Random Thoughts

The Ten Best Rivalries in Sports

by Trevor Freeman

Inspired by seven beers and a raucous Dallas Cowboys-Washington Redskins tilt on Monday night, I decided to have some fun and list the ten best rivalries in sports.  After crunching the keyboard and getting some sage advice from fellow sports fans, I arrived at this list.  Enjoy………  
10. New York Rangers vs. New York Islanders

This is one that I didn’t find about until I moved to New York. I like the spirit and intensity of this rivalry. Islander fans were known for their “1940” chants for years until the Rangers finally won the Stanley Cup in 1994. Ranger fans gleefully like to point out that the only time the Nassau Coliseum is sold out is when they come to town.

9. Oklahoma vs. Texas

The Red River Shootout has to get mentioned, as it is one of the best rivalries in college football. What I love about this game is how it is always played on a neutral field. Mack Brown has been able to win all the other games, but his failure to win this one has always kept him on the hot seat.  This year might prove to be Mack Brown’s golden opportunity as Oklahoma is down.  

8. San Francisco Giants vs. Los Angeles Dodgers

This is a rivalry that takes its seeds from when both teams were in New York. You may have heard the call, “The Giants win the Pennant, the Giants win the Pennant”. This rivalry is still fierce even though both teams now reside in California.

7. Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier

It doesn’t matter that these two guys haven’t fought in 30 years. Their animosity for each other is still talked about to this day. They did not fight for the heavyweight title as much as they fought for the championship of each other. The two of them still have an intense disdain for each other as Frazier made a cold remark when Ali lit the Olympic torch in 1996, alluding to him being the guy that made Ali the way he was.

6. Washington Redskins vs. Dallas Cowboys

While there has not been a game between these two that has meant much in a long time. The Skins and the Cowboys represent the rivalry with the best historic roots in the NFL.  

5. Army vs. Navy

While the game does not have as much meaning in the polls as it used to, it has so much meaning in other ways. As Americans, this is the sporting event we should always try to tune into. Prior to kickoff, the Army Corps of Cadets and Navy Brigade of Midshipmen walk onto the field carrying their respective battle flags. On these flags are combat ribbons representing every battle the U.S. military has fought. After the final whistle, both squads along with their student bodies stand at attention while each school’s alma mater is played by their respective bands.  It is just a beautiful sight.

4. Auburn vs. Alabama

The Iron Bowl. There is not a nastier rivalry in college football. These two schools routinely try and turn each other into the NCAA. This game is talked about in the state of Alabama 365 days a year. In terms of outright hatred for each other, nothing beats this SEC battle.

3. Boston Red Sox vs. New York Yankees

For years I argued that this was a feud and not a rivalry. The definition of the word “rivalry” is a competition between equals. You could call it a “blood feud”, but I argued it could not be called a rivalry because it was more like an 87 year a$$ kicking. Then it happened. The Red Sox won.  And not only did the Red Sox win, but they made the biggest comeback in professional sports history by rallying to beat the Yankees 4-3 last season. I still consider it more a historical feud than rivalry, but the recent Red Sox victory has at least tilted the scales on this historical massacre. Therefore it moves into the rivalry countdown.

(And it very well might add another chapter, as the Red Sox lead over the Yankees this morning is now a half game.)

2. Michigan vs. The Ohio State University

As Cris Carter once put it, “The only game that matters.” There is no better rivalry in college football than this one. Between these two schools they have dominated the Big 10 title race since its inception. My favorite story about this rivalry was the one that involved Woody Hayes. Apparently Woody was meeting a recruit in Michigan and needed to fill up his tank with gas on the way home. Instead of filling it up in Michigan he pushed his car back over the state border as he refused to spend any money in the state.

1. Duke vs. North Carolina

“Separated by eight miles of Pine Trees and a couple of shades of blue.”

This contest wins out in my mind because of the proximity of the two schools (eight miles…….only EIGHT FREAKIN’ MILES) and the long history they have of dominating college basketball. From Michael Jordan to Grant Hill to Dean Smith to Coach K both sides are filled with legends.  Even when one of the teams is having an off year, they always seem to pull it together for this contest and that is why this rivalry is magical.

If you have any questions or comments feel free to e-mail me at [email protected].  

11 replies on “The Ten Best Rivalries in Sports”

Harvard vs. Yale I strongly considered that one as well as Lehigh vs. Lafayette.  However, I just couldn’t pull the trigger on putting it into the top ten.


Both good rivalries Steelers-Browns along with Bears-Packers were the two NFL rivalries that I strongly considered adding.  If I had ranked twenty, those two definitely qualify.

Florida-Florida State lost points in my eyes because I considered Miami-Florida State to be a bigger rivalry.  Florida-Georgia is also big because it is the “World’s Largest Cocktail Party”.  

NYR/NYI Living in NY, I feel that I can say that this is not a top 10 rivalry.

It is big, but there really are so many bigger.

I’ll write my top 10 (college only) later.

A College Only One Would be Very Good The reason is that there was easily four collegiate rivalries I excluded because I thought I needed to fit some more pro ones onto the list.

One that I really wanted to add but I thought would get laughed at is Cincinnati-Xavier in hoops.  The “Crosstown Shootout” is a very underrated rivalry.  Every time those two teams get together it is a street fight.  Xavier has knocked Cincinnati out of the top spot in the rankings at least twice in the last six years.  

UT-UF Not yet played enough to be eligible for one of the best.

These teams played periodically from 1933-1970s. It really did not become a rivalry until Spurrier came to Florida and the SEC split into 2 divisions and they played every year.

Auburn-Georgia is MUUUUUCH bigger.

Hell, Georgia-Clemson is bigger.

Auburn-Georgia While Auburn-Georgia is a very good rivalry if you watch a lot of college football.  When you think Auburn you immediately think Alabama.

If you were to ask me what is Georgia’s biggest rival I would say Georgia Tech.

Clemson-South Carolina is one from the South I really thought long and hard about as that is a great one.

Cardinals/Cubs That was definitely under consideration.  

What hurt it in my mind and this is no offense to Cubs fans.  However, Cubs fans don’t seem to have the overwhelming passion to win like other teams/schools fans.  They more or less go to Wrigley Field so they can engage in a 35,000 person kegger.  Nothing wrong with that.  I enjoy a good party as much as the next guy.  However that hurts this rivalry when you weigh it against each other.  Every single time Michigan loses to Ohio State or Texas loses to Oklahoma you can see their fans all take it very badly.  I think Cubs fans don’t have that same anger about losing.

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