I've been thinking about writing this for a while, but given our last two games it seemed appropriate.
I read a column a while back called "The Importance of Being Hated." Most of the column was forgettable, and re-reading it today it is a bit dated (discussing what will happen when George W. Bush runs for re-election, for example) but there was a passage that stuck with me. The author, Chuck Klosterman, explains the distinction between a nemesis and an archenemy:
Now, I know that you're probably asking yourself, How do I know the difference between my nemesis and my archenemy? Here is the short answer: You kind of like your nemesis, despite the fact that you despise him. If your nemesis invited you out for cocktails, you would accept the offer. If he died, you would attend his funeral and—privately—you might shed a tear over his passing. But you would never have drinks with your archenemy, unless you were attempting to spike his gin with hemlock. If you were to perish, your archenemy would dance on your grave, and then he'd burn down your house and molest your children. You hate your archenemy so much that you try to keep your hatred secret, because you don't want your archenemy to have the satisfaction of being hated.
Another distinction I've heard is that you root for your nemesis against other teams, because then it makes it that much more of an honor to defeat them, while you root for your archenemy to lose every game they play.
Who are ours?Without a doubt, our archenemy is Syracuse. Except for that last sentence - "try to keep your hatred secret" - this seems like a good description. But who would you say is our nemesis? I put forward two options:
There is a somewhat natural camaraderie here because the two schools and programs are similar. Both are small, respected Catholic schools (although Georgetown certainly has the academic edge) on the outskirts of a big city (being a bit flexible with that criteria). Both are old-time Big East powers who have had renewed success. It is a historic rivalry, obviously, but there is more respect between these two teams/programs/schools than there ever could be with Syracuse. Some older Hoyas fans may violently disagree with me, but this is the sense I get from my generation (I graduated last May). As much as you hate Scottie Reynolds, you were probably rooting for them in the Final Four last year.
I started thinking about this because of this post. Pitt has been our most consistent foe during the JT III era. One of his first signature wins was @Pitt in 2005. We played them in two consecutive BET finals, and split the games between us. We beat them in the Verizon center to take the lead in the Big East regular season for the first of our back-to-back regular season titles. And now we have each broken the other's long home winning streak. They are a familiar and formidable opponent. As the linked article notes, "When was that last time a game played between Georgetown and Pittsburgh held no significance?"
I have to go with Villanova. I don't think we respect Pitt. I actually like Jay Wright, but I can't stand Dixon. And I was rooting for Nova in their Elite 8 game last year. The history - and the fact that our games with Nova seem to always be really close, regardless of the status of the respective programs at the time - is too significant. Pittsburgh has been good for the last few years, so we have clashed, but it just isn't the same.