This is the big one

Oct. 24, 2013 @ 06:03 AM

My longtime readers will remember when I used to start out each column with a famous quote. Sometimes it would be a philosopher or a musician, but more often than not it ended up coming from Kirk, Spock, or Dr. McCoy. Now I want to borrow a line from another TV icon, Fred Sanford. “This is the big one.”

No, I’m not talking about a heart attack. It’s time for the annual “Baptist Bowl” which pits the Gardner-Webb Bulldogs against the Evil Empire, a.k.a. the Liberty Flames.

No matter the sport, any game with the Flames is a heated rivalry (pun intended.) So far, GWU holds a 2-1 advantage in matchups this season, picking up wins on the volleyball court and soccer pitch. But it’s the major revenue sports, like football, that cause the rivalry to be turned up a notch.

Add in the fact that it is homecoming in Boiling Springs and you have something akin to Auburn and Alabama.

I know some readers may be skeptical as to just how big the GWU-Liberty rivalry is. After all, it’s between two FCS schools from different states. But as I have said many times, geographic location does not necessarily make a rivalry. Sometimes it’s the differences between the schools, but for the Bulldogs and the Flames, it’s the similarities.

Both have the same mission, to build champions for Christ. As much as I hate to admit it, that makes us brothers and as any sibling can tell you, that rivalry is the fiercest. If you are an only child, just watch an episode of Frasier or Duck Dynasty and you’ll get the idea.

Even though coach Carroll McCray is a GWU alum, he is new to the rivalry. The two teams didn’t start playing until the Flames joined the Big South Conference in 2003.

“I didn’t know who our big rival was when I took this job,” McCray said at his weekly press luncheon. “But I do now. This week just feels different. I can see it in the players. I can feel the buzz and excitement on campus and I think it’s only going to increase later in the week. This is a big game and everybody wants to win it so badly, especially the seniors. We are going to go out Saturday for three or four hours, play our best and represent our school with pride.”

I would have shouted “Amen” had my mouth not been full of tater tots. That’s exactly the attitude any team needs to have going into a rivalry game. It’s not about X’s and O’s. The game means more than a win or a loss on your record. A rivalry game is all about pride. And believe me if GWU wins, I will let my pride show in many ways.

The most visible will be  I promised to shave my beard if the Bulldogs are victorious. Coach McCray spoke volumes about the attitude of the team when he smiled and said, “You better buy a new pack of razors. We are planning to win.”

So I encourage college football fans to come out to the game on Saturday at 1:30 pm. You will see firsthand, an epic rivalry without having to drive to Durham, Chapel Hill, Clemson or Columbia. As Fred Sanford would say, “This is the big one.”

You don’t want to miss it.