree while testing the limits of your brain and liver – oftentimes in tandem – in two of the prettiest spots on earth … well, then how can you be rivals? Even when your teams play each other?

That just gives you an excuse to join your brothers and sisters and raise a glass and share some stories and no matter who wins on the field, Gauchos and Aztecs all win in life.

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