Facets of Faith for Oct. 27, 2012

Ala. author considers if rivals’ hate is inevitable

LOVE THY RIVAL

Chad Gibbs. Blue Moon Books. 237 pages.

Alabama resident Chad Gibbs turned a season of visiting SEC football games into a book published in 2010.

That book looked at how Christians balance their devotion to “God & Football.”

Gibbs is back this year with “Love Thy Rival,” a look at rivalries.

“‘God & Football’ was about why we love our teams, often more than we love anything else,” Gibbs said.

He said “Love Thy Rival” looks at the how and why “we sometimes hate our rivals even more than we love our own team.

“Also, this book covers rivalries in a variety of sports. There is college football, but there is also baseball, basketball, hockey, soccer, and even rowing.”

Another difference is that the events take place outside the South and even in other countries.

For someone interested in just a taste of the book, Gibbs said the Celtic-Rangers and Army-Navy chapters are good ones to start with.

One of the points made in the book about the Army-Navy game is that the two sides don’t hate each other. One fan is quoted: “As soon as you graduate, you are working together.”

And as Gibbs points out, they are working together in jobs that really are life and death.

The Celtic-Rangers match, the legendary soccer meeting between the two teams that call Glasgow, Scotland, home, offers the other extreme.

The classic rivalry pits a Catholic fan base against a Protestant fan base, two groups that have clashed for many years in that part of Europe. That chapter ends with the delivery of a parcel bomb to the Celtic manager.

“Celtic and Rangers, the soccer rivalry I covered in Scotland, had political and religious implications that bring a level of intensity I never saw in the United States in any sport,” Gibbs said.

However, “I think college football rivalries have the most urgency. You play once a year, no chance for redemption later in the year (unless you are Alabama, I guess). Duke and Carolina always play twice [in basketball], sometimes three times a season. The Yankees and Red Sox play over 20 times,” Gibbs said.

“I hope the book can help fans take a step back and examine the animosity they feel toward certain teams and fans. I think for most of us, we’ll find the feelings stem more from our love (and occasionally idolatry) of our own team,” he said.

Be sure to read the things you might normally skip. As in his first book, there are bits of funny insight into Gibbs’ mind in the small type. For instance, the copyright page offers a chance to have the book read aloud to you and the name of Gibbs’ favorite Beatles album.

Gibbs is also tying the book to a charity project.

Gibbs teamed with Samaritan’s Purse “to channel the passion of sports fans into somehow bringing glory to God,” he said.

“We picked a project, a women’s and children’s clinic in Petit Goave, Haiti, and we’re trying to raise $40,000,” Gibbs said.

“To keep it fun and competitive, we’re keeping up with which fans have given the most money, and the fan base that donates the most will get a small plaque in the clinic. The campaign ends Feb. 1.

“Right now with pledges, we’re around $11,000. Alabama fans have given $1,898, and LSU fans have given $0. Hopefully that will change soon,” Gibbs said.

For information about the project or about the book, visit his website, http://www.chadgibbs.com/.

Send ideas and comments to Leila Pitchford-English, The Advocate, P.O. Box 588, Baton Rouge, LA 70821-0588 or by email to lenglish@theadvocate.com.