The Lopez twins not only capture our attention because of their size but also, perhaps even more so, because they are identical. Society’s interest with twins is less quantifiable, but nonetheless present. Some cultures view twins as evil, and some of Stanford’s opponents might agree.
However, as I watch the Lopez twins and ponder the national obsession with them, I realize that the reason they captivate goes beyond my initial thoughts of childlike awe of height and matching DNA. It goes into a more sinister, perhaps even Freudian, chamber of our collective psyche – sibling rivalry. Rivalry with one’s sibling is not only an accepted truth in the American household, but a celebrated rite of passage, like drinking till you throw-up on your 21st birthday.
I grew up listening to stories of sibling rivalry between my dad and his brothers: fingers were chopped off and sewn on crookedly, jaws were broken, bodies were poisoned by bets to consume large quantities of alcohol, vomit was induced by bets to ingest jalapenos, and quarters were given in exchange for a swing with a piece of sheetrock at the head. My dad and his brothers laugh off these stories as sibling rivalry, boys being boys. They were brothers after all; brothers do crazy stuff like repeatedly almost killing each other.
My relationship with my brother has been less violent. Comparing our relationship with the Lopez’s, I am reminded of how annoyed my friends were of the fact that my brother and I got along with each other. The difference between us and our sibling peers was usually made most clear playing basketball. The Hambly, Bair and Sasseen brothers would inevitably escalate from insults, to shoving, to a headlock, and eventually spill into a wrestling match in the grass behind the court. After the brothers wore each other out and the game resumed, they would point out – indignantly – how my brother and I never fought.
Like my brother and me, the Lopez twins seem to hit a nerve by getting along with one another. I find myself agreeing with my childhood sibling friends, waiting for jealousy to erupt between the brothers: for Brook to point how much better he is than Robin; for Robin to snap about how dumb Brook is; for the two to get in a pushing match on the sideline, spilling into an adolescent wrestling match among the Stanford band and its epileptic dancing tree.
The desire to see sibling rivalry between Brook and Robin is intensified by their being twins. Unlike Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito neither of these twins got stuck with “the shit left over.” Born as equal blank slates, both arrived at Stanford at 7 feet tall and 245 lbs. Thus, their ceilings seemingly set at the same height, leaving nothing but desire to create separation.
Basketball players are often compared to each other, usually unfairly so (Can we please agree on an embargo to calling anyone the next Michael Jordan or Larry Bird?). But in the case of the Lopez twins the comparison is completely justified. They provide satisfaction to our perpetual need to compare.
Watching Eli Manning in the Super Bowl this weekend I found myself anticipating the inevitable shot of Peyton Manning in the stands. Would he be cheering? Would he look intense or disinterested? Throughout the game the cameraman eschewed the usual shots of large breasted women, opting instead to show Peyton’s reactions to his brother. Peyton pumped his fist, showing more emotion for his brother than he does for himself.
As soon as the game was finished, the analysts began comparing him to his brother. Their claims that Eli had become his own QB rang false as the camera searched for Peyton -- finally locating the money shot of the brothers in the locker room. Watching this I felt a sense of relief, but at the same time pity for the Super Bowl MVP Eli. In his moment, his brother had at least partially stolen the spotlight. I wonder if I had implicitly wanted to see the two brothers fight. If this desire had led me to my need to see Peyton react to Eli during the game and Eli react to Peyton after the game.
With the Lopez twins choosing to play together at Stanford they have provided the perfect experiment for every comparison that has ever been made between brothers. Eli can never fairly be compared to Peyton, despite all of their similarities; too many variables exist. Brook and Robin on the other hand, play a sport which is more individualized, and they are surrounded by the same teammates, playing against the same players.
It is in this fair comparison between brothers that I want to see the battle for who has more desire, more heart, and more intensity spill over and satisfy my expectations of sibling rivalry. Every game that the two get along only builds the excitement for the moment that they finally snap, that the competition and comparison becomes too much to hide, and that the supposed scholar athletes become simply All-American brothers.