If there is one thing that adds a bit of spice to a sporting contest, it’s a good rivalry. There is extra tension and getting a result means more to both sides, but in recent years there seems to be more comradery than rivalry. Are we losing the great sporting rivalries we once knew and loved?
Sporting rivalries were all about the tribalism from both sets of fans. Years ago sports were not broadcast to the entire world, so the only people watching the games were the ones with tickets. Now, most major sports are global affairs, and those attending the games are not always from the city their team plays in.
The global appeal of these competitions has led to an increase in ‘sports tourism.’. Fans coming from afar are passionate and loyal but don’t necessarily have the deep-rooted connection to the city. Locals know all about the rivalry, but fewer locals are getting games to big events in favor of overseas tickets, or worse, corporate seats.
Some teams in sports just keep winning and are always in the championship picture come the end of the season. Teams like the Lakers and the Celtics were forced to come together in big games, and so a rivalry was born. Winning records mean everything in the high-stakes games to the players but the fans need the bragging rights.
As sport has become more competitive across the board, thanks to better investment, the playing field has been evened. This means we are often seeing different teams making it to the big games and that has meant the old rivalries of the past are being forgotten about.
Imagine investing all your time and efforts in supporting a franchise, only for them to up sticks and move across the country. It has happened to several teams over the past 100 years, and it really doesn’t help to keep rivalries alive. They basically become a new team with a new set of fans.
One vs. one
Team sports are all about players coming together to beat their opponents. On any given team there is often one player who stands out, think Michael Jordan, Tom Brady, or Wayne Gretzky. These players had their battles with select opponents who were thought to be on the same level.
It would often result in point scoring against each other as each tried to one-up their rival. These rivalries seem to have been forgotten as players look to appreciate their rivals’ games rather than trying to have the edge over them. Now when big players face off against each other, it feels more like a big love in, rather than an all-out slugfest.
There will always be room in sports for big rivalries, and it’s part of what makes the action so dramatic. The tribalism first brought into team sports is being watered down thanks to outside fans, but that doesn’t mean the action isn’t as good. Professional athletes thrive on competition, and as long as there’s someone to play against, there will always be rivalries.