The only thing more widely celebrated in sports than player arrests and adultery is a well cultivated hatred of an opposing team. Any good parent will tell you that even though raising your child to despise somebody based on race or cult affiliation may be wrong, discriminating against people because they cheer for the wrong team is completely acceptable. Sometimes however, this hatred takes a wrong turn (usually somewhere in the New York area) and perfectly good disgust turns out to be a little lame. Here's 10 instances where that happened.
Source: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images
10. USC vs. Notre Dame
Source: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images
Individually, these schools are college football’s answer to Jon Gosselin and Al Qaeda in the popularity polls. Together, they form a perfect storm of obnoxious hubris when they meet every November in a game that not even the fame-seeking herpes enthusiasts on season 26 of The Bachelor could sit through for a chance to be on television. It’s the only game of the year in NCAA sports that replaces wheelchair parking with specialized bandwagon spaces outside of the stadium and the only time two teams feature a parade of delusion in lieu of a standard marching band at half time.
The fact that Notre Dame hasn’t won a national title in 20 years and is still shocked that top coaching prospects would rather stay in Idaho or Oregon than take over a six-win program is kind of like Scott Bakula continuously expressing outrage about his Joe DiMaggio-esque streak of Oscar snubs. (I’m also working on a theory about how the recent L.A. rainstorm is God’s way of punishing USC for the Lane Kiffin hiring – so expect to see some locusts roaming around Sunset Blvd. next week. Luckily, I’ve already got my lamb’s blood ready to smear on the door to let the Pac 10 Angel of Darkness know that I attended college in Arizona.)
In terms of the rivalry itself, let’s look at the facts:
Notre Dame has not defeated USC in their annual game since 2001, and has lost by an average of 24 points over that span.
The most memorable moment of their recent battles came when the Heisman trophy winner the team was illegally paying, illegally pushed his quarterback into the end zone for a touchdown that let his team lose to Texas several weeks later.
With the exception of people who love watching future draft busts before they destroy their franchises (looking at you yet again, Leinart), there’s far less interest in the result than both schools seem to fool themselves into thinking. Stop calling it one of the most anticipated games of the year!
9. Isiah Thomas vs. Anything He’s Touched Since Retiring
Source: Jonathan King/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images
An NBA legend known for his tenacious defense and his key role in the NBA’s “sexual harassment in the workplace” instructional video, Isiah Thomas enjoyed a successful basketball career filled with championship runs, all-star appearances, and an invite that got lost in the mail for the 1992 Dream Team. His retirement, however, has been a train wreck that Lindsay Lohan would call embarrassing if she wasn’t too busy launching her “Remember how I used to be an actress?” public relations campaign.
In his first job after hanging up his sneakers, Thomas became the Executive Vice President of the Toronto Raptors – where he decided to pass on selecting Ray Allen, Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, and Estonia’s all time leading scorer Martin Muursepp (yes, the Martin Muursepp) in order to take Marcus Camby and his broken down body with the second overall pick (you’re welcome, Los Angeles). After leaving the Raptors four years after pledging to build them into a playoff caliber team (which they were the season he left), Thomas joined the NBC broadcasting team from 1998 to slightly later in 1998. Unfazed by a Jay Leno-level of failure, Thomas took $10 million of his own money to buy the Continental Basketball Association… which folded two years after he bought it.
Following a three-year stint guiding the Indiana Pacers to zero postseason wins, the New York Knicks looked at his résumé and said, “You know what, this guy has nowhere to go but up! Let’s give him a chance to ruin run our organization.” Fast-forward to 2010, and the Kicks are in complete shambles with the highest payroll in the league, one of the lowest win totals, a collection of players that have auditions scheduled for the Washington Generals, and an eight-figure payout to one of the women that Thomas sexually harassed/assaulted/tried to sign to a five-year contract to play power forward.
Currently, Thomas is coaching at the possibly fictional Florida International University where he currently boasts yet another losing record. So far, Isiah Thomas vs. Complete Failure is one-sided rivalry, but he’s bound to get a victory in here somewhere.
8. New York Yankees vs. Boston Red Sox
Source: Chris McGrath/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images
Contrary to what ESPN and every Yankee fan that pleasures himself to topless photos of Jorge Posada thinks, the world doesn’t revolve around the Boston-New York rivalry (only free agency does). Whenever these two teams play, their fans expect the world to completely shut down and take notice every time Alex Rodriguez stops to explain why his steroid use isn’t technically cheating. (Apparently if you close your eyes while someone sticks a needle in your ass it doesn’t count.)
The Yankees-Red Sox rivalry is a lot like watching two rich kids playing polo during recess in elementary school. It’s shocking how utterly ridiculous they look riding around on their high horse, but no matter how much everybody else hates them, none of the regular students can do anything because they can’t afford to play in the same league.
7. Brett Favre vs. Green Bay Packers
Source: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images
Speaking of rivalries that ESPN is essentially responsible for creating (though I really did enjoy the way they interrupted the WNBA slam dunk contest in order to provide live coverage of the Favre family landing at the Minneapolis airport just in time for a bellboy who looked a lot like Brad Childress to pick up his luggage), the Brett Favre-Green Bay Packers feud has literally become the single least interesting news story on the planet (with all due respect to Kate Gosselin’s new hair cut).
The Packers decided to let their 38-year-old quarterback go in order to make room for a first round draft pick who turned out to be one of the best young players in the NFL. Favre, who elected to retire and unretire a few times, didn’t want to ride off into the sunset, so consequently came back to play for a different team. This literally happens all the time in sports. Let’s call it the “Joe Montana-Steve Young” paradigm.
Had both parties elected to handle this with the absolute minimum level of class (let’s call that one the “Rasheed Wallace Bar”) that would've been the end of the story. As everyone with cable television and a subscription to Spoiled Athletes Illustrated will tell you, though – that’s not how it played out. So, in turn we are now we’re forced to endure the lamest “he said, she said” bitch fights since the Mike Piazza/Olsen twins fallout.
6. Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady
Source: Jamie Squire/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images
There’s nothing more rewarding for a defensive player on a Super Bowl winning team than answering questions about how great his quarterback is. “Dwight Freeney, you just had three sacks in the team’s second Super Bowl win this decade as your front seven completely shut down Adrian Peterson. I think all the folks at home want to know, is how do you think your performance will affect Peyton Manning’s legacy or his chances for more endorsement deals?”
In a sport built on teamwork and excessive violence, it’s remarkable how much attention is paid to the two quarterbacks every time the Colts and Patriots play. Not only do they have zero direct effect on each other’s performance ever since Manning stopped subbing in at strong safety, but the 104 other players around them kind of factor into the winning equation too. Sure, Manning and Brady are two of the greatest athletes south of Randy Ferbey, but to constantly reference a quarterback rivalry amongst two talented teams is sort of like talking about how great Inglorious Bastards was because of Brad Pitt. Even though he may have been the biggest name involved in the project, there were more than a few other people who made it special.
5. Manny Pacquiao vs. Floyd Mayweather
Source: Eric Hatton/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images
At this point it’s unclear if these two are ever going to step inside a ring, or simply trade verbal jabs over blood tests and training regimens for the next six years. Neither boxer appears to want to actually fight the other, but for some unexplained reason nobody can stop talking about a rivalry between two guys that have no video evidence to prove that they’ve ever been in the same part of the country at the same time. Until either one of them signs on the dotted line and schedules a fight that involves Las Vegas, excessive gambling opportunities, and a chance for Don King to rob them blind afterwards, maybe it’s time to move on and somehow get excited to watch Pacquiao beat the everliving crap out of a guy who should suffer an entertaining amount of brain damage.
4. The San Antonio Spurs vs. Fun
Source: Tom Hauck/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images
For people who enjoy watching paint dry or Jennifer Aniston romantic comedies, there may be nothing more exciting than the San Antonio Spurs’ decade long “war on excitement.” Whether it’s Tim Duncan’s commitment to boredom, Tony Parker’s refusal to get arrested for any weapons/midget-assaulting related crimes, or Manu Ginobili hitting the floor like he was just shot by one Gilbert Arenas’ 300 unregistered weapons every time he bumps into a defender, there’s no denying that the Spurs have become the single worst thing to happen to basketball since the Detlef Schrempf halftime comedy hour.
At this point in the rivalry, the score isn’t even close. The Spurs are currently on a 1,121 game winning streak in their battle against fun, and with their “most boring player available” NBA draft strategy, it doesn’t appear as if this one is going to get any closer.
3. Calgary Flames vs. Edmonton Oilers
Source: Jimmy Jeong/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images
Growing up in Calgary, my parents instilled a level of religious hatred in me usually reserved for Finland-based terrorist organizations and disgruntled carnival workers. With the exception of showing your children that eating yellow snow (no matter how delicious it may smell) is a bad idea, no greater lesson was passed down from father to son than the unabiding hatred of everything associated with the Edmonton Oilers (a lecture also offered by Edmontonian parents to their possibly inbred children - old habits die hard.)
“Son, do you know why Grandma died?” my father asked me during my fourth birthday party right before he told me that Santa Claus didn’t exist. “That happened because the Oilers won the Stanley Cup. If you want your Aunt Linda to live, you better hope Gretzky doesn’t win it again in ’89.”
God bless his hateful little heart.
For nearly 20 years the Flames and Oilers fans were entrenched in a vicious battle that not even the mighty Canadian military (which now features its very own helicopter) could've stopped.
These days, however, it’s a completely different story. During the Flames 2004 Stanley Cup run, I actually received congratulatory phone calls from Oilers fans who were “just happy to see another Canadian team” in the finals - something many Flames fans reciprocated during the Oilers 2006 Western Conference championship. There were literally thousands of stories about Edmonton-Calgary support during their respective playoff runs that chipped away at the rivalry. What was once a beautiful and slightly dangerous hatred has suddenly turned into a disgusting display of mutual respect – and in turn, moved into a rivalry suitable for the folks in Toronto who still struggle to grasp basic fan concepts like "supporting the team."
2. BCS vs. A College Football Playoff
Source: Eric Hatton/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images
When are people going to finally understand that giving every team a shot to win the national title is just plain ridiculous? Take that “everybody is equal” crap back to Russia, comrade! Nobody wants to see the eight best teams in America square off in a three-week tournament to decide a champion. Just look at other failed systems like the NCAA basketball tournament or the College World series. The way they give underdogs a shot to succeed, create weeks of excitement, and leave no room for controversy is downright un-American.
College basketball needs to eliminate March Madness and simply have a few sportswriters pick the two best teams at the end of the regular season to square off for the national title. Then everyone else can play in bowl games (with no championship implications) in order to raise money for women’s softball, conference lawn bowling, and other Title IX related sports that frat boys make pledges to attend as a form of hazing.
“Congratulations Duke! You’re the third ranked team in the entire country and now get to play UCLA in the Monistat 7 Bowl two days before Kansas and Kentucky square off for the national title.”
Quite frankly, it baffles me how no other sport has adopted the BCS system.
1. Kobe Bryant vs. LeBron James
Source: Noah Graham/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images
Let’s forget that the borderline incoherent ad campaign featuring two semi-racist puppets is almost unwatchable. And let’s pretend for the sake of argument that Kobe Bryant isn’t a cyborg designed by Nike that accidentally forgot to put the “sense of humor” or “basic likeability” programs into his genetically engineered personality. The fact that there’s a “rivalry” between a guy who nearly has entire hand covered in Championship rings and someone who got a four-game cup of coffee in the NBA Finals two years ago is insane.
How are these two players in the same category, let alone the same commercial? Don’t get me wrong – I hate Kobe Bryant as much as the next anti-rape advocate, but it’s tough to deny just how much he’s accomplished in his very short NBA career. This is like Major League Baseball creating a Joe Mauer-Derek Jeter rivalry. LeBron James (who may one day be the best ever, but probably not) is nowhere near the level Kobe Bryant and his massive ego currently are.