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Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Football rivalries, is there such a thing?

This discussion was prompted by a question from a football-neophyte:

"Do all Pats fans hate the Steelers as much as you?”

So we asked, “We're inundated with the idea of a rivalry in baseball, why doesn't anyone ever talk about it in football?”

And away we go!

Beth: I think they talk about with the Pack and the Vikes. And, uh...hmm. Other than that, I'm not sure.

Personally, it's hard to pick whether I dislike the Colts or the Steelers more. I think I *fear* the Steelers more. I also have unpleasant encounters with Steelers fandom, but I haven't, to my knowledge, ever really interacted with a Colts fan.

Oh, wait. Last year on opening day, I did. But after a couple of volleys of trash-talk, he didn't say much.

So I'd have to say I dislike the Steelers more.

And I DO dislike them. Very, very much. But I don't HATE them the way I hate the Yankees. That's it's own special kind of hate.

As for why there are more baseball rivalries, there are more games. Each team has to play its division opponents 19 times in every regular season. The Patriots play each team in its division one time, and then as for the rest of the league, they rarely ever meet them in the regular season at all. The opponents change from year to year. There isn't a lot of time to get good and riled up together the way there is in baseball.

The other thing that creates a rivalry is for two places to have ire for one another before there's even a sport there. Like Boston and New York--we've had issues since the pilgrims.

Green Bay and Minnesota have that geographical thing going on--and Green Bay doesn't have a baseball team. These are also two highly cold-weather, hard-nosed, football-inclined states. They also regularly contend for the same division. One team has won several championships, while the other has made it to the mountaintop and failed. These may be general ingredients in any rivalry.

As for Boston or New York, football can't get a word in edgewise on baseball, just because baseball's been around longer, and we're two historically aware, intellectual cities.

On principle, I dislike the Jets, but in my personal recollection, what have they ever done to us?

I SHOULD dislike the NY football Giants because that's the football team most Yankees fans follow, but whatever. They're in the NFC.

Meredith: Speaking of rivalries, I think the reason rivalries never stay as strong in football are because teams don't stay good for long enough. For example, ask older Cowboys fans and they'll tell you that the Redskins are their biggest rival. However, both teams have been pretty bad for a while now, so the "rivalry" barely exists. Ask anyone in Philadelphia, and they'll tell you that "Dallas Sucks." Toddlers in Philly learn to say that immediately following "mommy" and "daddy." But Dallas has been a pretty terrible team for a while, so on their end, it isn't much of a rivalry anymore. When a team goes 5-11 for several years, rivalries die because...well...if you know you can't beat your rival, what is the point in having one?

Of course, the Eagles could go 0-16 for a decade and Philadelphians would still hate the Cowboys and their fans with a white hot hate. It goes back to the days of Tom Landry and the very cocky nickname, "America's Team." There was the player strike of 1987. Philly, a union city, had a bunch of replacement players when they played the Cowboys at the beginning of their season, and the Cowboys had Danny White, Tony Dorsett, Ed "Too Tall" Jones, Randy White (three of whom I've met for work related purposes, by the way, and fought through the bile that was forcing its way up my throat as I spoke to them), all of whom broke rank immediately after the strike began. So obviously the Cowboys would win. But Tom Landry had a healthy lead at the half and put all of his star players in the game to stop a late Eagles drive that wouldn't have mattered anyway. Buddy Ryan, the Eagles coach, was pissed off and vowed revenge. A couple weeks later, when all of the real players had returned, they met in Philly. The Birds had a 10 point lead in the final minute and the great Randall Cunningham took a knee twice before faking a knee and throwing a long pass that lead to a penalty and eventually, a TD. To Cowboys fans, it was the ultimate insult. To Eagles fans, it was Christmas. Finally, someone had told "America's Team" to shove it. Then, of course, there was the arrival of Jimmy Johnson in Dallas, the Bounty Game, the infamous snowball game, the Michael Irvin injury on the Vet's turf, etc.

When Buddy Ryan became coach of the Eagles, he said at his press conference that he'd been informed that the only important thing, as coach of the Eagles, was that his team beat the Cowboys. Things really haven't much changed since then in Philly.

Have I told ya'll about the time I led a sports bar in Philly in a "Dallas Sucks" chant live on television? Did I know you all then? Ahh, good times.

Beth: I think the Colts/Pats rivalry developed in a similar way, although not with as much personal enmity--kind of a happenstance thing, the teams thrown together, clash of cultures, etc.

Sam: Let's not forget the cocky Vanderjerk gestures, and the fact that most everyone in the universe just assumed Peyton Manning and his Mad Touchdown Skillz couldn't be matched by a QB as unflashy as Tom Brady.

Beth: In fairness, Vanderjerk cocky gestures, yes, but as we've seen, Rodney Harrison et al aren't exactly looked upon more favorably in the rest of the league.

Sam: Well, yeah, but Rodney doesn't 'disrespect' his opponents. He just whines to the point of absurdity about perceived slights. Bit of a difference, that.

Kristen: I think you have a point, Beth, with the need for a clash of cities/cultures/etc. for a real rivalry to take root. And I agree with you, Mer, that the reason football rivalries don’t seem to last is because the teams rarely stay good for a span of generations. So even if my father were to pass down a hatred of, let’s say, for arguments sake, the Bills, I’d look at the records in the past few years and kind of shrug and say, “I guess because they’re in our division, but…Bills?”

But if you asked me right now who the Pats’ rival is, I think I’d have to say Pittsburgh. The Colts are in contention, sure, but they’ve never beaten us when it mattered. Peyton Manning doesn’t scare me anymore. I suppose you could argue that the Steelers haven’t beaten us when it mattered either but they did end the Pats’ streak last year, somehow, we always end up playing on their turf and, like you, Beth, I have to deal with their fans on a regular basis. I’m not sure I’ve ever met a Colts fan.

However, possibly because I let things get to me way too much or I have been listening to far too much Rodney Harrison-type talk, I really, honestly, truly hate the Steelers. Nothing would make me happier for them to lose every remaining game on their schedule. They don’t have the arrogance and cockiness of Yankees fans, but there is something that just doesn’t sit right with me. Maybe it’s a perceived sense of entitlement or something. Like they deserve it because they work SO HARD and their city just loves their team SO MUCH and aren’t they TOUGH and GRRRRR, STEELERS! And yeah, okay, great. But seriously? Shut up. They are also the last people on the planet to admit that maybe, just maybe, the Pats might actually have a freakin’ dynasty. They just don’t want anyone else in their “club.” Obviously, I’m biased, but I really can’t stand them.

Plus, their field keeps breaking our best players.

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