UCLA has USC, Ohio State has Michigan, Notre Dame has pretty much everybody – but when it comes to a rival school who do we Gauchos have to irrationally hate? Cal Poly? Hardly. A good rivalry needs games that matter and exciting finishes. Outside of a couple of crazy soccer matches this past year, UCSB and Poly really don’t have much of a history together. What about Davis? It’s an easy school to hate on, but then again it’s only been in the Big West for a year. Maybe once the Aggies have been around longer we can grow to truly detest them, but for now they’re just annoying. Don’t despair though Gaucho fans, there’s a clear choice for you to aim your fanatical wrath at: the UC Irvine Anteaters.
First of all, let’s start with the mascot. They’re the Anteaters? Seriously? In terms of intimidation, this ranks somewhere between the UCSC Banana Slugs and the Harvard Crimson. Honestly, the color crimson is more frightening than UC Irvine’s mascot, unless you happen to be a certain tiny six-legged insect. And don’t get me started about the guy in the costume. There’s nothing more infuriating than that dude dressed up as a ‘roided-out anteater named Zot parading around the gym like the complete tool he is. You’ll have to trust me on this one, as I had a run-in with him a couple of months back. Daily Nexus Sports staffer Matt Connolly was about half a rum and coke away from going head-to-head with a fully costumed mascot, and I was foolish enough to stop him. It’s a decision I regret to this day.
While I could go on for pages about my distaste for Zot the obnoxious anteater, there are actually other reasons that we should all despise Irvine. For instance, we can hate their infuriating tendency to end otherwise promising Gaucho seasons. Take, for example, this past weekend. UCSB baseball came into Irvine needing to take two games from the ninth-ranked ‘eaters to have a legitimate shot at making the NCAA playoffs. After winning on Friday, the Gauchos potentially needed just one win in the next two games to gain that coveted regional berth. You can read the recap to find out what happened after that, but I certainly don’t want to talk about it. I’ll give you a hint: UCSB isn’t in the playoffs.
Our men’s basketball squad has even more experience ending seasons against Irvine, as they have done it in two consecutive seasons. In both the 2007 and 2008 Big West Tournaments, UCSB bowed out to a lower-seeded Irvine team. This past year’s loss was particularly painful, as the Gauchos were the Big West regular-season champions and thus the top seed in the tournament. The five-point loss was Santa Barbara’s fourth in a row to Irvine, and third in a row by six points or less. Ouch.
But the Anteaters don’t just end Gaucho seasons. They have the same horrible propensity to deliver especially painful losses in the middle of the season as well! Ask the Gaucho men’s water polo players about it. They played the Anteaters twice on the season, losing each game by one point. In the second matchup, Irvine scored the game winner with less than 30 seconds left. How’s that for a tough loss? And the Santa Barbara women’s soccer team had an eight-game winning streak snapped by the Anteaters this year, and they hadn’t won a conference game since 2005.
For some inexplicable reason, that nerdy university to the south just has our number and I, for one, am sick of it. I don’t care what sport it is, I want to crush Irvine at whatever they do. Hell, it doesn’t even have to be a sport! Let’s beat those lousy aardvarks at everything we do. Let us unite, as Gauchos, in our common hatred for that detestable collection of bug-eating mammals from the ‘burbs of L.A. After all, that’s what rivals are for.