Most sports fans have that one hated team. The team they despise above all others.

Usually itís a close rival to your favorite team, a team that has beaten your team in some heartbreaking fashion or perpetrated some perceived slight that has yet to be forgiven and in most cases remembered.

When it comes to games between rivals, the competition is never more heated. I understand competition between rivalries. All bets are off. Friends are frienemies, Marriages are put on hold (unless your team is winning) and there are more disowned Family members during those rivalries than at any other time. Games between rivals are epic and winning or losing those are the differences between walking with your held high and just walking.

Hereís the quandary. What if your teamís success depended on your rival winning? Let that marinate for a minute. For many just reading words like that on the page hurts a little. What if it were the only way your team was going to make the post season.

That all changed once the Carolina Panthers came into existence in 1996. Iím not saying I donít still have a soft spot for the Redskins, but I switched my allegiances to root for my beloved Panthers. I didnít drop the Redskins and I certainly havenít forgotten the painful losses that have knocked them out of the playoffs or the happy dances I have done when my team prevailed.

This year, I chose the Cowboys to come out of the National Football Conference East as their representative for the playoffs. I made this choice for two reasons. The first being integrity. Even though I donít condone rooting for, or taking part in, the enjoyment of anything Dallas Cowboys-related, I recognize they have an immensely talented football team on both sides of the ball. If they can stay healthy, they have a real shot to compete.

The second is pride. I want to be right. When the season started ,I looked over every team, pouring through offseason moves and acquisitions and I think this is just the Cowboys year. I could be wrong and find myself dealing with inner conflict, but my need to be right about my pick overrides my wishful hopes for seasonal demise.

Iím not saying that every fan should make picks like mine that allow for leniency in these situations, or that my situation fits anyone elses, but it is okay to root for teams that are rivals to your team. It may feel like the world is going to explode or you are going to be sick, but itís not and youíre not.

Deep down inside, where we sports fans rarely want to look, there are feelings that we often deny. We may not like it, but we respect our rivals. We may talk bad about them and wish for their seasons to go down the toilet, but we want them always to be at their best when they face our team. We want a win or loss to mean something. (None of this applies to Duke, Carolina or NC State).