411 Sports: Who Has The Best Argument: 04.05.04

Within the last couple of months, we here at 411mania were brainstorming ways to increase the amount of sports coverage devoted to the site, especially to 411BLACK since the idea of that site is to write about a variety of different topics not already included on the “main site.”

So, we came up with something based an idea famed New York City sports talk radio host for WFAN Chris “Mad Dog” Russo had. Last year, he turned his idea into a reality and released a book titled: The Mad Dog 100: The Greatest Sports Arguments of All Time. In the book, he posed 100 different sports arguments that big time fans might have with their friends while they are at a bar, at home watching a game, or maybe even in between innings at the company softball tournament. The questions range through most of the major sports including, baseball, basketball, football, hockey, tennis, boxing, golf, and even soccer.

Also, the “Mad Dog” takes a step back from the nitty-gritty sports arguments like the best players in certain sports and asks more general questions like “Which city is America’s best sports town?” and “Are you a fan of the player – or the uniform?” These are always fun questions that go beyond comparing certain players and/or teams.

For this debut edition, we decided to pay tribute to the “Mad Dog” and his book by posting one of his questions plus a bonus question to get to the heart of the issue as well. However, the beauty of a column and its’ potential collection of responses like this is that there is a significant amount of flexibility not only in terms of what kind of question is asked or argument is discussed but the respondents as well. If all goes well, these columns will be posted several times per month and offer many opinions in different areas (though not necessarily the ones posed in the “Mad Dog’s” book).

That leads us to the direction of this particular column. Several 411mania writers from different zones across the site have weighed in on their opinion to the following questions:

“What are the ingredients for a great sports rivalry?” (question #82 of the “Mad Dog 100”)

From there, once that question is answered, it would certainly be appropriate to weigh in on the second question:

“Which is the best sports rivalry (past and/or present depending on your view)?

The compilation of answers we put together for this column is both eclectic and thought provoking. Some rivalries are discussed that we may have not even thought of. Finally, the responses to the questions have not been reduced to one sport, but several are represented with pride. No matter how you examine it, we’ve given you something to think about. Who you agree with is up to you….

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Steve Coogan

411movies/411BLACK – weekend TV columnist
coachcoogan@hotmail.com

There is no doubt in my mind that the biggest ingredient to making a successful sports rivalry is the intensity of the fans involved. As far as I am concerned, a pie can’t be made without the shell and the crust and a rivalry can’t be born without the fans being really into it. You see it in Boston and New York when it comes to the Red Sox and Yankees and you see it in North Carolina when it comes to Duke and North Carolina in college basketball. That’s often the mistake the sports journalists in all the mediums and many PR/advertising people make. It is close to impossible to manufacture a rivalry without the fans of their respected teams to jump on the “hate the opponent” bandwagon. While the NBA and, to some degree, the sports media have been hyping the Yao Ming/Shaquille O’Neal – Houston Rockets/Los Angeles Lakers games, the bottom line is it doesn’t matter to most fans, especially since Houston hasn’t been in the playoffs in several years. There have been many occasions where athletes have said something stupid about an opponent and it becomes “bulletin board material” for that opposing team. However, once the game is over, the incident is usually forgotten. If it is a real rivalry, the fans (and to a lesser degree, the team players) don’t forget about the incident, they remember it for next time.

That leads to another valuable point that the “Mad Dog” addressed in his book. If a rivalry is going to develop, then the two teams need to be in constant contact with each other, meaning playing every single season, hopefully even several times in a season. This allows all the potential negativity that has been festering inside the soul of a fan to reemerge and play itself out on the field/court/rink and permits the fans in attendance to pledge the ultimate allegiance for their favorite team. Also, the same fans can express extreme hatred against the team that has/had a player that made a dumb comment or went after the wrong player in a previous game.

Also, while it isn’t required, it certainly helps that both teams in the rivalry are GOOD and consistently perform well in the standings in terms of wins and losses. The Boston Celtics/Los Angeles Lakers rivalry of the 1980s and the New York Knicks/Miami Heat rivalry of the 1990s of the NBA have lost a significant amount of luster over the years because all four teams have experienced significant time at the bottom of the standings instead of at the top. The Celtics/Lakers match-ups were nothing short of mesmerizing during the 1980s because both teams were always excellent and met to determine the world championship on three different occasions (and it would have been five if the Lakers were able to dispatch the Houston Rockets during the playoffs in 1981 and 1986). They were the two best teams in the league going for the ultimate prize with the Lakers coming out on top twice and the Celtics once. However, since then, while the Lakers have returned to championship form, the Celtics have endured several losing seasons, including six in a row where they didn’t make the playoffs at all, let alone to the Finals to face the Lakers.

In addition, while the Knicks/Heat playoff series had a different tone to them, they were also very intense in nature since the games were so physical and fights broke out multiple times between the players involved. However, both of these teams have fallen off significantly and, until this season, have not been in the playoffs to face each other to revisit this intense rivalry.

This also speaks to another issue the “Mad Dog” made in regards to a rivalry needing some sort of history to make it one of the best. Part of me agrees with that sentiment since the magnitude of a rivalry always develops and, for lack of a better term, remains healthy over time and constant contact with the teams. However, part of me doesn’t agree with that because the contention between the Knicks and Heat arose quickly and intensely with multiple series played in a few years. Then again, since the rivalry fizzled over the last several years, the “Mad Dog” has a point. Without a history and some consistent match-ups over the years, it’s hard to maintain a rivalry.

All of these points lead to what I believe is the greatest rivalry in sports today and in the history of modern sports: Major League Baseball’s Boston Red Sox vs. New York Yankees.

I point this rivalry out because according to all the points that the “Mad Dog” and I addressed, this one has them all. The Red Sox and Yankees play each other several times per year (now 19 times thanks to baseball’s unbalanced schedule), they are both consistently good in the standings (admittedly, not always though), and there is a defined history that goes along with these two teams that goes all the way back to 1919. It was then when Red Sox owner Harry Frazee sold superstar Babe Ruth to the Yankees to make a quick buck. Since then, the two teams have played hundreds of times and the names “Bucky Dent” and “Grady Little” still cause Red Sox fans to squirm.

While all this is true, what really makes this an outstanding rivalry is the fans, or the crust and the shell of the pie. I’ve lived in Massachusetts amid the Red Sox fans and I’ve lived in New York City amongst Yankee fans. While it’s different in that the Red Sox fans hate the Yankees because they win most of the time and their fans are arrogant and the Yankees fans hate the Red Sox because the team and their fans are like the pesky little brother that never gives up, the point is the passion is there on both sides. Red Sox fans don’t want to lose to the Yankees because it’s remarkably painful to lose again and Yankees fans don’t want to lose to the Red Sox because they don’t want to lose the superiority complex they’ve developed when it comes to their “little brother.” Either way, when fans go to Fenway Park in Boston or Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, whether it’s April, August, or the middle of October, it feels like a war. Fans from the opposing city show up in the other’s home ballpark wearing their colors and screaming for their team and cheer and taunt without mercy if their team is victorious that day. Beers are thrown, hats are stolen, people get yelled at and get in fights, and it’s all done to support their favorite team.

Also, if you think that aspect is “normal,” consider this: The New England Patriots won the NFL’s Super Bowl XXXVIII this past February to become the World Champion for the second time in three years. As part of that accomplishment, the team won 15 games in a row, the second longest such streak in one season in the rich history of the NFL. Despite that, around Christmas time when the Patriots were beating the tar out of everyone, the sports talk radio station show hosts (and callers), the newspapers, and all the fans in town talked about the Red Sox’ pursuit of star shortstop, Alex Rodriguez. The season ended two months before and the area had a championship football team. It didn’t matter though. The Red Sox were looking to acquire that one player to finally beat the Yankees for good….Who cares if Opening Day was 3 ½ months away? The Red Sox beating the Yankees is always the top story in Boston. Oh by the way, Rodriguez is wearing a Yankee uniform now. Just in case Red Sox fans needed another reason to hate the team from the Bronx…

To be perfectly frank, I’ve never seen anything like the intensity in any sport (though Duke/North Carolina in college basketball and Michigan/Ohio State in college football come fairly close) and probably never will. No other rivalry has the fan intensity, the history, and the constant good play. I’ll never stop believing that until the day I die.

Believe that.

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Stephen Randle

411Wrestling
dai_shar@yahoo.com

To me, the greatest sports rivalry I’ve ever seen is the one between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens. Yeah, yeah, big surprise, the Canadian chose hockey. But bear with me.

To be a great rivalry, you need to have certain things. To start, it has to have been going on for a long time. Laugh now, but I see sports analysts jumping all over themselves to create new rivalries these days, between teams that have played each other maybe twice. Toronto-Montreal has been going on as long as there has been an NHL, and it wouldn’t be hard to say it existed even before that. The teams have been around so long, they account for the top two spots on the list of number of Stanley Cups won. As part of this, I feel the main focus of a rivalry has to revolve around the game itself. Yankees-Red Sox play great games against each other, especially lately, but the entire thing seems to be fueled more by off the field politics than any events on the field. Sometimes the Yankees win, sometimes the Sox win, no one seems to gain an advantage that way. That gets into another issue I have, that of so many meaningless games in baseball, but that’s for another day. The point is, games between Toronto and Montreal always seem to mean something important, especially when they were in separate conferences and only met for the Cup, and to an entirely different extent as both now fight for the playoffs in the same division.

Another thing I like to focus on in this rivalry is the high level of respect. Some fans will say you need bad blood to start a real rivalry, but I don’t see the quality in that. Both Toronto and Montreal are teams that go out and play tough, exciting hockey. Games between them are full of great plays, great goaltending, and tight, fierce checking. Fierce, but not dirty. I can’t be sure, but I don’t recall Toronto-Montreal games degenerating into penalty-fests, full of cheap shot tactics. Something about the aura of the game always seems to ensure that you will see the best hockey from both teams, in terms of real skill.

Next, there are the fans of the teams. Believe me, if you like the Leafs, there is no way you can like the Canadiens, and vice versa. Even guys who used to play for your team become bitter enemies should they end up playing with the other side. Well, except Doug Gilmour, but he’s a special case. Fans take busses to the opposing team’s city, just so that they can rub it in the home team’s face should they lose. And we’re not talking a two hour bus ride down the coast, either. Last I recall, it’s something like a seven hour drive, non-stop. And speaking of fan dedication, both teams have had periods within the last twenty years where they played absolutely abysmal hockey for multiple seasons at a time. However, both teams still managed to sell out their arenas for every single home game. In advance. That’s what always bugged me about New York fans, if you mess up, just once, you’re dead. You’d better change your name and move to a foreign country without TV. Witness Aaron Boone, who saved the playoffs for them last year, then was rewarded by having them trade for A-Rod to replace him, and release him while he was injured.

A game between Toronto and Montreal is on the level of a national spectacle with Canadian hockey fans. CBC programs an entire day celebrating Canadian hockey centered around it every year. Hell, one of Canada’s most famous short stories, The Hockey Sweater by Roch Carrier, is a humorous and touching tale of a Montreal fan who receives a Leafs jersey instead of the famous #9 Maurice “Rocket” Richard jersey he and all his friends normally wear, and the troubles it brings. I guess what I’m trying to say for my final point is that this rivalry is one that isn’t just about a sport, it’s deeply part of Canadian culture. And how many rivalries can say they influence an entire country, anyway?

Plus, I know like ten other writers are going to take Yankees-Sox, so I figured I should stick with the one I know the most about.

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Evocator Manes

411music

As far as the questions of best sports rivalries and what makes such a one, the leading ingredient has got to be passion. If everyone acts like the Arizona Cardinal fans and could care less that they have a team, let alone who the team is playing, it will fizzle and die.

However, passion alone won’t do it. Loyalty, die-hard, true blue loyalty must be in there somewhere or you wind up having bizarre rivalries, such as the Philadelphia Eagles or New York football team fans battling versus their own teams or barring that, their own coaches.

There is another element, actually co-elements, interrelated, and these are probably the biggies; there must be a clear “good” guy vs. bad guy syndrome and the teams must be competitive, maybe not on equal footing, but somewhat level. Some of the greatest rivalries in sports are based solely on this: The New York Yankees vs. everyone other team in MLB, The Los Angeles Lakers vs. The Boston Celtics in the 80’s, Mike Tyson vs. every other boxer at the time, the Oakland Raiders vs. not only every team in the NFL, but also the entire organization down to the front office, all the officials, some of the fans, certain law enforcement officers, et. al. to the Boston Bruins, when they were simultaneously the most feared, hated and revered team in the NHL.

To my mind, the greatest sports rivalries have always told a story, from Sugar Ray Robinson and Thomas “Hitman” Hearns, both in an out of the ring, to Muhammad Ali and “Smokin'” Joe Frazier to the colorful characters dotting the various Raiders teams for most of the 70s and early 80s to the star power fireworks that Steinbrenner continually buys to the last few University Of Kentucky championships. These sports figures all had the “love/hate” quality wherein you had to do one or the other. You could not feel halfway about any of them, one way or the other.

Contrast this to Michael Jordan, who was so smooth and so wholesome that you couldn’t help but admire him as he systematically dismantled and leveled entire franchises single-handedly. Compare it to the Florida Marlins, who couldn’t even piss off the long-suffering Chicago Cubs fans on their way to winning a second World Series title. Great stories, sure, both of them are, same as Jimmy Valvano taking North Carolina State all the way, but any great rivalries in there? Is there the passion and the bloodlust when the Kansas Shitty Chiefs or the Denver Broncos face off against the Oakland Raiders? No f*cking way, Jack. Not even close. Is there the thrill, the electricity, the zing in the air as there was during those Celtic and Laker finals?

Quite frankly, though, except for a limited extent to MLB, I think rivalries in general are done. As very good as a ring technician as Lennox Lewis was, he never had that great rivalry to put him over into the “great” category. The only rivalry even close now, the only money feud, was Oscar De La Hoya and “Sugar” Shane Mosely, but De La Hoya is killing that one himself. Bernard Hopkins and Roy Jones Jr. may be on the horizon….just as it has been for the last 6 years.

As for the Celtics, maybe someday if they ever get competitive again, same with Tyson and sadly, the same with the Raiders. The Lakers are following the tradition of the Yankees, which was to buy a championship year after year, but their problem is that there is literally no one remotely near their quality, at least not enough for a rivalry, a problem which has plagued the NBA since those vaunted Celtic/Laker match-ups. Michael Jordan is partly to blame for this, but the real villain is free agency. Fans are not able to identify with the team, when it is constantly changing. There is no loyalty anymore, not from the front office or from the players, why would there be from the fans? Actually, I misspoke. There is loyalty, but it seems more and more to be strictly to a dollar sign and what fan can get behind that?

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John Collins

411music

Coming from a hockey background I agree with Mr. Randle up there. The teams need to extend their rivalry to the playing ground, and that’s it. Front office bullshit such as the arms race? Not a rivalry. Teams that have one or two chippy games against one another? Not a rivalry.

The Leafs and the Habs for ages were the two major teams who every season had a granted shot at winning the Cup, and more often than not, they’d meet each other for it. When was the last time you could say that about another major sport? Even with the Yankees/Sox, one of them doesn’t even win their DIVISION, and they have no hope of meeting for the World Series. The rivalry needs to extend to the playing field, and bad blood makes up HATRED, not RIVALRY, which are two terms that often become intermingled these days when discussing rivalries.

Avalanche/Red Wings? That only started because Claude Lemieux cheap-shotted Kris Draper, and all it has meant since then is the games between those two teams are continuously chippy. That’s a hatred that extends back to those 2000 playoffs, it’s not a rivalry steeped in geographic location or constant meeting for major championships. Same thing with the Avalanche/Canucks, or Red Wings/Stars, etc. It just isn’t the same. Keep in mind 8 years ago the Avalanche were the Nordiques. When was the last time you heard of the steeped, classic Nordique-Red Wing rivalry? That’s what I thought.

While these incidences of hatred MAY lead to a genuine rivalry, I don’t think the rivalry can ever exist until it becomes an issue of respect on a playing ground, not in an office, not in bloodshed, etc.

And to clarify Mr. Randle, Toronto to Montreal is no more than 5 hours. A quick driver could pull it in 4, non-stop, so it’s not TOO extreme in terms of traveling to see a game…still further than I would probably go.

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Ken Anderson

411BLACK

Last September, The Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees renewed their century old rivalry with one of the greatest playoff series in sports history. Batters were hit, punches were thrown, managers and field workers were assaulted, players were ejected, and heroic game winning home runs were hit over the course of a two week, seven game playoff war.

The bench clearing brawls and late inning heroics only added fuel to the fire of what has, since 1918, been the greatest rivalry in all of sports.

In order for any rivalry, including Boston/New York, to be memorable, long-lasting, and transcendent of its individual sport, several vital criteria need to be in place.

The most important criteria includes:

History and Lore:

In 1918, The Boston Red Sox were coming off of one of the greatest runs in professional sports history. Having won their fifth World Series title, a Major League Record at the time, Boston stood alone atop the baseball world. With the help of an explosive offense and a fiery young pitcher named George Herman Ruth, the Boston Red Sox looked as if they would continue to dominate baseball for years to come.

In 1920, all of that changed.

When Red Sox owner Harry Frazee’s girlfriend came begging for money to help finance her first theatrical production, Frazee complied. George “The Babe” Ruth was sold to the New York Yankees for an unheard of $125,000. Because more funding was still needed for the play, Frazee also accepted an unspecified loan from Yankee’s owner Jacob Ruppert. The collateral on the loan: Fenway Park.

This controversial transaction vastly altered the state of baseball, and in the process, forever reversed the role of baseball’s two most infamous teams.

After aquiring Babe Ruth, the New York Yankees went on to win the first World Series of the team’s 20-year history in 1923. The Yankees would go on to win 26 championships over the next 85 years, a total unmatched by any team in American professional sports history.

Meanwhile, The Boston Red Sox, after having won four World Series Championships in the last six years (1912, 1915, 1916, 1918) would never win another World Series again. In fact, in nearly a century after selling Babe Ruth, The Red Sox have only returned to the World Series four times.

The change of fortune for the Red Sox, coupled with the downright strange happenings which seem to plague the Boston franchise year after year (Bucky Dent, Bill Buckner), have led many to believe that a mythical curse, centered around Babe Ruth, haunts the team.

Since that day in 1918, thousands of fans have attempted to lift the legendary “Curse of the Bambino.” Paul Giorgio, a life long Red Sox fan, climbed Mt. Everest and placed a replica of Babe Ruth’s Boston Red Sox cap on the summit of the mountain in an effort to dispell the curse. A privately funded group has begun combing Sudbury, Massuchesettes’ Willis Pond, attempting to find a sunken piano said to be involved with “The Curse of the Bambino.” The group hopes to restore the piano and use the haunting sound to lift the curse once and for all. It’s not uncommon to see groups of women with scarves and long skirts burning incense before a painting of Babe Ruth at Boston’s Fenway Park.

The mythos behind the rivalry, the most significant player sale in sports history, and the fun yet nerve-wracking idea of a “curse” all help keep sports’ greatest rivarly heated year after year.

Legendary Players:

If a rivalry is to endure, both teams must remain stocked with recognizable, passionate players. These men must be willing to fight with everything they’ve got to win, and they must perform when the time comes to put it all on the line.

Because of the constant influx of incredible, fiercely loyal talent, the Yankees/Red Sox rivalry has managed to remain strong, while the rivalries many of my colleagues mention have faded out over the years.

Collectively, The Red Sox and Yankees have housed what is arguably the greatest collection of athletes in American sports history.

Names like Babe Ruth, Cy Young, Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski, Joe Dimaggio, Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Roger Clemens, Derek Jeter, Nomar Garciaparra, Pedro Martinez, Lou Gehrig, Whitey Ford, and Roger Maris have all transformed this rivalry from memorable to eternal.

These men hold some of the most prominent records in all of baseball, many of which will never be broken.

From Cy Young’s 511 wins, to Ted Williams’ .406 batting average (modern), many of these records will never again be touched.

Historic Ballparks:

Storied ballparks are essential in order to have a truly great rivalry. During the golden days of the classic Lakers/Celtics rivalry, The Boston Garden and LA Forum were just as big a part of the lore as were the players and the teams. From the cranked up heat in the visitors locker room in the Garden, the to cat-sized mice said to inhabit the changing room of the visitors in LA, these buildings set the scene for what would be some of the greatest games in sports history. Such is the case with our classic Yankees/Red Sox rivalry.

The hallowed halls of Fenway Park and Yankee Stadium define the rivalry even more strongly than the players on the field. Throughout all of the World Series games, all of the milestones, and all of the epic battles, only one thing has stood constant for nearly a hundred years: the ballparks.

Yankee Stadium was erected in 1923. Because it was Babe Ruth’s drawing power that made the new stadium possible, the park became affectionately know as “The House that Ruth Built.”

On April 18, 1923, over 70,000 fans packed Yankee Stadium for it’s inaugural game. Appropriately, Babe Ruth’s three-run home run buried The Boston Red Sox in the opening game, and the New York Yankees went on to win the World Series the very year that Yankee Stadium opened.

Over the decades, Yankee Stadium would play host to some of the greatest games ever played, and would also be the site of the most memorable moment in baseball history.

On July 4th, 1939, Lou Gehrig stepped onto the field at Yankee Stadium and said the following:

“Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about a bad break I got. Yet today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.”

Lou Gehrig, a man who had played 2,130 consecutive games, and a man seen as invincible by the city of New York, was dying, and spoke for the final time at Yankee Stadium this afternoon.

Less than two years later, Lou Gehrig passed away.

There’s something deeply significant, and almost magical, about the Yankees still doing battle on the same playing field that saw Mickey Mantle blast his 565 foot homer, Roger Maris hit his 61st home run, and Joe Dimaggio deliver a 56 game hitting streak.

Fenway Park is just as historic.

When Fenway Park was constructed in 1912, it was one of the first true stadiums built soley for professional baseball. After two rain outs, Fenway officially opened on April the 20th, fittingly against the New York Highlanders (Yankees). Since then, Fenway park has nearly burnt to the ground twice, played host to the first night game in World Series history, and seen more than it’s fair share of heartbreak.

“The Green Monster” is perhaps the most recognizable landmark in all of baseball.

Appropriate is the famous question, “What if these walls could speak?”

Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park hold so many memories, so many defining moments, and so many figurative ghosts that without their presence, the rivarly could never be the same again.

This is the reason why the 2003 MLB playoffs garnered so much attention, and so much renewed enthusiasm for the game. Yankee Stadium, Fenway Park, and Wrigley Field are baseball.

And The Red Sox vs. The Yankees is in small part, Yankee Stadium vs. Fenway.

The Truth:

No other rivalry in all of sports can come close to replicating the Yankees and the Red Sox. This rivalry is so deeply imbedded in Americana that it has become bigger than the game itself.

While the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens have an amazing, long-standing rivalry, hockey has such a limited fan base outside of Canada that the average American wouldn’t even know the two teams were rivals. Most collegiate rivalries, while entertaining and heated, are largely regional, with little hardcore interest outside of alumni and casual fans. The NFL doesn’t have the history, or the proper type of season, conducive to a rivalry on the epic scale of The Yankees and the Red Sox.

The Yankees against The Red Sox is the premier rivalry in all of sports.

Its legend has endured for almost a hundred years, and the feud is likely to continue as long as the game of baseball is around.

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Aaron Cameron

411music
i_am_ajc13@yahoo.com

In sports, there are fans and there are fanatics. There are players and there are legends. There are teams and there are dynasties.

Each one, in their own little way, plays a part in great sports rivalries. But, are there any great rivalries out there anymore? Sure, the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox have been engaged in their silly little payroll-pissing contest for the last few seasons, but theirs is a feud that is merely cyclical, outside of Beantown and the Five Boroughs. Just because Peter Gammons covers each of their contests like the comeback of Christ, doesn’t mean that it’s a great rivalry. Besides, the Yanks have owned the Sox over the decades. Theirs is a rivalry in the same vein of the cartoon Coyote and Road Runner. With the same predictable ending of Grady Little or Mike Torrez at the bottom of the canyon in a puff of dust.

Nothing in today’s NBA or NFL comes close to their great rivalries of yesteryear, either. And, on my calendar, “yesteryear” was only a decade or two ago. The recent Lakers and Bulls dynasties were more than a little incomplete, due to the fact that neither team, despite their greatness, had that one archenemy to measure them against. What about the Sacramento Kings, you ask? Then you weren’t alive to see the Magic-led Lakers and the Bird-helmed Celtics save the NBA in the early ’80s, I reply.

Packers versus Bears…? Sorry, but you’re automatically disqualified from consideration in this discussion if the Fox Network sends it’s third string announce team to broadcast your game. Solomon Wilcotts on the mic does not equal great rivalry.

The fact is there are no great feuds in sports right now. You and I should be able to sit down and debate a great rivalry, at any point in time, with the same passion and persistence every time. All of the major league sports have squashed that hope with their incessant agenda of payroll over parity (and vice versa).

Ah, but there is one beef left out there for those of us who truly love sports. It’s the only one left that is guaranteed to be passed down from every generation and often with polarizing results. And if you’re reading this, then you know you’ve had this argument with someone who is a fan of one side or the other.

Old School vs. New School is my choice for the greatest sports rivalry. Whether you know it or not, you’re all on one side of the fence or the other. And, for the most part, you spend about half your life defending the “new” before mysteriously converting to the “old”.

For example…I’m an old school guy. That wasn’t always the case, trust me…it just kind of happened. I grew up in Southern California watching the Holy Trinity of Professional Sports: baseball, football and basketball. These were the 1980s and early 90s, back when MTV still aired videos and “Sportscenter” hadn’t devolved into every anchor’s stand-up comedy routine.

Back then, I was new school. For me, there was no greater site that watching Rickey Henderson take a lead off first base, inch towards second and steal the bag in a blink of an eye. I had no animosity towards those who came before him, mostly because in these pre-ESPN Classic days, I had never seen the likes of Mickey Mantle or Willie Mays play.

The same held true for football and basketball. Those of you who never saw Joe Montana throw to Jerry Rice or the NBA’s Bad Boy Pistons and their stifling defense really missed out.

The problem with us new-schoolers is, like your sweet Aunt Edna, we overstay our welcome. We cling to our heroes so long, that we become completely resistant to the natural evolution of the game. By the mid-to-late ’90s, baseball had introduced smaller ballparks and bigger sluggers and the result was something akin to beer-league softball. The NFL gave us a salary cap and parity, but the cost was player loyalty and a slew of 8-7 teams in contention for a playoff spot during the final week of the season. And don’t get us started on the NBA, where final scores of 74-61 were once what the scoreboard read at the start of the 3rd Quarter.

You fans with your Iverson throwbacks and Ichiro ball caps have no idea how much better the game was in my day. In the blink of an eye, I have become my father as he became his and you will become yours. The war is eternal and the battle lines are clear.

In another five or six years, maybe Chris Simms will lead the Tampa Bay Bucs to another Super Bowl. He’ll still never be half the quarterback that his old man was.

I read that Prince Fielder is 20 years old, 265 pounds and is able to hit the ball 500 feet. While he might be playing for the Brewers by the end of the year, he will always be a three-piece dinner shy of the standards set by his pops, Cecil.

All the tattoos, cornrows and Escalades throughout the NBA would get schooled in a game of “HORSE” by any five white guys in their short shorts that I could pull off of any roster from 1983.

OK…this has been a pretty one-sided discussion on the whole Old School vs. New School feud. But, the great thing is that even if you disagree with me, in a few more years, you’ll see the light and I’ll be welcoming you to the right side. Here, let me help get you started:

“__________ isn’t half the quarterback that Tom Brady was.”

I’ll save a seat at the bar for you.

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I think I’d like to join you Aaron!

Do you like this new feature? Be sure to email me through the link at the bottom of the page and SPEAK UP!

— Coogan