Despite the old “for the love of the game” adage, amor, it seems, has no place in the arena of sport. Bobby Valentine managed a measly 12 homeruns over a 10-year Major League career and a .510 winning percentage in 15 seasons as manager. Stan Love had potential as the Baltimore Bullets’ 9th overall pick in the 1971 NBA draft. Four years, three teams and two leagues later, he got dumped by the San Antonio Spurs of the American Basketball Association.

In tennis, love is what you got when you got nothing at all. When early ’90s Dallas Mavericks teammates Jason Kidd and Jim Jackson found themselves tangled in a devious love triangle with R&B star Toni Braxton, it tore the team apart and proved once and for all that despite the title of the 2000 film, “Love” and “Basketball” do not mix.

While I do love sports, I realized this Valentine’s Day that it’s hate that has always found a haven in the world of sport.

Socrates said that the deepest desires form the deepest hatreds, and when an athlete dedicates every waking hour to being the best, only to be denied his prize, it can get ugly. Things got downright nasty in 1994, when U.S. Olympic figure skater Tonya Harding hired a shady hit man to club longtime foe Nancy Kerrigan. The incident all but ended the affable Kerrigan’s promising career, but propelled the hated Harding to a career in boxing where she could finally put her hot-blooded histrionics to good use.

Hate may sound too strong, but sometimes it sounds an awful lot like the crack of the bat or the bone-crunching tackle. Sports give us a place to channel our emotions of loathing and disgust. You don’t have to be Sigmund Freud to see how sports fans around the globe project their imperfections elsewhere in making Barry Bonds and Terrell Owens enemies of the sport. Ashamed of having to be bailed out of two world wars by the Americans, the French take it out on the Yank in the Yellow Jersey, Lance Armstrong.

And perhaps no place is more of a bastion of abomination than the City of Brotherly Love, where Philadelphia Eagles fans once cheered as hated Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Michael Irvin was carried off the field on a stretcher.

Without hate, we could have no rivalry. No Duke-North Carolina, Yankees-Red Sox or Texas-Oklahoma. With such hate-filled lyrics as Duke’s “Go to Hell Carolina/Go to Hell” and Georgia Tech’s “To Hell With Georgia,” some college fight songs are no more than powerful anthems of abhorrence. Every year, the day after they break bread with one another over a Thanksgiving feast, families in the Peach State are at each other’s throats for the annual meeting between the Bulldogs and the Yellow Jackets, the rivalry known endearingly as “Good Old Fashioned Hate.”

While most people probably could not tell you who won history’s lone XFL championship, most sports fans can recall “He Hate Me” with fond clarity. Rod Smart, who now plays for the maligned Oakland Raiders, adopted the grammatically flawed moniker for his brief stint as a running back for the now-defunct league’s Las Vegas Outlaws. “It’s a saying I was saying when I’d feel something wasn’t going my way,” Smart explained with stunning eloquence to the ilwaukee-Journal Sentinel in 2004. “For example, [when] I was on the squad in Vegas and Coach was putting other guys in, [if] I felt I’m better than them, you know, hey, `He hate me.’ See what I’m saying? Give me a chance. That’s all I ask. It came from the heart. Within. The way I felt.”

People may never draw comparisons between Smart and Shakespeare, but he will still be remembered as the single positive contribution of the renegade football league. The hate-child of pugnacious pro-wrestling pundit Vince McMahon, the XFL was home to such teams as the New York Hitmen, Orlando Rage and Memphis Maniax, but in an ironic twist of hate, did not award an irascibly-named franchise to Philadelphia. Eagles fans didn’t hold a grudge, however, as the XFL drew its highest Nielsen ratings from the Philly area.

Where is the love? Not on the sports page, evidently. Former NBA all-star Tim Hardaway got himself into hot water earlier this week after issuing his opinion on retired NBAer John Amaechi’s recent announcement that he is gay.

“You know, I hate gay people, so I let it be known,” Hardaway told talk show host Dan LeBatard, making it only a matter of time before the former Miami guard starts feeling the heat.

South Carolina Head Coach Steve Spurrier made hate-filled headlines again, accusing Clemson Coach Tommy Bowden of lying, in the latest jab in a Spurrier-Bowden feud that is rapidly reaching Hatfield-McCoy proportions. When Spurrier was coach of the Florida Gators, he referred to Tommy’s father Bobby’s Florida State University as “Free Shoes U.”

Love hurts. Love scars. Love wounds and harms. But it won’t win you a Rose Bowl or empower you to beat Venus Williams. In sports, all you need is hate.

Harlan Goode is a junior in the College and the features editor of THE HOYA. He can be reached at goodethehoya.com.

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