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Battle Fever, and why all Rangers fans really hate Old Firm games

The Old Firm game is the highlight of the football calendar. It’s also the least enjoyable part of it.

Celtic And Rangers Fans Meet For First Time Since 2012 In Cup Draw Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Sometimes you get the battle fever, and sometimes the battle fever gets you. Since we chose that great Jock Wallace quote to name this very website, we’ve only had two chances to experience that ailment. Hibs, or whoever, don’t really give you the battle fever, just something less scary. Rammy flu, or something. We don’t need to name it, thankfully we’ll never have to give a fuck about them again.

And it is an ailment. GTBFO was surprised to see a few of its Twitter acquaintances openly admit they wouldn’t watch the game, and would instead take to the cinema or volunteer to drive relatives to the airport to escape it. This is when the battle fever gets you, because sometimes it’s too much. Most rivalries are like this, but this is the only one where it’s not only your beliefs in football that don’t make sense if you lose, but also your beliefs in religion and politics (if you go in for that sort of thing, and we never judge or ignore those who do.)

Sometimes it comes in a slow build-up, in ever-greater waves beginning when the first signs of it begin to lap on the shores of your consciousness immediately after the game the previous weekend. And sometimes it takes it’s time, so late you think it might never come, that maybe you’re getting old or losing your interest, until it all hits you in a tsunami of ancestral fury while you’re caught unawares the day before. If anybody has ever died of battle fever, that would probably be the time.

People forget that while these things are great for neutrals, they’re not for the participants. If we could see ourselves - players, fans, and staff alike - all sweating, screaming, faces disfigured with hatred and insanity - we’d probably see we were destroying ourselves, and not care all the same. That was what battle fever was - not a perverse enjoyment in something so terrifying, but some sort of weird spirit that made you compelled to take part.

The greatest Rangers team most of us will have ever witnessed so far said the same. The victories were fleeing, the terror of defeat a permanent presence. In the end victory only brought relief, not even any real sense of glory. So, while we might cheer goals and celebrate at the final whistle if we win, if any Rangers fans tell you they enjoy these games as a whole, they’re either a liar or a psychopath. Actively enjoying this lunacy is like the storied Scots Guard, Robert Lawrence, shouting "Isn’t this fun!" during the assault on Mount Tumbledown in the Falklands War. If you feel like that, it’s not because you’ve got something extra, it’s because you’ve got something missing.

So, aye, try to embrace the battle fever. Try to enjoy it. But let’s not pretend we’re not all ready to be sick and will cry tears of relief when it’s finally all over.