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?