It is not unusual to find rivals in sports. Most of the time it is between teams, such as the long-standing rivalry between the NFL’s Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys, the MLB’s New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, or the NHL’s Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens.
But rivalries are not limited to professional leagues. One famous college rivalry, “The Iron Bowl”, takes place any time the University of Alabama Crimson Tide and the Auburn University Tigers go head to head. When it comes to World Cup soccer, the USA and Ghana are long-time rivals.
Sports Rivalries Exist on All Levels
From little league to college teams to professional leagues to the Olympic Games, any time there are two sides competing there is a chance of a rivalry. Generally this takes place when competitions or games are widely broadcast between two teams that meet on a regular basis.
However sometimes sports rivalries are less generalized, and take place between to specific players. Individual rivalries have existed for as long as people have been playing sports. With so many rivalries associated with athletics, of course fans find some more appealing than others.
The Most Notable Rivals in Sports
Sports rivalries can turn otherwise mature adults into something similar to children on a playground. Here are seven of the most notable rivalries in sports history across a wide range of athletic events and competitions.
- Tom Brady and Peyton Manning – Fans will debate this rivalry until the quarterbacks are competing in wheelchair races in a retirement community. Similar in age and each one a true champion in his own right, this rivalry is mostly fan-based, as you would be hard pressed to find anything negative one quarterback has said against the other.
- Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders – These long-time rivals were teammates on the 49ers until Sanders was traded to the Cowboys. That’s when the feuding began. Most recently, the NFL used the rivalry between the two players to spark interest in the 44th Pro Bowl.
- Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte – This pair of Olympians were rivals right up until Phelps’ retirement after the 2012 Summer Games in London, England. Despite their many differences out of the water, their similar swimming abilities made them competitors as well as teammates.
- Larry Bird and Magic Johnson – During the 1980s the Celtics and Lakers dominated over other NBA teams, and the love-hate relationship between these Hall of Famers helped elevate interest in the entire sport. The two ended up bonding while filming a Converse commercial together and have been fast friends since.
- Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sergio Oliva – Who can forget this famous bodybuilding rivalry? After posing at Mr. Western America, Schwarzenegger actually called out, “I am ready for Sergio!” When the judges called the two back to pose again though, the former California Governor argued they pose side-by-side to encourage fairness.
- Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson – These two Sprint Cup Series drivers started out with Johnson looking to Gordon as a mentor to whom he could go for advice and assistance. Since 2006 though, Johnson has 41 championship wins opposed to the 13 achieved by Gordon.
- Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods – Both of these champion golfers have a long history of chalking up one victory after another at competitions like the PGA Tour and the British Open. Early in 2014, both were considered top contenders for upcoming events ensuring that their rivalry would continue.
Not All Rivalries Are Between Multiple Humans
But when it comes to true rivals in sports, even animals are not immune to feuding. Take for instance in 1938 when the nobody thoroughbred Seabiscuit came out of nowhere to take the title from the then current Horse of the Year and Triple Crown winner War Admiral.
American professional golfer Jack Nicklaus once confided, “Well, the biggest rival I had in my career was me.” Whatever he is doing to best his rival is working, as he took the Majors eighteen times and today at age 73 he is still very involved in promoting golf through investing in courses and golf products and accessories.
Believe it or not, there are benefits to having friendly rivalries. Athletic rivalries not only boost the popularity of a particular player, team franchise, or sport in general, but the ego boost from their fandom could also help spur a player or team on to victory.
Freelance writer Becky Muth watches a wide range of sports with her family, which includes her husband and their teenage sons. They frequently visit sites like www.itisallaboutsports.com to keep up with the latest about their favorite teams. In her spare time Becky enjoys knitting, reading bestselling novels, and playing fetch with Gracie, a puppy she rescued in the summer of 2013.
Photo Credits: Wikipedia Commons