What IS a rivalry?
Is a rivalry only created with a perfect mixture of history and close competition?
Can a rivalry be born at any time with the right amount of animosity thrown into the mix?
What comes to your mind when you think of rivalries?
Yankees vs. Red Sox? Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady? Ohio State vs. Michigan? Jack Nicklaus vs. Arnold Palmer? Lakers vs. Celtics?
The truth is that rivalries are owned by the fans. Each and every fan has their own idea of what a rivalry is and each fan has their own reasons for feeling that way.
A NASCAR fan growing up watching his favorite driver constantly getting second place to Jeff Gordon may think of Jeff Gordon as his driver’s biggest rival. This could be true even if Jeff Gordon is best friends with said driver.
A Bruins fan may forever hate the Philadelphia Flyers if they were heart broken by the 2010 playoff series where Boston blew a 3 game lead in the series and then a 3 goal lead in Game 7.
Other rivalries are born geographically.
St. Louis and Chicago are 300 miles apart but even farther apart in ways of life.
San Francisco and Oakland are separated by a bay. On clear evenings the Giants can see the Oakland Coliseum from AT&T Park.
The Yankees and Mets are separated by mere city blocks just as the White Sox and Cubs.
It’s natural for teams from these places to not like each other. Often it’s the cultural differences and similarities that can fuel rivalries between teams and their fan bases.
Other rivalries are born on the field.
The Miami Marlins did not hold much animosity towards the Atlanta Braves until Braves catcher Brian McCann decided Marlin ace José Fernández did not run the bases quick enough after a home run. McCann met the young star at home plate and a rivalry was born.
The dictionary says a rival is “a person who is competing for the same object or goal as another, or who tries to equal or outdo another; a competitor.” This definition opens the door for essentially any sporting match up to be considered a rivalry.
Is that not what makes all this so fun?
Next time you hear two sports wise-guys arguing over the superiority of their own rivalry, just remember, anyone can be a rival.
Rivalries belong to the fans.