In the world of sports, trash talking comes with the territory when two teams become rivals. It’s a fact of life that athletes and coaches alike are going to talk trash about the other team at one point or another. Recently, Michigan Wolverines head coach Brady Hoke did a tiny bit of trash talking toward one of the team’s biggest rivals, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
The Notre Dame/Michigan rivalry is one of the most significant rivalries in college football history not just because of the two teams involved, but also because of the games this rivalry has produced. Over the years, national championship seasons have been started with a win in this game and there have been many, many games decided by single digits and in the final minute.
The rivalry has taken breaks before for a couple of seasons and it was decided that another such break be scheduled for the 2018 and 2019 seasons. Then, the Fighting Irish announced that they were moving the hiatus up so it comprised the 2015, 2016 and 2017 seasons.
In response to this, Hoke expressed his displeasure at a press conference, commenting that the Fighting Irish were “chickening out” of playing against the Wolverines. He added another comment along the same lines. I got a laugh out of it, and that’s about it.
This is the kind of stuff that college football should expect out of its participants. If you’re in a rivalry that is celebrated and embraced by both schools and both teams, then there has to be passion. The fact that there’s trash talking does mean that there is passion. Trash talking isn’t a necessary part of sports, but it also isn’t something that is as bad as some want to make it out to be. Not to mention that the Fighting Irish did open the door in this case.
In a rivalry, especially one that is as old as this one, you can’t give your opponent an opening to bash you the way the Fighting Irish did here. Opting out of games against a hated and historically significant opponent is the easiest way to open the door to ridicule from that opponent.
I understand that the hiatus may have to do with the Fighting Irish’s scheduling of ACC teams when they move to the conference in all other sports in a few years. Maybe. Nevertheless, this was a lose-lose for the Fighting Irish whatever way you look at it. The Fighting Irish not only will lose a marquee game from their schedule after next season, but they also got bashed by the other side in the process.
If anything, Hoke’s comments will create some anticipation for this year’s installment of one of my favorite college football rivalries. Past that, it was too harmless and unoffending to live on past this September.