Monthly Archives: July 2012

What’s the Right Model for Finding Future Olympians?

What’s the best way to handle a country’s Olympic training program? Choose sports for children at a young age or allow them to choose later in life once they’ve grown into themselves and their sports?

This morning I was watching the women’s cycling road race. While talking about Great Britain competitor (and eventual silver medalist) Lizzie Armitstead, one of the announcers mentioned that after the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta, disappointed with winning only one gold medal, the country began more intensely training its athletes at a younger age. It seems to have worked as Great Britain has received 11, 9 and 19 gold medals at the Summer Games following Atlanta.

The comment brought to mind the way the former Soviet Union handled training its future Olympians, which is similar to how China now trains its athletes. Both of these countries have faced rumors about how far their training methods go, and I doubt Great Britain is going as far as those two, but many nations around the globe are utilizing this pluck and train at a young age method.

One country that is not using this method is the United States. We don’t need to, quite frankly. Our children’s sports programs are strong enough that our most gifted, talented and hard working athletes separate themselves from the pack naturally over the years. Of course there are athletes that receive a lot of attention and training starting at a young age, but that attention comes from their parents, not from the government and not from the Olympic Committee.

It’s been working for us. The US has established itself as the country to beat in the Olympics over the past 30 years. But could we be even better if we used some of the philosophies and strategies used by Great Britain, China and many other countries?

My initial reaction was no. If we used the Chinese philosophy, someone like Michael Jordan never would’ve competed for our country. Not in 1984 and probably not in 1992 either. Jordan didn’t develop into a really good basketball player until his latter high school years. Countries that pluck talent at a young age never would’ve accepted Jordan into athletic training. He was way too old in high school.

As I thought more about it though, I wondered if maybe we would be even better if we were directing young athletes in certain directions. We probably wouldn’t have had Destinee Hooker playing something other than volleyball, nor would we have directed Ryan Lochte to participate in a sport other than swimming. What about that guy at the end of the bench for the Knicks though? Or the guy fourth on the depth chart at free safety for South Carolina’s football team? Lots of young American male athletes choose to play football, basketball or baseball because they’re the popular sports. Very few ever reach the point where they’re good enough to play in college, even fewer are good enough to play professionally. What if those basketball players that didn’t show LeBron or Dwight Howard talent at a young age were pushed toward volleyball? What if young football players that didn’t show the potential of Peyton Manning, Ray Lewis or Jake Long were pushed toward the javelin, rowing and the shot put?

Of course, this could never happen because the potential paycheck that comes with a professional career in football, basketball or baseball is much higher than that of someone that plays volleyball, rows or runs track. The 12th man on the Trailblazers, a special teams player for the Texans and a middle reliever for the Brewers all probably make more than a good Olympic caliber rower. Those three major sports receive so much attention and financial attention that they’ll always be the most popular with young athletes. Every kid wants to be the next Kevin Durant, Candace Parker or Aaron Rodgers, not many want to be the next Tony Azevedo or Mariel Zagunis.

What if money wasn’t a roadblock though? Would we be an even more dominant Olympic country if we directed our young athletes toward certain sports like other countries do? Don’t read too much into this – I don’t think we should ever do that. We’re a country of freedom where people can choose their careers and hobbies, but it’s interesting to think about. A more realistic question to think about is, would China be better off following the US? Instead of putting funding toward plucking out talent they ‘think’ they see, put funding toward developing all of your country’s children and youth athletics programs? Provide better opportunities and training for all your children. A country with a population that large surely misses on some predictions. What if that kid they have in the pool would actually be better at gymnastics? The only way they can know for sure is letting children choose the sports they play and then allow all of them to compete for spots on the national teams. A young girl could swim, play volleyball and high jump as a young girl. Then, at some point, choose to focus on one, either the one she’s best at or the one she loves the most and wants to dedicate her time to. It seems to me, this would result in a country’s very best athletes representing it at the Olympics. But what do I know?

The Hypocrisy of the NCAA and a Missed Opportunity for Change

Yesterday I wrote about my feelings on the NCAA’s position to lay sanctions on Penn State stemming from the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse. I’m following up with that post today now that the NCAA penalties have been announced.

The Hypocrisy of the NCAA

I’m not going to spend a lot of words detailing my feelings on the actual sanctions. This post isn’t about that. It’s about the hypocritical manner in which the NCAA operated with its decision. A group of men at Penn State abused their positions of power. One of those men did so directly with children, luring them into trusting him and them using their trust against them to sexually assault them and rape them. The others abused their power by turning their heads and allowing the actions of the man first mentioned to continue. Ironically, a group in the NCAA, president Mark Emmert and the executive committee, abused their powers in an attempt to punish those responsible for these heinous crimes.

Emmert and the executive committee doled out punishments without going through the procedures and processes that are set for them to handle disciplinary actions. As Emmert stated, this scenario was far beyond anything the NCAA has seen, warranting special circumstances for him and the executive committee to act out of normal process. But keep in mind, the NCAA cannot address criminal or civil violations, they are responsible for addressing athletic violations. What they were essentially addressing was a cover up to protect a sports program. They actually have dealt with that before. A few times actually. The action being covered up has never approached this disgusting scenario. Covering up a tattoo in exchange for football merchandise ring in no way nears allowing a pedophile to run around campus freely. I’m not saying they weren’t warranted in bringing some kind of penalties. I’m saying follow your own processes so you can’t receive this type of criticism. You can’t look to past instances for how to handle the disciplinary action, but you can look to it for following the procedures. Don’t give people any opportunity to criticize your actions.

Furthermore, Emmert made comments about the NCAA no longer allowing sports programs to be above the education of young people and the protection of their well being. The tone has to be set that football is not the most important thing. His exact statement was, “Football will never be put ahead of educating, protecting and nurturing young people.” Um, ironically I think you just put football ahead of everything else with these sanctions. The sanctions were aimed nearly entirely at football. If you wanted to set the tone that football isn’t everything, I think you missed. You punished a bunch of kids and their fans by killing their football program. A bunch of 18-22 year olds will now have their college experience extremely altered. Some will play out their athletic careers playing for nothing. Others will transfer, affecting their educational, athletic and social lives. Yes, Sandusky’s actions altered the lives of a number of victims. But is the proper response to go after innocent students? This went beyond football and the punishment shouldn’t have focused just on football if a statement truly wanted to be made.

A Missed Opportunity for Change

Mark Emmert made several comments when announcing the sanctions against Penn State about not allowing something like this to happen again. I hope that the sanctions against Penn State actually have that affect, but I don’t think they will. I heard someone, either Colin Cowherd or Jay Bilas, mention this morning that punishing Tom doesn’t make Bob change. And I think that’s completely true in this Penn State instance. I think what will actually happen is that Bob (other schools) will exploit Tom’s (Penn State) punishment by pilfering Tom’s recruits and current players. Tom will learn from it, Bob will not.

Alabama. Auburn. Texas. Oklahoma. Notre Dame. Oregon. Ohio State. Michigan. Georgia. Florida State. Texas A&M. Florida. Tennessee. Texas Tech. West Virginia. All of these schools have a football first mentality. The football program rules all. Do the sanctions against Penn State do anything to change the athletic cultures at these schools and others like them? What actions are being taken against these schools? No, there wasn’t a child rapist running amuck at the previously mentioned education institutions, and I’m not insinuating anything along those lines is happening at any of them, but the atmosphere is ripe for cover ups to protect the football program. I grew up less than twenty miles from Notre Dame and I know of special circumstances that were afforded to that program and the players within it. This football first mentality exists far beyond State College, PA.

Mark Emmert and the NCAA had the opportunity to make sweeping changes that would affect the broad college football landscape. Instead, they acted in a rushed, short sighted manner in order to gain some short term PR benefits. Will these sanctions prevent future abuse of power? I think not. These sanctions against Penn State won’t result in true change. They issued deep and harsh punishment. The only aspect of the sanctions that is proactive in nature and can make a positive impact is the $60 million dollar fine. Everything else was reactionary.

Another aspect of the sanctions is an “Athletics Integrity Monitor” that will be placed in the Penn State athletic program. (Side note – I’m not against this, but it doesn’t make sense. Every NCAA school currently has a compliance officer, designed to ensure all NCAA rules are followed. By Emmert’s logic, since it was in his authority to address Penn State’s ethics issues, shouldn’t the compliance officer already be handling the job of this Athletics Integrity Monitor? Why wasn’t Penn State’s compliance officer just fired and replaced?) Aside from my tactical questions about the position, I actually think it’s a good move, but why wasn’t it decided that every school have one of these Athletics Integrity Monitors? Bleacher Report’s Daniel Krem posed this same question.

There were many options for addressing Penn State in a way that could spur positive change. To truly make change, far reaching and progressive change is required. To do that, the NCAA would’ve had to admit some fault in its administration of all schools though. I don’t believe Emmert or the executive committee was willing to do that.

I have a few ideas for some of these changes and sanctions against Penn State. I wonder, were any of these considered?

  • A higher monetary fine. I think I would’ve slapped a higher fine on the school without taking scholarships from the football team. Utilize the team as an advantage for something positive. Keep the $60 million dollar fine and add to that all ticket sales revenue from the football program for the next three years and 50% of all football team merchandise revenue.
  • Athletics Integrity Monitors at all NCAA schools. I covered the rationale for that earlier.
  • Limits on annual alumni donations to athletic departments. Large alumni donations lead to football programs becoming powerful. Look at Oregon as an example. That program struggled through much of the 80s and 90s. Then Nike’s Phil Knight decided he wanted to invest in his alma mater’s football program. He made large, large donations. Where do you think the money comes from for the 37 new jersey designs they unveil every year? Now Oregon has a good football team and a powerful one. I’m not saying Oregon has had any improprieties near the extent Penn State has, but the point is the atmosphere is ripe for the abuse of power.
  • Annual volunteer hours. The Penn State football team could’ve had a minimum number of annual volunteer hours they must serve for the next five years. These hours could’ve been mandated to go toward groups that benefit the victims of child abuse.

There are many more ideas like this that could’ve been considered, but were sanctions like this considered? Sanctions that actually result in changed behavior and positive steps toward changing the culture of college athletics? Probably not, but maybe I’m wrong…

Is the NCAA Abusing its Power with Penn State Sanctions?

I’ll start this post off by saying I have been a fan of the Penn State football program for years. I’m disgusted at what has come out about what went on at that school involving Jerry Sandusky and the sexual abuse of children. The leaders of the school betrayed their students, alumni and fans. However, this post is not written as a fan of the football team. My personal feelings about the school or its football team did not play into my opinions included in this blog post.

Reports started coming out today that on Monday the NCAA will announce penalties against Penn State resulting from the Jerry Sandusky crimes. It’s expected that these penalties will be unprecedented and include a large number of lost scholarships and a loss of multiple bowl games. Rumors were flying over the past week that the NCAA may impose the crippling death penalty against the university’s football program. The death penalty has only been used five times previously by the NCAA and only once against a football program. The most publicized of those previous instances, of course, was the SMU football program in 1987 and 1988.

Based on sources from inside the NCAA, some are saying this morning that the death penalty may be preferable than the penalties coming to Penn State, which is pretty shocking. These penalties must include an enormous amount of scholarships lost.

The question I have is, should the NCAA be bringing penalties against Penn State at all?

This isn’t a question of if those responsible at Penn State should be punished. They should. No question about it. However, they should be punished by legal officials, not the NCAA. Jerry Sandusky was already convicted. The others directly involved in the child sexual abuse and cover-up stand to face the legal system as well, with the exception of former head coach Joe Paterno who passed away in January of lung cancer.

But should others be punished? Should the student athletes who were recruited to play at Penn State and had no involvement in this tragedy be punished? Should the general student population lose part of their college experience, a college experience that led many of them to choose to attend Penn State? Should new coach Bill O’Brien, who was no where near the situation, be punished? What good does punishing those people do? These are questions many are asking. Alabama coach Nick Saban said earlier this week that addressing the problem should be done in a positive manner rather than a negative one. He said that instead of laying negative penalties on the school, the school should use proceeds from its athletic tickets sales to go toward victims of child abuse. Some criticized the idea (and Saban immediately said he probably shouldn’t have thrown out the idea), and it could potentially use some tweaks, but I think his take is along the right lines. Get some kind of positive out of this horror instead of just negativity.

So back to the question I initially asked – should the NCAA bring penalties against Penn State? The answer is, no. It sets a bad, dangerous precedent for the NCAA.

The purpose of the NCAA is to make sure all schools are participating in sports from an even, level playing field. They address issues around recruiting and scholarships to make sure everything is fair and equal. The NCAA has NEVER punished a school for criminal violations. Look back. Ohio State’s tattoo issue was based around improper financial benefits going to players. Even looking back at the sanctions issued against Baylor basketball in the early 2000s, those sanctions were brought because of illegal payments to players and recruiting violations. There was a murder involved, but that was addressed in criminal courts, not by the NCAA.

The NCAA has to be using its ‘lack of institutional control’ rule in this instance (no other violations applies), but the NCAA is going against its own process to bring these penalties. There is no Infractions Committee hearing planned, which is standard operating procedure in cases involving lack of institutional control. (By the way, is this really a lack of control? I heard ESPN’s Colin Cowherd once make a comment along the lines of, ‘this actually seems like too much institutional control.’ I think he’s right. There was definitely no lack here…) NCAA president Mark Emmert and its executive board are using the report by former FBI Director Louis Freeh as its basis of bringing a charge instead of commissioning an Infractions Committee investigation and hearing. That Freeh report, by the way, was sanctioned by Penn State’s Board of Trustees. Something like this has never been done.

Emmert, it seems, wants to be Roger Goodell. While past NCAA presidents and executive board members have stated they are not supposed to, and have no desire to, act unanimously, similar in fashion to a professional sports league commissioner, it appears this is exactly what Emmert wants to do. Roger Goodell took some flack for his heavy handed handling of the New Orleans Saints bounty situation, but he was well within his rights as the NFL commissioner. Emmert is no Roger Goodell. He doesn’t have the authority to bring sanctions and penalties against Penn State, and he certainly doesn’t have the authority to do so outside the normal lines of processes that universities are supposed to receive.

The actions here by Emmert and the NCAA executive board set a terrible precedent. This new power would allow them to make decisions and take actions far beyond their past responsibilities. Will university presidents stand up and object to this? Or will they sit back and let it happen? If they sit back, I think they will regret their passive silence at some point in the future.

The NCAA should not be involved in punishing a school for criminal behavior. Let the legal system address that. The Jerry Sandusky situation went far outside the football program. And based on the Freeh report, involved two people inside the football program – Joe Paterno and witness and assistant coach Mike McQueary. The others involved were in administration. Penn State is a public university, funded by the state of Pennsylvania. In my mind, because of that, it actually makes more sense for the state of Pennsylvania to look into penalties rather than the NCAA. This is more than a subject of an equal playing level on the football field. In fact, it has nothing to do with that. The string of actions that have come out did not  in any way give Penn State advantages over Ohio State, Michigan or Illinois on Saturday afternoons. Those in administration (former President Graham Spanier, former Vice President Gary Schultz and former Athletic Director Tim Curley) have already been removed from their positions and face criminal charges. The state of Pennsylvania should also look at forcing each and every person on the Board of Trustees to vacate their roles. Completely new leadership is needed everywhere. Those at the top of the organizational structure at the school deserve punishment. The entire school does not. Let this be sorted out in a legal courtroom. Punish the individuals at fault, not an entire group of people. And, Emmert, if you do want to try and play the ‘lack of institutional control’ card against the school, make sure you follow correct procedures.

The 2011 – 2012 Most Hated NBA Player

Last season The Hump dethroned the King. He was the most hated man in NBA. I’m not sure why though. Lebron James was an ass and screwed over the entire city of Cleveland. Where, Humpty Dumpty here was screwed over by an ass the size of Cleveland. In my expert opinion (yes, I’m an expert, I watch all the shows and read the magazines while I wait in line at the Supermarket), Kris did nothing wrong to Kim. She opened her shallow heart for all of us to see and then milked every minute of it to land a huge deal with E!. Too bad K-Hump didn’t get a spin off or a decent NBA contract…until today.

Kris finally got what he deserved. He landed a 2 year $24MM contract with the Brooklyn Nets, which, by the way is part-owned by his Ex-Wife’s Boyfriend’s BFF. Awkward… But this is a sports blog, so allow me to touch on a few things that I find shocking. Humphries has been treated like a D-League Power Forward for his entire career.

Hump was drafted by the Jazz in 2004. After two short seasons in Utah (’04 to ’06) he was traded to Toronto. Granted he didn’t do much for the Jazz, but from what I can remember, the Jazz weren’t doing much either. In Canada, Kris busted his ass every little chance he got to play and started showing off his boarding skills. Regardless of having career high games of 18 boards and proving to be a valuable Power Forward he was shipped to Dallas in 2009. After one short season in Dallas he was traded to then New Jersey Nets. So in 2011 around the time he started dating Kimmy he averaged a double double for the Nets. That means he was averaging double digit points and double digit rebounds. So how do they reward him? The hook him up with a one year $8MM contract 20 days after he filed for divorce. After that whirlwind sham of a wedding and being dragged through the Kardashian mud, he was able to average a double double in points and rebounds for a second season in a row!

Last season he averaged:

13.8 11.0 1.2 17.98

According to ESPN: “Only 5 players have averaged at least 10 points and 10 rebounds per game in each of the last 2 seasons: Kevin Love, Dwight Howard, Blake Griffin, Pau Gasol…and Kris Humphries.”

He kept his head up and did his job well. Even Lamar Odom, golden son-in-law, couldn’t play in Dallas. He’s in his head so bad that E! had to cancel their best spin-off, Klohe and Lamar. I tip my hat to, Kris, weathering that stuck up narcissistic storm would have broken most men.

It’s about damn time Brooklyn. You should have signed him sooner. You just watch, he’ll back up Gerald Wallace better than any monster contract you would have absorbed from Orlando. It’ll just be a little weird next season on Keeping Up with the Kardashians when Kim and Kanye double date with Jay-Z and Beyonce at a Knicks – Nets game.

Rivalry Week: The Results

This past week has been rivalry week, with posts dedicated solely to rivalries in sports. On our Facebook page we published some polls so you could vote and let your voice be heard on the best rivalries in sports. Today we’re announcing the results of those polls. So let’s get right to it.


You voted the Yankees-Red Sox as the best rivalry in baseball. No surprise here, although it was closer than I thought it would be with the Dodgers-Giants  finishing closely behind the winner. All of the Dodgers-Giants votes came from people that grew up on the west coast though. Votes for Yankees-Red Sox came from all over the country, which to me just supports it being the best rivalry in baseball.


This one was a surprise, at least to me. I was expecting the Bears-Packers to win, but they were upset by the Steelers-Ravens in a close one. If you think about the past ten years though, the Steelers-Ravens have both been very good. They’ve both been playoff contenders and Super Bowl contenders. For the most part, either the Packers or the Bears have been good over that same time period, but not both.


Landside. Celtics-Lakers ran away with this one. Not a surprise and not much else to say about it.


Surprisingly, the NHL poll garnered the most votes. I assumed the NFL or MLB would get the most votes. The Bruins-Canadiens rivalry ran away with this one in a contest that wasn’t very competitive overall. This did show a deep field though with a number of rivalries receiving votes. More choices received a vote in this poll than in any other. The NHL poll was actually also the hardest to determine the rivalries that would be included in the poll. There were a number that we considered including and just missed inclusion: Devils-Rangers, Kings-Ducks and Red Wings-Avalanche.

College Basketball

As expected, Duke-North Carolina won this one pretty handedly.

College Football

Another one that wasn’t a surprise with Ohio State-Michigan winning.

So what did all these polls tell us? Anything? Some weren’t surprising, others were more revealing. It looks like our followers enjoy hockey more than we thought (maybe we should write a little more on the NHL….). The west coast came out in force in support of the Dodgers-Giants, even though they fell a little short, showing that the rivalry between those two teams is very healthy. While the west coast may not have a ton of rivalries, they do enjoy that one.

The votes also showed us that we did a pretty good job of choosing all the poll options. There weren’t too many write-in votes, so for the most part, it looks like there are a few rivalries in each sport that stand out from all others as the best.

Rivalry Week: Best College Rivalry

Over on our Facebook page we have polls up asking about the best rivalries in college football and college basketball, but today I started thinking about what the best rivalry in college sports is. All college sports, not just football and basketball. That one’s a little more difficult. Duke-North Carolina is leading in our college basketball poll right now, but when those two schools play in football, is the intensity level as high? Or when they play in baseball, volleyball, or any other sport.

There’s a little more thinking that goes into this question than the poll choices. I’m not actually sure that any of the rivalries in our college football and college basketball polls would be chosen as the best overall collegiate rivalry. Oklahoma-Texas, Kentucky-Louisville and Alabama-Auburn seem like the most likely ones that could be considered. They stand out as the best of the choices we gave in the two polls.

USC-UCLA, Oregon-Oregon State, Clemson-South Carolina and Michigan-Michigan State all come to mind as possibilities for the best overall rivalry. It’s probably not a shock to anyone that all but one of these that I’ve named are intra-state rivals.

So what do you think? Which one’s the best, most intense? I’m actually not sure. It’s a difficult choice to make.

Rivalry Week: What’s the Deal with the West Coast?

If you’ve been following us this week you know that it’s Rivalry Week for us. You may also have noticed that we have some polls up on our Facebook page asking our followers to vote on the rivalries they think are best in sports. Something we noticed after we chose the rivalries for the polls is that we didn’t include many west coast rivalries. Definitely not as many as there on the east coast, in the south and in the midwest. I had to go back and do a double take to make sure there weren’t some good ones we left out. Nope…we didn’t.

Before I dive in further I need to say I’m focusing this post on professional sports. Rivalries form much easier in college sports and there are a number of good rivalries among west coast colleges: Oregon-Oregon State; Washington-Washington State; Cal-Stanford; USC-UCLA. But still, none of them stand up to the college football and college basketball choices listed on our Facebook page. Trying to compare Washington-Washington St. or USC-UCLA to Ohio State Michigan or Florida-Georgia is like saying a bologna sandwich is just as good as sushi. Sorry, they just aren’t the same.

So what’s the deal with west coast pro teams? Sure, there are some good west coast rivalries – the San Francisco Giants and LA Dodgers come to mind as one. The…uh….well…the Giants and Dodgers. Yeah, the Giants and Dodgers. Seriously? Is that it? The LA Kings and Anaheim Ducks were also considered for the NHL poll, but ultimately didn’t make the cut when compared to some of hockey’s other rivalries.

Is it because west coast fans are less passionate about sports than people living in other parts of the country? People are into it in college because there may not be anything else to do, then they graduate, move to LA, San Francisco, San Diego or some other west coast city and see there are a lot of other ways they could spend their time. While I think this is true to a degree, I also know a lot of passionate sports fans that are west coast residents. Sure, they don’t have the die hard stereotype that fans in Chicago, New York or Boston have, but there’s a good number that like their sports and grew up on them.

I’ve heard some people say that the high number of transplants on the left coast could be a contributing factor to the low number of rivalries. Someone grows up in Pittsburgh, then moves to Seattle and has no attachment to the Seahawks or Mariners. Or people even move around within the west coast. Does a mobile workforce not allow for the formation of rivalries though? I say no. Most rivalries have roots that are decades old and the U.S. didn’t become so mobile as a population until more recently.

Earlier this week I wrote about what makes a rivalry – geographic proximity, historical significance, consistent competitiveness and national relevance. Maybe it’s the national relevance piece that holds the west coast back in rivalries. The ol’ east coast bias by the media. There are plenty of teams that are geographically close, have some type of historical relevance between them and consistently play competitive games. So is national relevance to blame? Or is it that there isn’t enough of a historical significance. After all, most of the west coast teams are much younger than their east coast counterparts. The Giants and Dodgers, the west coast’s best examples, are older than most of the other teams on their coast and they’re young compared to teams in the east and midwest.

I actually think it’s a combination of historical significance and national relevance. Look at some of the match ups that logic says could (and probably should) be rivals: the Golden State Warriors and Sacramento Kings; the Lakers and Clippers; Lakers/Clippers and Warriors; the 49ers and Seahawks; the Oakland A’s and LA/Anaheim/California Angels; the San Jose Sharks and LA Kings/Anaheim Ducks; the Raiders and Chargers.

Yet none of these are thought of as hot rivalries. Maybe there’s something I’m missing, but the lack of west coast rivalries just seems odd to me. Why haven’t more formed over the years?

Rivalry Week: What Makes a Rivalry?

There are a lot of rivalries in sports, but what makes a good one? Maybe a better question to start with is, are there good rivalries and bad rivalries? Or are there just simply rivalries? I’m not quite sure. I know there are some rivalries that are better than others. The Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals are rivals, both being from Ohio, but do they match the relationship that, say, the Bears-Packers have? Not so much… I don’t think I’d call the Browns-Bengals a bad one though. So I think the answer is that there are just rivalries. With some better than others…

This question was asked by a guy at my office a few weeks ago: why are the Giants and Dodgers rivals? Answers came from all different angles.

“Because they’re in the same division.”

“SoCal vs. NorCal”

“They were rivals in New York before they moved west. It stuck when the moved.”

“San Francisco people hate LA people.”

All could be valid answers, but this guy at my office kept pushing on it, asking what event or occurrence happened for them to be rivals. He didn’t understand what caused these two teams to be rivals. He was looking for one thing, one unquestioned reason for why the two teams and their fan bases despise each other. I should disclose that this guy is a Yankees fan… So in his head, he was comparing every rivalry to the Yankees-Red Sox. He wanted there to be a Babe Ruth sale for ever rivalry.

What this led me to realize is that in most cases, there isn’t one occurrence that leads two teams to be rivals. In fact, even if you look at the Yankees-Red Sox, they didn’t immediately become rivals after the ink on the contract selling Ruth to New York dried. It was built over time.

Most rivalries have all, or a mix of several, of the following factors: geographic proximity, historical significance, consistent competitiveness and national relevance.

There are exceptions to all of these (the Lakers and Celtics are on opposite coasts), but for the most part, they’re all common to a rivalry – or at least three of the four. Over on our Facebook page we have polls asking people the best rivalries in all the major sports leagues and college football and basketball. You’ll notice all the choices we propose have at least three of the above factors.

So to go back to that question my colleague asked – why are the Giants and Dodgers rivals – there are a four reasons why:

  • Geographic proximity – they’re both on the west coast
  • Historical significance – each club has a lengthy history, starting in New York and then moving west. More importantly, they have a lengthy history of competing with each other for pennants and division titles
  • Consistent competitiveness – while one club is usually better than the other in a given year, there’s always a competitive spirit that exists between the two when they play, more than what exists between either of the two and any other NL team
  • National relevance – the country looks at the two teams as rivals and acknowledges the significance

Think about other rivalries. I guarantee that they’ll have at least three of the four factors I’ve talked about. Prove me wrong. If you find one, let me know.

Rivalry Week

This week, The Couchletes will be focusing on rivalries in sports. Baseball, football, basketball, hockey, college sports. We’ll cover them all. Why did we choose this week and not align with one of ESPN’s rivalry weeks during college football season. Well, we’re not ESPN for one. And two, it’s a fairly slow week in sports. Wimbledon and MLB’s All Star game, that’s about it. So why not create some sports discussions of our own?

To start the week off, we want to hear from you. What do you think are the best rivalries in sports? Head over to our Facebook page and vote on the polls we’ve posted over there about the best rivalries in sports. Then throughout the week, we’ll publish some of our thoughts here about sports rivalries.