During this unusual time of no sports, what does a “sports guy” do? Probably think about
sports. I am no exception. I have been pondering match ups like, how would the Montana, Rice, Lott lead 49ers look against the Garopolo, Kittle, Bosa version of San Francisco? Could Aaron Rodgers lead the current Packers to victory over the “frozen tundra” lead Bart Starr Green Bay Packers? Another match up all sports fan has thought about at one time or another, who do you take in a match up if both are in their absolute prime, MJ or Larry? (I have bird but that is a whole different piece)
I then shifted to rivalries, the classic ones with some good honest hate. Back in the day, it didn’t get much better than Bears vs Packers. They have knocked heads over 200 times. Even more than longevity and legends, this is a rivalry about geography. In the NBA when you think of rivalries, Celtics-Lakers has to be number one on the list. Bird vs Magic says it all. Remember Ali-Frazier. The “Thrilla in Manilla” may have been the best boxing match of all time. For 14 rounds, Ali, the lightning-quick boxer, and Frazier, the relentless brawler, put on a match for the ages. A list of classic rivalries would not be complete without Yankees-Red Sox. In 1920 Boston sold Babe Ruth, then known as an outstanding pitcher to the Yankees. Ruth won 94 games as a pitcher but went on to become the Great Bambino hitting 714 home runs and building Yankee Stadium. Meanwhile, the Red Sox acquired the “Curse of the Bambino” and didn’t win a World Series until 2004. The ALCS in 2004 will go down in history as the greatest comeback of all time. Boston was down 3 games to 0 to NY, beat Mariano Rivera in Game 4 and the rest is history. Boston has gone on to win the Fall Classic in 2007, 2013 and 2018. The Yankees last hoisted the trophy in 2009.
Sports will begin again but will we have any more great rivalries? What rivalry does the NBA offer right now? The Raptors won the last NBA title but I would argue have no antagonist. The NFL? Kansas City, San Francisco, Green Bay, New England are all outstanding organizations but are without rivals. Just hating Tom Brady doesn’t make your team a rival. The heavyweight division in boxing had some of the greatest rivals and fights of all time but corrupt rankings and agents have made boxing a shadow of what it was. Sure, Boston and the Yankees still play each other but without much of the buzz. The “idiots” of 2004 are a distant memory. Who is “hatable” on the current Yankee roster? There is no Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter or Aaron “f’ing” Boone.
Are there any great pro sports rivalries anymore or has the money, players having the same agents and free agency took it all away? If you are looking for great rivalries I suggest giving high school and college athletics a closer look. UNC-North Carolina basketball…it’s on!! Ohio State vs Michigan football is an all-time classic grudge match. Odessa Permian vs the Odessa Bronchos or Midland Lee Rebels is as good as it gets at the high school level. Until sports revs up again I will be sitting on my couch pondering whether Larry could beat MJ one on one to 11 with winners outs.