Greatest American Sports Rivalry Ever

The Lakers versus Celtics match-up for the NBA finals has me thinking about the greatest match-ups in sports history.  I picked who I think has been historically the greatest rivalry in each major team sports league in current existence along with collegiate marquee match-ups.  I was surprised by my  final order. Here then is my top ten all time American Sports Rivalries. You can vote for the number one rivalry in my poll.

10. Cowboys & Redskins: I almost picked Green Bay and Chicago as the greatest rivalry in the NFL. Either way, this was the only league whose rivalry wasn’t a clear pick making it last on the list. The modern era rivalry between the Colts and Patriots show how desperate this league is to come up with a marketable rivalry that makes sense. Perhaps the Colts and Saints will meet in the Superbowl again next year. Maybe then we will have the makings of a modern day rivalry in the NFL that has some longevity.

9. UCLA vs USC: The schools are in the same town. USC owns the “edge” in football – 11 national championships to UCLA’s 1. But UCLA is the greatest basketball program in college so its a flush. Now if they could just come up with some of the antics like Duke and North Carolina like the speedo guy. This rivalry needs some fresh air. Probably is the weakest of the rivalries on my list, but it is clearly the PAC-10 rivalry. MY OPINION west coast – I don’t need no death threats G.

8. Oklahoma vs Texas: This rivalry probably would have made it higher on the list, but the Big 12 South is a rivalry. It was hard to pick one rivalry over the next. Oklahoma State versus Oklahoma, Texas Tech or Texas A&M with Texas, or each other. That is why this rivalry suffers. You need to be able to focus all your hatred onto one enemy, but the Big 12 South tries to multitask its rivalries and that just doesn’t work. Perhaps this is proof again that no one really multitasks…really…. Of course, Oklahoma’s championships (12 I think) are impressive and Texas is REALLY easy to hate. In fact, the easiest college football team to hate is Texas and I’m an SEC guy. Go figure. In the last decade this game has as much impact on who plays for the National Championship as the LSU vs Florida game.

7. Duke & North Carolina: More of a modern rivalry with the success of the two basketball programs since the 1980’s. But don’t tell them that with the schools only eight miles apart. Even with this rivalry only in its infancy the future looks as bright for this rivalry as any. North Carolina is 1st in the ACC with regular season championships in basketball, Duke is 2nd. Duke is first in ACC Tournament championships, with North Carolina second.  North Carolina is first all-time in appearances to the Final Four, Duke is third. North Carolina is third all time in National Championships and Duke is fifth with both looking to continue to move up the list in future years. But rivalries need duration to amount to anything, which is what this one lacks, but in twenty years it maybe the marquee rivalry.

6. Red Sox & Yankees: This series has been on the upswing the last few years with Boston’s newly rediscovered ability to get to and win the World Series; something that New York does better than any other team in baseball. This rivalry goes down as perhaps the most dangerous of all pro-sport rivalries, which is really saying something since baseball has become the American version  of croquet. We take our family out to the ball game to get a spot o’ tea and munch on some English muffins as we watch a baseball match-up like civilized ladies and gentlemen – that is unless it is Yankees vs. Red Sox. Then ITS ON! Who knew danger lurked in New England? If I went to one of these games I would want to buy a shirt that read “neutral’ so as not put myself  in danger. However, that would only make things worse. You would become the target of both sides like Finland, Sweden or Switzerland. Everyone wants to know why they’re not good enough for you. Now add a few beers to the mix along with a Boston accent or a Brooklyn dialect. You can’t even communicate with the locals. Blood will be spilled, bones will be broken – best to watch from somewhere safe like your house.

5. Maple Leafs & Canadians: They are in the wrong league. It is only hockey or they probably would have made it higher on the list. The oldest NHL rivalry that includes match-ups similar to the Lakers & Celtics, with a history of the Stanley Cup being handed out to the winner of this match-up five times in the peak of this rivalry. Add to this the attraction of close proximity like the  Red Sox & Yankees rivalry and it is impressive indeed. Again, I can’t get past it being hockey. My consolidation is that Canada is in North America (in case you forgot) so they count. Who knew Canada would have one of the leagues’ greatest rivalries? I didn’t.

4. Army & Navy: When the winner of this match-up gets a trophy called “The Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy” you know you are in for something special. While neither team is now a powerhouse, both have been in the past. Combined with 110 meetings going all the way back to 1890 between the first two branches of our armed services and we realize some games are just more important than others. Quick fact: This is the only game I watch every year that makes me misty-eyed (Shh, it is a secret). Maybe you have to be a soldier to get the connection. These men become brothers-in-arms at the end of their collegiate careers with their lives, their families securities and their nation’s freedom as their burden to carry.  This game ends the way all games should end every year. Watch next year to see for yourself.

3. Ohio state & Michigan: aka The Game, when played is a tribute to longevity as an important ingredient in any good rivalry (why I considered Green Bay & Chicago over Cowboys & Redskins).  Looking for longevity brings us to the prime example as these two teams have been competing for 113 years (since 1897). The only reason they are not higher on the list is two-fold: lack of championships for the duration of the rivalry and they are just too civilized (I’m just saying!). I would not fear for my life wearing an Ohio State shirt at Michigan or vice-versa on game day. However, for both my 1 & 2 fear would definitely be a factor in wearing my colors if the game was at the opponents’ location.

2. Alabama & Auburn: If the only criteria in choosing the top rivalry was “hatred for one’s opponent” then this rivalry would have won. The Iron Bowl (the game they play annually) should be called Appendages Bowl or Organ Smorgasbord. Okay, it doesn’t resonate like”The Iron Bowl.” But it is an ugly affair and only people 18 years old or older should be allowed to watch. I don’t even want to talk about it. It gives me goosebumps.  I’m just saying… The reason this rivalry didn’t make the jump to number 1? Lack of championships on Auburn’s side. Another impressive part of this rivalry are all the one liners fans have for each other in this state. I think someone should put a book together.

1. Lakers and Celtics: The fact that the these rivals have nearly half of all NBA titles between them is what makes this my pick for greatest rivalry. Some of the greatest players ever to play the game played for these two storied franchises. The historic showdowns that include the likes of Bird and Johnson for championships  just cement them in this spot. Almost as much hatred for each other as the Red Sox & Yankees have for each other. If they were closer in proximity and played more games in the regular season then this probably would be the most feared of professional games. They have the hatred, they have the duration, they have the hall-of-famers and they have more titles combined for their sport than any other rivalry.

So what do you think?


2 Comments to “Greatest American Sports Rivalry Ever”

  1. Your results will not be accurate because you do not allow a fill in choice…some of us will be choosing a rivalry here that may be even lower than our 2nd choice.

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