I’m only 37 years old. And though I feel old these days, I guess I’m not too shy to admit I haven’t been around for a lot of the Cat-Griz rivalry. After all, the feud has been going on for more than 100 years.
I’d like to think I’ve seen some of the best years of what I consider one of the best kept secrets in college football, which is the rivalry game between Montana and Montana State, but I wouldn’t presume to say I’ve seen it all when it comes to the annual Brawl of the Wild, considering the first Cat-Griz game I saw on television was in 1985, and the first one I attended live was only back in 1993.
I know, a lot happened in this great clash long before 1993.
I’ve heard the stories and I’ve read the books. I know about the rivalry of old. I know about the old Skyline Conference, the years the game was played on a neutral field in Butte, of the old Dornblazer Stadium in Missoula and so on.
I also know, from personal experience, that football fans in the Treasure State bleed Maroon and Silver or Blue and Gold. It can’t be both. And for at least one day a year, the state is completely divided.
And while I’m sure the rivalry has sparked many a heated debate between Montanans, over coffee in cafes from Hamilton to Sidney and from Glasgow to Grass Range, between friends and even between families, going back to the days before cell phones, Facebook and before tailgating was so popular, in the era of social media and technology, the Cat-Griz rivalry has taken on a whole new tone in recent years.
If you’re a fan of the Grizzlies or the Bobcats, and you’re not familiar with the websites, Egriz.com or Bobcatnation.com, I’d be surprised.
In essence, those two websites have changed the face of the long-standing rivalry between the Griz and the Cats.
And in some ways, it’s not a tone for the better.
I’ve been a member of Egriz since its inception, and a lurker on Bobcat Nation for quite a while now too. And when it comes to banter about the rivalry, I’ve pretty much seen everything, though I try not to believe much of it.
I’ve seen both fan bases claim that when you visit the other’s stadium on Cat-Griz day, you get spit on, or get things thrown at you. Interestingly enough, I’ve been to many Brawls in both stadiums, and I’ve never been spit on, never done any spitting and never seen anyone else get spit on. I guess I have a little more faith in that humans, especially Montanans, would behave better than that.
In fact, as a student at Montana, I sat in the student section of old Reno H. Sales Stadium, now known as Bobcat Stadium, and never saw or was an involved in a bad incident. And I’ve sat many, many times in the student section at Washington-Grizzly Stadium, for many past Brawls, and I’ve never seen any Bobcat fan there be treated poorly.
I’ve also seen posts about the other team cheating, as in last year’s Cat-Griz game where the Grizzlies stole MSU’s signals. But those types of things are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the new-look rivalry on the internet. If you thought Cat-Griz was a friendly rivalry, you obviously haven’t visited these two websites because this type of vitriol and banter generally goes on all year long, reaching a rather heated climax this week.
But the venom aside, the websites have given the rivalry, and both programs a new face, a new voice, at least from a fan perspective. At a place like Egriz or on Bobcat Nation, you get to anonymously cheer, applaud, criticize, coach, fire and hire people, bash referees, talk bad about amateur athletes and yes, hate your fellow Griz or Cat fan, all from the comforts of your home or office.
It’s a wonderful and power medium for football fans, and though the conversations between Griz and Cat fans is generally mean-spirited, bordering on insanely absurd sometimes, it’s freedom of speech at its technological best, and that’s something we should all be thankful we have – football fan or not.
And trust me, it’s not all negative on either site either. In fact, you can learn a lot from both sites, about your favorite team, your favorite player, about x’s and o’s, about incoming recruits, and the list goes on. It’s a great way to stay involved as a fan and it’s a great way to channel your passion for either the Griz or Cats without getting in fights, or heaven forbid, doing something as sickening as spitting on someone over a football game of all things.
Before the internet, and before these two great sites were born, the Cat-Griz rivalry was much more local. I would only argue, tease and get teased about the rivalry with my close friends who were on the side of the enemy, here in Havre, or while I was at school in Missoula.
Now, a Griz fan in Billings can have a debate over who’s stadium is better, who’s tailgate is more fun, or who’s quarterback is less likely to throw an interception on Saturday, with a Cat fan in Libby, and the two will never even have to meet face-to-face. In fact, the two never even have to know each other’s names, where they work or even where they live if they choose not to reveal that information.
On the flip side, I have met many great people through both websites, and that’s great people on both sides of the rivalry. I know others have made great friends through both websites, and likely, they are friends who would have never met without this powerful new voice in the Cat-Griz rivalry.
Yes, times have changed. This isn’t your father’s Cat-Griz rivalry anymore. From Griz and Cat fan sites, to Twitter, Facebook, Iphones, the Cat-Griz rivalry has gone techno, and it’s not going to change anytime soon.
I for one am glad it’s happened, and the venom and vitriol aside, I couldn’t imagine the rivalry without both fans sites, without absurd rumors and posters claiming everything from spitting to cheating to knowing secrets about players and coaches and referees and anything else you can possibly dream. Because at this point, whether you’re a Griz or a Cat, anything you’ve thought you wanted to say, has probably already been said thanks to these two websites and this powerful thing called the internet. Any Cat or Griz joke you’ve ever heard has probably been posted 1,000 times already, and the ones that haven’t, well give it a matter of minutes and you’ll probably see them on one site or both.
It’s a new era in a historic rivalry and it now stretches well beyond the painted lines inside Wash-Griz or Bobcat Stadium. For the fans, this rivalry is global, and thanks to places like Egriz and Bobcat Nation, it’s only going to get bigger. And the war of words is only going to get stronger.