“You don't like them and they don't like you. Their fans hate you and you hate them.” – Romero Osby on rivalries
Red or orange?
Those are the two main options in the state of Oklahoma. Love one, hate the other. It's that love and hate that makes a rivalry. It's rivalries that make some weekends in sports more intense than the others.
This is one of those weekends. Oklahoma takes on Oklahoma State at Gallagher-Iba Arena for more than state basketball bragging rights and more than a possible season sweep, but for placement in the Big 12 Conference.
For OU senior Romero Osby, his allegiance is with the crimson and cream. As a boy in Meridian, Miss., Osby grew up understanding college rivalries.
When he was in elementary school, Osby used to run into his grandmother's classroom and look at all the bulldogs.
Osby's grandmother was a teacher, a graduate of Mississippi State. She instilled a love for the MSU Bulldogs and a hate for the Ole Miss Rebels into her grandson. Then, during his first couple years of college at Mississippi State, his hate for Ole Miss grew.
“I still don't like them now,” said Osby, who transferred to OU three seasons ago. “And I don't even play there anymore. You just take one side or the other.”
For fellow senior Sam Grooms — who spent a majority of his youth in Greensboro, N.C. — one side was Duke Blue Devils, the other was North Carolina Tar Heels.
Grooms chose Duke, but he watched both schools and the lone rebel, the Wake Forest Demon Deacons.
“It was fun,” Grooms said. “Every night, I got to get a good laugh in watching somebody go after each other. I've been a Duke fan since Jason Williams was there. I used to watch him play every Wednesday night for ACC Wednesday Night.”
Grooms loved to watch Chris Paul and Josh Howard, too. While he learned a lot about basketball from his big brother, Grooms learned how to be a certain type of player from Duke.
“It really taught me how to distinguish who plays hard and who doesn't,” Grooms said. “That was big for me looking at how people played and how hard they played. They took it so seriously.
“I looked at Chris Paul when he played at Wake Forest, how off the court he was so nice but on the court he was a different player. It made me appreciate basketball and get a love for it ... I understand I can be ‘Sam the smiling type' off the court, but in between the four lines I could be as mean as I needed to be.”
Now, Osby and Grooms have taken what they've learned from rivalry games over the years and applied it to their final one. It's a game that, if the Sooners win, they will forever have bragging rights of sweeping the Cowboys. If they lose — well, they don't even want to talk about that.
“When you've got a rivalry game, you really, really hate to lose,” Osby said. “You play hard, which you do every game, but there's just something more intense about a rivalry game. It's really what makes it so special.”
Rivalries can bring out an intensity that forces mistakes, though. As one of the team captains, Osby said part of his job is to make sure the Sooners remain calm and don't push things — especially being away from Lloyd Noble Center.
Grooms and Osby have enjoyed the Bedlam rivalry along the way. But they are ready to claim bragging rights one last time, especially in front of a sea of Cowboy orange.
“This is a big rivalry. You've got to keep your composure,” Osby said. “You've got to keep playing hard but keep it in between the lines and know it's all fun at the end of the day.”