What is the best rivalry in all of sports?
The greatest rivalries in sports are an extremely tough decision to make. Nationally speaking, there is a definite east-of-the-Mississippi bias. National writers continually mention Red Sox-Yankees, Ohio State-Michigan, Duke-North Carolina, Auburn-Alabama and the Eagles-Giants.
Growing up in the west, I have a definite western bias towards rivalries. Actually, it’s a Colorado bias in sports. By far, the greatest rivalry is the Broncos and the Raiders. Lately, it’s been a one-sided rivalry with Mike Shanahan owning a 20-6 record against his former employer.
The hatred runs deep, as Shanahan once bet Elway he couldn’t hit Al Davis in the head during warm-ups. Elway obliged and drilled the old-geezer right in the dome from across the field.
There’s nothing like going to Mile High Stadium (I refuse to use the “I-word” name) and watching a Raider game. The intensity builds as Bronco fans delight in beating their rival. Instantaneously, the “Raiders S*^#” chant echoes out of the stadium, reverberates against the Rocky Mountains and fills the Denver-metro area with the sweet sound of victory. Bronco fans even chant this when the Raiders aren’t playing. It’s so lovely.
A few seasons ago, I was at a Glenwood-Rifle basketball game when the Rifle student section unveiled a bed sheet that read: “How can it be a rivalry when we always win?”
Soon after that, Glenwood beat Rifle in football for the first time in a decade (the year the Bears won the State Championship) and the “Hammer and Nail” test was passed by the Demons, renewing the rivalry. That test used to apply to Yankees-Red Sox as well: The Yanks were the hammer, Bosox were the nail, but obviously, beginning with Dave Roberts’ stolen base when Boston was down 0-3, the Red Sox have turned that metaphor around.
So to qualify as the best rivalry, both teams must win their share. Even so, this a very provincial and subjective matter, depending where your heart is … Alabama-Auburn, OSU-Michigan, Texas-Oklahoma, Broncos-Raiders, Giants-Dodgers, Bosox-Yanks, Celtics-Lakers, USC-UCLA, Allydar-Affirmed …
The “Hammer and Nail” test is the determining factor I think. So right now, I’d say it’s Patriots-Colts, but if you’re going all time: the Dodgers and Giants have taken turns knocking each other out of the pennant race since Bill Terry’s “Is Brooklyn still in the league?” remark in 1934.
I’m sure there might be more intense rivalries than BYU-Utah, but I haven’t really experienced the Red Sox-Yankees, Broncos-Raiders, Michigan-Ohio State, or Auburn-Alabama rivalries, so I’ll stick with what I know.
When I attended BYU, Utah finally started to win a few football games after a couple of decades of Cougar dominance. Then after one loss to the hated Utes, one of our offensive linemen was quoted in the paper saying, “It’s all right that we lost because those guys will be pumping my gas anyway in a few years.”
Needless to say that sparked the rivalry a bit. It got so bad that in one of the baseball games we played against them, a batter fouled a line drive off into the stands above our dugout that struck a young BYU fan, and the Utah fans all cheered when it happened.
While the BYU-Utah rivalry may not be known on a national scale like Ohio State-Michigan, it still is one of the great rivalries in the often overlooked mountain region.
My selection is far more than just a sports rivalry between two highly skilled competitors, because it actually resulted in generating a major change in the nature of the sport itself.
The rivalry between Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus took place in the 1960s at a time when televised golf was gaining in popularity. Palmer was the fan favorite, adored as the king of golf and surrounded by his fanatic followers, dubbed Arnie’s Army. Nicklaus was the chubby young kid, more serious and less personable, with a competitive nature that would soon gain him proper recognition as The Golden Bear.
Several factors helped to feed the fan fervor that developed. Both were quite evenly matched, but had different personalities Palmer was the proven veteran; Nicklaus was the upcoming kid. Both were respectful of each other, but there was reason to believe that Jack envied Arnie’s popularity and Arnie envied Jack’s skill.
The Palmer-Nicklaus rivalry paved the way for golf to become the overwhelmingly popular spectator sport that it is today ” both in terms of the throngs who crowd the fairways and the multitudes watching at home on TV.
Ultimately, Nicklaus was to prevail, but the good sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct characterized in their matches made both men winners in the eyes of the public.
While I love to hate the Raiders and the Red Wings, and am beginning to feel the same way about the Diamondbacks, because they are the opponents of the best professional rivalries in Colorado, nothing beats the CU-CSU rivalry.
Having gone to CSU, I get angry when I see black and gold paired together. Every time I hear the word Buffs, I get a little nauseous. When someone asks where I went to school and I say CSU and they ask if it is in Boulder, I can no longer have a conversation with that person.
The rivalry may not be as big as others in college, but I don’t care. I painted my face for those football games and even risked my own life going to a game at Folsom Field to see the two teams go at it. In the last nine years, CSU has won four Rocky Mountain Showdowns against CU ” recently making the rivalry fairly even despite what Buff fans think.
The rivalry was just as strong in other sports. When I played against CU in rugby, I know my teammates and I hit just a little bit harder than usual.
It doesn’t matter that the Buffs and Rams play in different leagues or have different histories, when they compete against each other anyone can win and anything can happen. Isn’t that the definition of a good rivalry?
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