Does acculturation lead to contempt? It seems to be when competitors face off. When enemies have a history, the stakes are higher and the emotions are stronger. The urge to defeat an old rival has frequently resulted in amazing achievements (Thomas Edison versus Nikola Tesla), dramatic moments (David Letterman versus Jay Leno), commercial success (Coke versus Pepsi), and even life-or-death situations (Hatfields versus McCoys). At the very least figuratively, all of these consequences also apply to sporting rivalries. Whether or not a championship is on the line, it’s always a big game when rival sports teams play each other again. If it is, all the better. However, a person’s reputation is everything. Sports rivalries are influenced by factors such as a sense of place and identity as well as psychology, sociology, and politics, going well beyond the activity that takes place between the lines.
The top Eight rivalries in sports history are listed below (in no particular order).
8. Chicago Bears vs. Green Bay Packers
About 200 games between the Chicago Bears and the Green Bay Packers have taken place since the National Football League’s founding in 1921. The Packers and the Bears are the only NFL teams to have garnered more titles (13 for the Packers and 9 for the Monsters of the Midway) and to have inducted more players into the Hall of Fame than any other team, not to mention the prestige of their coaches who have been inducted—from founding Packer Curly Lambeau and Vince Lombardi to Mike Ditka.
7. Muhammad Ali versus Joe Frazier
Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier, boxing’s greatest rivalry, was also heavily influenced by race despite the fact that both fighters were African Americans. Before their first fight in 1971, they were secretly close friends, but that changed after Ali, an outspoken supporter of black power and a master of psychological manipulation, went to great lengths to paint Frazier, who had been largely silent on the subject of civil rights, as a pawn of the ruling class. In that first match, Ali, who had gone undefeated before losing the heavyweight title in 1967 for refusing to enlist in the army during the Vietnam War, was defeated by Frazier via the decision to retain the title. Ali was making his second appearance in the ring at the time.
Ali defeated Frazier by unanimous decision in their 1973 rematch after Frazier had previously lost the belt to George Foreman. The final Ali-Frazier match, fought in the Philippines in 1975, is regarded by many as the best match of all time. Ali won the championship back from Foreman in that match. Ali, a graceful and lightning-fast boxer, and Frazier, a relentless bobbing-and-weaving brawler, battled it out for 14 rounds, beating each other mercilessly. They ended up winning the “Thrilla in Manila” by a technical knockout because he simply held his own better than Frazier.
6. The New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox
You could be excused for assuming that baseball was never played west of the Pocono Mountains if you didn’t pay close attention while watching Ken Burns’s documentary Baseball. (C’mon Ken, where were the Indians in 1948? In Cleveland, there are people in their eighties who can still recall that lineup.) The New York Yankees-Boston Red Sox rivalry, which, Hall of Famers aside, boils down to a curse and redemption, is the best in Major League Baseball, though.
Babe Ruth, who was then best known as a dominant pitcher, was traded by the Red Sox to the Yankees in 1920. Ruth later developed into the Bambino (hitting a bazillion bandy-legged home runs and building Yankee Stadium).
5. North Carolina vs. Duke
Because both teams are consistently so unbelievably good, this neighborhood tug-of-war became a national fascination. Since 2004, Duke or UNC has been either the top seed or second seed in every NCAA tournament, with the exception of one. From 1988 through 2001, every Final Four included either Duke or UNC. If you’re not a fan of Duke or UNC, this is obscene. Natural order, if you will. And it must be acknowledged that basketball is a passion for supporters of these two teams and the Atlantic Coast Conference
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4. Martina Navratilova versus Chris Evert.
There are six entries, but no women. Shameful. The greatest tennis rivalry and my pitiful attempt to atone is shown here, with no guys in sight. Just Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova facing off against each other repeatedly over nets at Wimbledon, Paris, and Forest Hills; no Borg-McEnroe or Federer-Nadal. They faced off against one another 80 times between 1973 and 1988 (Navratilova won 43–37), as they skillfully carried the women’s game to prominence. Evert initially had Navratilova’s number, but with time the tide turned.
At the conclusion, they had competed in 14 Grand Slam finals, with Navratilova taking home 10 victories. Navratilova was volatile. Evert, often known as “the Ice Princess,” was unmovable.
3. Boston Celtics vs. Los Angeles Lakers
The rivalry is also very complicated, and race plays a role in the plot. During Johnson and Bird’s rivalry in the 1980s, the Celtics fielded a disproportionately white lineup at a time when the game had become dominated by African American players. Fans, both black and white, took notice, but not as part of a meaningful national conversation. Yet, two decades ago, the Celtics had a starting lineup that included at least four black players, which was unusual at the time. But Boston, a hotbed of abolitionism in the nineteenth century, was also the site of heinous anti-busing protests in the twentieth. Complex, as I previously stated.
2. Australia vs. England’
It is the oldest rivalry in cricket. Australia and England began playing Tests against each other in the late nineteenth century, and they have had some thrilling encounters over the years. The Test series between the two countries is known as the Ashes, and the battle for the small urn continues to captivate many cricket fans around the world.
England plays the game with a rather conservative mindset. Australia, on the other hand, has consistently introduced cutting-edge technology and advancements to the game through ground-breaking developments including colorful gear, white balls, and day-and-night cricket. But memorable Test matches like those in 1981 and 2005 have been immortalized and will live on in cricket fans’ memory forever. England managed to win a few series after Australia had dominated the rivalry in the 1990s and the early 2000s.
1. India vs. Pakistan.
Beyond sports, there are socio-political divides in the hostility between India and Pakistan. Due to the poor relations between the two countries, any sporting event involving them is hotly contested, and both sets of supporters typically attempt to win the game at all costs.
The largest white-ball cricket competitions are where India and Pakistan now compete rather than in bilateral series. They haven’t played a test series in the last 15 years, despite outstanding performances in World Cups and other events. However, they participated in a number of noteworthy Test series, like those from 1983 and 1999.