When it comes to the world of sports, it doesn’t matter what kind of athletics are in question – true fans have the zeal of religious fanatics. Like church, fans gather regularly to watch their favorite team play either at the stadium or on the TV, from the comfort of their couch or their local bar. Along with the intense passions evoked by the sporting community can come some of the most heated rivalries in the world. Friendships and families have been broken over which team one cheers for, and people have been hospitalized and even died as a result of confrontations between fans of rival teams. But what exactly constitutes a rivalry?
The dictionary definition is “a competition with the same objective or goal in the same field or expertise”. When it comes to sports, all teams are competing for that number one spot, to be recognized as the best in their field – but teams often have one particular arch nemesis, with whom the players feel more competitive than with any other of their contemporaries. How do these rivalries start? Perhaps the teams are from the same area of the country, or they went head to head in several of the same championships. There are a multitude of reasons why a rivalry may start – often politically and culturally charged – but once it sets in, seldom does a rivalry ever fizzle out.
Here, we’ve compiled a rundown of the top ten most intense sports rivalries in the United States. They span a wide range of different sports and leagues. Some teams rivalries might be part of greater school rivalries while others involve league competitions. If you’re looking for a seat at one of these matches, and you don’t feel strongly about one or the other, it would certainly be wise to land a seat in the neutral zone – or avoid the game altogether, to avoid getting caught in the cross-fire.
The rivalry between the Army and Navy academy is a reflection of the real life rivalry between the military branches. The Navy Midshipmen and the Army Black Knights started playing each other in 1890 and then their games became official events in 1930, continuing ever since. Unlike some of the other rivalries on this list where the talent is nearly equal, the Navy has actually done markedly better and won more games than the United States Military Academy.
9. San Diego Chargers/Oakland Raiders
Whenever the Chargers and the Raiders play, there’s nearly a guarantee that some sort of fight will break out between fans. The rivalry between the teams seems rather minor compared to the fights, harassment, and injuries that have taken place among their loyal fans and followers. Even driving around with an Oakland Raiders sticker on your car may provoke fits of road rage from a Chargers fan.
8. University of Texas/University of Oklahoma
The rivalry between this school is so bad that whenever these two teams face off in football, they can’t even host the game on their own turf, but instead meet at a neutral ground to play. One wouldn’t dare to wear crimson and cream near UT nor would someone wear orange to the OU campus without being greeted with suspicion or even aggression. During football season, both teams are accomplished and typically win many games. This particular rivalry is very exclusive: You won’t find nearly as intense a rivalry when OU plays Baylor, another Texas school.
7. New York Rangers/New Jersey Devils
The rivalry between the New York Rangers and the New Jersey Devils may have spawned some of the stereotypes when it comes to the game of hockey: Not only are there fights happening in the spectator stands, but on the ice you may well see blood spilt as players go head to head, fist fighting and kicking each other with their blades. If anything, attending a Rangers vs. Devil’s game might be worth the price of the ticket just to witness the epic drama that unfolds.
6. Yankees/Red Sox
Legend has it that when Harry Frazee sold Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees in 1919, it started one of the most notorious rivalries in baseball. Why did Frazee make such a decision? To fund the Broadway musical “No, No, Nanette”. Ever since then, it was believed that the Boston Red Sox were cursed due to only winning 4 pennants between 1920 and 2003, while the Yankees have well over 25 World Series games and 39 pennants. This curse is also known as “Curse of the Bambino” in reference to Babe Ruth’s nickname.
This particular rivalry is one of the most intense in the world of basketball and the NBA. Both teams are talented in their own right with numerous championships under their belts. Even the teams’ biggest stars such as Larry Bird and Magic Johnson had their own player rivalry that added fuel to the fire. Lakers fans are known for their riots after the games, and the Celtics fans were more than willing to rise to the challenge of dealing with the basketball drama. The rivalry gained some heat in 2010 after a lull, so it’s guaranteed that a game between these two teams would be entertaining on and off the court.
The Chicago Cubs and the Chicago White Sox are certainly neighbors, but it doesn’t mean that they’re friendly with each other. In fact, they have some of the most intense rivalries in the baseball world, that has endured since 1906. If you ask Chicago residents which baseball team is the best, you’re going to get conflicting answers and maybe even a fistfight or two. As of right now, the White Sox have won more games than the Cubs, but that could change with any new season.
3. New York Jets/New England Patriots
The New York Jets and the New England Patriots have a rivalry that truly reflects the ongoing fighting between the cities of New York and Boston. Because the teams are evenly matched, their games are often nail biters, and have been since their first game against each other in 1960. Both teams are under tremendous pressure to represent their cities properly, and if the team does badly, they are held accountable by their hometown.
Ask a North Carolina native the difference between “Duke blue” and “Carolina blue” and they will be able to give you the entire rundown. Then that North Carolina person will probably ask you which school you root for. You will find that most people in the state cheer for one or the other with great intensity. And when basketball season is in play, you’ll find bars filled with both shades of blue and teasing each other as one team scores over the other.
1. Ohio State/Michigan
The rivalry between Michigan and Ohio State has been ongoing for over 150 years and might as well be an officially declared war. The rivalry with these schools is considered to be the greatest rivalry not only in the college area, but also in the world of American sports. No doubt a rivalry that has been spanning well over a century doesn’t have any hope of being resolved anytime soon: The animosity that stems between the two schools exists even without the extra stress of sports being thrown in.