When heated sports rivalries sizzle

When heated sports rivalries sizzle

Anthony Correa


Fans of any sport generally agree that sporting events can create a dynamic atmosphere. Whether it be the spirit of the fans cheering on the home team or the players feeding off the moral strength from their fans, it is a beautiful cycle that is shared with everyone either watching the event live or from the comfort of their homes. That is  if it is just a regular game between two respected teams.

The same area where a beautiful game is held can quickly turn into a war zone. Fans at these games tend not to shy away from the opportunity to taunt opposing teams and cause some discord between them. A different kind of passion comes up in these games, making them some of the best ones for fans to watch or even be a part of. Rivalry games bring out the most emotional and passionate games in sports history. In our very own school, we have the yearly battle of “The Shoes,” in which our Whittier Poets face off against The Occidental Tigers in a battle of football.  

The best rivalries around the globe are the ones that the average person can identify. The list of those types of games is pretty long, filled with matchups any avid sports fan would love to watch. Many people recognize the L.A. Lakers versus the Boston Celtics as one of the best sport rivalries of all time. Meeting twelve times in the NBA finals and sharing 33 Hall of Fame-inducted players, their history has been alive since the sixties up until present day. Any person, even those with little-to-no knowledge of the world of basketball, would likely  recognize this as one of the best matchups. 

Another sports rivalry that deserves recognition would be the one shared between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Francisco Giants. Not only members of the same division, but also neighbors, every series between the two has a special feeling to it, more than any other regular season series. The history of their rivalry started back in 1890, with both the teams residing in New York. When the owner of the Dodgers, Walter O’Malley, wanted to move the Dodgers to L.A, he convinced the owner of the Giants, Horace Stoneham, to move with him to preserve the rivalry. Such dedication to the rivalry between the two is shown by their achievements, with both sharing twenty-one National Team Pennants and six World Series Titles. Sports history is marked with amazing games between two respectable contenders fighting for immortality, but something about rivalry games speaks a lot louder than a regular game. Especially when the two meet each other in the end.

The word “fan” comes from the word “fanatic,” those who are close followers of their team.  This would probably be an understatement for events that are caused by the attendants of rivalry games. The rivalry between soccer teams River Plate and Boca Juniors is one that has gone on for almost a century now. In 1968, about 71 people were trampled to death trying to evacuate from a fire caused by fans lighting and throwing flares onto the field. After many other incidents that led to more deaths between the two clubs, both teams agreed to ban the opposing team’s supporters from the stadium when the two faced each other, showing just how difficult it is to control this rivalry. This rivalry is so extreme that, recently, both teams needed to be moved over to Spain in order to play out the second leg of a final match, which also had to be moved. The home fans of River Plate had attacked the Boca Junior players’ bus when they were arriving at the stadium grounds, then causing the match to be postponed and moved. River Plate ended up winning on Dec. 9, with a score of 3 – 1 and 5 – 3 on aggregate.  

One of the largest rivalries in sports has to be El Clasico, between Barcelona Fútbol Club and Real Madrid Club de Fútbol. This match has the world standing still for 90 minutes as the best players from around the world face each other in this historic rivalry. The two teams represent more than just two teams with players from different countries; they represent two different political standing points. On one end, we have Spanish nationalism with Real Madrid, and Catalan nationalism  with Barcelona. The two started out their great battles in the 30s, when Spain fell into a dictatorship under Francisco Franco, who helped Real Madrid expand their rule over other Spanish teams. They were deemed as “the establishment club,” as they were located in the capital and were supported by the country’s officials.

Barcelona’s motto, “Més Que un Club,” translates to “More than a Club” in English. The club represents the values, traditions, and even the language of the people, which were deemed illegal during the Franco regime. This caused the people of Catalonia to see the club as their soldiers, battling those of the Franco dictatorship, which was Real Madrid, who was seen as the most Spanish club. In today’s world, the two clubs have grown to different areas, where the history does not matter to some Spanish-born Real Madrid supporters. However, to the people of Catalonia, it still means the world that a team is representing the values of their people and is still able to give a good fight to those who once looked down on them. The two clubs met once again in a cup competition on Feb. 6, where the two tied 1 all. The two teams play two more times in the coming three weeks as they face each other once again for the same cup competition, El Copa del Rey,  on Feb. 27, and once again, for probably the last time this season, on March 2, for league play.   

Another incident that might surprise even the casual sports fan is an event that clashed not only two teams, but two countries. In 1969, the countries of El Salvador and Honduras were in an era of hostility against one another, due to political events prior to a World Cup Qualifying game. However, tensions rose to the point that a war was declared during the game, dubbing this game the “Soccer War” or “The 100 Hours War,” since the war was short-lived. Negotiations took place about nine days after the declaration. 

Sporting events can make history on their own, but the participation, whether civil or unmannered, makes these games separate from just any regular season or post-season game.