Opinion

Best Sports Rivalries

Rugby match in the mud

In some of my prior posts, I reference a general rule that you shouldn’t wear apparel of your favorite teams’ rival team.

I received a question from a reader asking for information on US sports rivalries for people that live in other countries or new arrivals to the United States.

In response, here is my list of the best sports rivalries.

Pro Football Rivalries

Although the players are professionals making millions of dollars, some NFL rivalries are quite serious.  Here are my choices for the top football rivalries:

  • NFC East rivalries: The Eagles, Giants, Cowboys and Washington football team all hate each other.  Fans of one of the teams cannot wear any apparel of any other teams.
  • Steelers v. Ravens, Browns: There is no love lost between the Steelers, Ravens, and Browns.  These long running rivalries are very heated, and things get very physical both on and off the field.
  • Packers v. Bears, Vikings:  These are also long standing rivalries with a lot of passion on all sides.  I know of a few families that can no longer talk of football because of these rivalries.
  • Raiders v. Chiefs, Broncos, Chargers:  It seems like all teams in the AFC West all have one thing in common: they all hate the Raiders. Maybe this arises from the fact that Raider fans travel well, and practically take over the opposing teams, stadium when they come to town.

Pro Basketball Rivalries

Like the NFL, some NBA rivalries are intense, although these days the players move afrom team to team so much that the rivalries aren’t as intense as in year’s past.  Here are my choices for top NBA Rivalries:

  • Kings v. Lakers: This rivalry is one that is pretty one sided; there is no other team that Kings fans hate more than the Lakers.  The hate stems from the Lakers unfairly winning the 2002 Western Comference Chapionship due to crooked refs, the Kings choking, and a clutch Robert Horry shot.  One thing is for sure: no self-respecting Kings fan would be caught dead in Lakers apparel.
  • Lakers v. Warriors: This rivalry has been heating up recently,, ecpecially with the signing of Lebrun James by the Lakers.  The rivalry is also rooted in the longstanding “feud” between Los Angeles and the Bay Area.
  • Heat v. KnicksThis rivalry may have cooled down in recent years, but in the 90’s these teams got after it, with grueling battles that included physical fights.
  • Celtics v. Lakers:  This is another long time rivalry, which was born out of the rivalry between Larry Bird and Magic Johnson.  Several matchups in the finals took this rivalry to a fevered pitch.
  • Pistons v. Bulls: This rivalry is geographic, as well as based on the on-court rivalry between the Michael Jordan Bulls and the “Bad Boys” Pistons.

Pro Baseball Rivalries

Baseball is a historical sport that seems to mark the passage of time.  Because it dates back to the 1800’s, it’s fiercest rivalries date back generations.  Here are my choices for the best rivalries in baseball:

  • Giants v. Dodgers: This is one of the fiercest rivalries in all of sports.  The rivalry was born when both teams played in New York, and now is firmly planted in California.  Both fans and players alike have suffered violence as a result of this rivalry.
  • Red Sox v. Yankees: This is another old rivalry based on years and years of competition.  It is also based on geographic proximity.
  • Cubs v. Cardinals:  Fans of the Cardinals and Cubs don’t seem to like each other very much.  I would advise against supporting one of the teams in the other team’s city.

College Rivalries

Much like baseball, many of the College Rivalries are very historic in nature. Many are based on Geographical proximity or in-state bragging rights. Others run even deeper that that.  Here are my choices for the best college rivalries:

  • Michigan v. Ohio State: This is a geographic rivalry based on many years of competition in the Big 10 in many sports.
  • Cal v. Stanford: This is a geographic rivalry based on both teams being in the Bay Area.  It also pits a Private School against a state university.
  • Texas v. Oklahoma: This is a rivalry based on the fact that these schools are traditional powers in sports, and due to the schools being in rival states.
  • BYU v. Utah: This is a lesser known rivalry, but it is not only based on supremacy in the state of Utah, but it is also called “The Holy War” due to its religious overtones.
  • Alabama v. Auburn:  The Iron Bowl.  It not only determines bragging rights in the stat of Alabama, but usually has National Championship implications.
  • USC v. UCLA:  Another rivalry based on geography, as both teams are based in Los Angeles.  Much like Cal and Stanford, it pits a private school against a state university.
  • Ole Miss v. Mississippi State:  This game determines supremacy in the state of Mississippi.  Historically, this rivalry also had racial overtones.
  • Florida v. Georgia: A hard fought rivalry between schools from bordering states.
  • Duke v. North Carolina: This is a fierce college basketball rivalry for bragging rights in North Carolina.

Soccer Rivalries for New U.S. Fans

As soccer grows in popularity in the U.S., many American fans choose a European club to support.  These are the big European Soccer rivalries to be aware of when choosing soccer apparel:

  • Real Madrid v. Barcelona: “El Classico” is a battle of the two largest clubs in Spain.
  • Manchester United v. Liverpool:  These clubs really dislike each other.  Separated by close proximity, these clubs have both been very successful historically, leading to this heated rivalry.
  • Manchester United v. Manchester City: These two clubs share a city, but not fans.  Manchester is definitely divided between red and blue.
  • Arsenal v. Tottenham: This is another rivalry of teams that share a city and have an extreme dislike for each other.

Conclusion

Hopefully, this post will help novice sports fans know which rivals to be aware of, and only pick apparel from one team in the rivalry.  Did I miss any big rivals?  Are any rivalries overstated? Please leave your comments and let me know.

If you are interested in purchasing any Sports Team Apparel and/or merchandise, click here to shop for NFL  NBA MLB NCAA Soccer.

Here is a video of a top 10 rivalries list from Mojo.  They have a few that I didn’t include.

18 Comments

  1. Watching any kind of sports is interesting and can also be a hobby for many people. But watching sports with rivalries just makes the game very interesting and make us jump out of our seats while watching. It is good know the rivalry teams. This article has listed all the rivalry teams in the main sports.

    Thank you for this information.

    1. Thank you for visiting the site.  I hope you found this information enjoyable.  I agree.  Sports are more fun when the fans and players are passionate!

  2. I really loved this post.  When I went to New York,  I went to a Yankee’s game and only a half hour prior to that I was gifted a Boston Red Sox hat as my name is Bex and the B that adorns the hat is a good vibe for me. I went to the Yankee game, sitting amongst the Yankee fans and to my surprise, the team they were playing were the Red Sox.  I had to endure some serious remarks of disdain and people giving me the gears because I was wearing the rivals hat – when really, my intention in wearing the hat was just rocking my first initial and my style…haha!  The row I was sitting in told me I would be better to sit in another part of the stadium. It wasn’t harsh or anything and everyone was kidding around, but it made me laugh, because I did have to stand up and justify why I was wearing the hat.  Great post!  

    1. Great comment! You learned the hard way and I hope others can read this post and avoid the teasing! Once I was at a Dodger Giant baseball game and the Dodger fans made a little kid cry. Usually teasing in rivalries is good natured but it can get serious!

  3. Thanks for sharing a lots of sports rivalry, i tend only to know just that of soccer  but this post has made me know alot as well  but in addition to this the rivalry between Real Madrid Vs Athletic Madrid is a game that keeps the the spectators in tension and desire as well as Bayern Munich Vs Dortmund.

    1. Thank you for the feedback! I don’t follow the Bundesliga very closely so I wasn’t aware of the Dortmund/ Bayern rivalry. I was aware of Athletico and Madrid, but I don’t think it is as passionate as Real v. Barca.

  4. I am from Europe but I am a huge NBA and NFL fan. 

    I was was a bit Brett Farve fan so I really liked Green Bay Packers, but I also a big Eagles fan. Once I was on a Packers vs. Eagles game. It was a win or win game to me. I had a Farve jersey on me and when I bought some food and drink I picked out my wallet from my pocket with a huge Eagles logo on it. 

    A guy – a big one – next to me started to stare at me. I started to talk with my strongest accent I had. Then I saw that he thinks that this is just an idiot from abroad. 

    Is there any big rivalry between the Eagles and the Packers? 

    1. Thanks for visiting the site! I’m not aware of any rivalry between the Packers and the Eagles, but it’s generally frowned upon to wear apparel from two different teams at the same time.  I hope it didn’t get you in too much trouble!

  5. yep you know your rivalries. One that has really heated up on and off the field is the Falcons ans Saints. Do you agree. I was so tense watching the NFC championship last weekend. I could not stomach the thought of the Saints having our home lockerroom for the Superbowl. Thankyou Rams.

    1. Yes! This is a great rivalry that goes back to the old NFC West. Would have been tough for you to Watch the Super Bowl if It were the Pats v. Saints!

  6. I had no idea it was such a sin to wear gear from two different rival teams. I also can’t believe how many rivalries there actually are and how serious some of them are off the field as well.

    I have always believed that the basics of sportsmanship should be taught from an early age. Everyone has to learn how to lose gracefully. A little healthy rivalry is fun, but when it becomes physical and violent, then it becomes a serious offense.

    1. Thank you for visiting the site.  I agree with your comment completely.  Sports should be for fun and to make us happier.  As is the case with everything in life we as humans take things too far sometimes.

  7. Hi Nate – I’m an Eagles fan and definitely agree with you about the NFC East all being rivals.  I’m not as big on basketball, so I wasn’t aware of some of those.  What about the NHL, any big rivalries there?

    This was very interesting to read and learn about some rivalries for teams and sports I was not aware of.

    Thanks,

    Michele

    1. Thanks for visiting!  I don’t follow hockey very closely, but I will be dropping a review at some point about hockey apparel. I know that my friends that are Sharks fans hate the LA kings.

  8. Growing up as a Vikings fan I can definitely affirm that our biggest rivals have been and always will be the Green Bay Packers! In fact, around here (South Dakota), anyone who is a Green Bay fan is shunned when it comes to discussions about pro football. It’s a super great feeling when we beat the Packers but it also is terrible when we lose to them. 

    1. Thanks for visiting the site!  I hear that the packers/Vikings rivalry is very intense. Would you say that Packers fans hate the Vikings as much as well?

  9. Sport rivalries are present I think in every sport and every state, unfortunately! It seems that rivalries contrast with the word “sport” itself but it is not. I’m from Italy and there are strong rivalries here too, in soccer above all!

    But it’s not a “fatal destiny” to have it. If we see at rugby, rivals are not enemy. They have the Third time that is not a real time of playing but a time of friendship between the fan. A time when everybody go to a place close to the stadium and eat and drink altogether and the teams came and greet the fan. It’s a very good example of how the word “sport” can be realized for real!

    1. Thanks for visiting the site! And yes, I agree that sports should bring people together. It should all be for fun and nobody should get hurt!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *