This month my coworker Brian and I (with an assist from another coworker) decided to tackle the list of the top ten rivalries in sports. This was a bit tough to pull together because rivalries tend to wax and wane depending on the strength of each team in any given year. It's also difficult given that neither of us has ever lived on the west coast. Throw in on top of that the sheer number of sports considered (not necessarily represented, but considered): college football and basketball, and professional baseball, football, basketball, hockey, tennis, and golf. I'm sure there are omissions to the list, so let me know what we missed!
10. Montreal Canadiens vs. Toronto Maple Leafs (NHL)
This one was tough, do you choose this rivalry or Edmonton vs. Vancouver? When you throw in French vs. English Canada, the Habs and Leafs is the rivalry to choose. This one would have ranked higher, but it cooled in my mind a bit given that they played in separate conferences from 1981 - 1998.
9. Texas vs. Oklahoma (NCF)
People in Texas and Oklahoma love football as much as Canadians(ens) love hockey. While always significant, this rivalry has gained some luster as of late given the high rankings that these two teams have had. 6 times since 2000, one of these teams has played for the national championship.
8. Army vs. Navy (NCF)
In many respects this is one of the most fun college games to watch each year. What could be bigger than bragging rights between the different service branches? Unfortunately the military academies are tough places to recruit to, so at least one if not both teams are not usually very good, dropping this game further down the list than it would otherwise deserve.
7. Auburn vs. Alabama (NCF)
Yup, a third college football rivalry in a row! The Iron Bowl always turns out to be a great game no matter how good or bad each team is. In the past ten years, 8 out of 10 Iron Bowls were decided by 10 points or less.
6. Federer vs. Nadal (ATP)
At first glance this may seem to be surprising and may seem short lived compared to the other rivalries on this list, but the intensity and importance of this rivalry cannot be overlooked. Federer may be the greatest ever, but Nadal has had his number, amassing a 13-7 record against him. They have been number one and number to for 5 years straight now.
5. Cubs vs. Cardinals (MLB)
First, it's gotta be up there just for the sheer number of times they've played each other; over 2,100 times! Add in proximity and the fact that both towns love baseball and you have all of the ingredients for a great rivalry. I think jealousy plays a role too as the Cardinals have had postseason success that Cubs fans can only dream about (10, second most all time, but only 2 since 1980).
4. Bears vs. Packers (NFL)
This is without a doubt the greatest NFL rivalry of all. There's just something about cold weather division rivals who both play outdoors that makes it extra special. The surprising thing about this one is that they've only played each other in the playoffs once, back in 1941 (a Bears victory).
3. Yankees vs. Red Sox (MLB)
This really doesn't need much explanation. In terms of peak intensity, I don't think anything quite matches this one. Over the last decade, it's been unparalleled with a number of notable playoff match-ups. Who can forget Grady Little or the bloody sock? If anything this is a rivalry that has gone too far and has caused too much rancor between fan bases.
2. Duke vs. North Carolina (NCB)
After the first weekend of the NCAA tournament there are no college basketball games I look forward to more than Duke vs. UNC. Both teams are so good and so close (only 8 miles separate the campuses) and everyone seems to care so much. Sweeping the season series is almost as important as reaching the final four. It's also fun to see incredibly smart college students acting so ridiculously over a basketball game.
1. Michigan vs. Ohio St. (NCF)
This one has benefited from the quality of the programs as well as its location on the schedule. It's the last game of the regular season for each and the Big Ten title has been on the line on 22 different occasions during this rivalry. No other rivalry can match the sustained intensity. It's been the fiercest in college football for more than 40 years now.