When the eagles face the cowboys on Sunday and the patriots face the jets on Monday evening, two wild N.F.L. Rivalries are renewed. But where are they among the bitter rivalries in North American sport?
Every list of the “greatest sports rivalries” is controversial. Make such a list and be on the lookout for comments like "How could you skip Maple Leafs-Canadiens?" And "What about Toledo Bowling Green?"
So two economics professors set out to find the biggest rivalries on an objective, statistical basis.
"People don't agree," said B. David Tyler, a professor at the University of Western Carolina. "Some people say you can only have one rival. We decided to clarify the idea. "
The professors sought hard-nosed fans of North American professional and college football teams and asked them to award 100 points among their most hated rivals. A Minnesota fan could award 50 points for Wisconsin, 40 for Iowa and 10 for Michigan. Other fan communities could target their aversion more. A U.C.L.A. Fan could give Southern California 80, 90 or even all 100 points.
The rivalries with the best results according to these criteria are not necessarily the best known or most violent. Rather, they are the ones where neither team has other significant rivals to steal points. At the top of the college football table is the state of Arizona-Arizona. Without other serious rivals, Arizona fans gave their rival an average of 89 points, and the state of Arizona returned an average of 83 points.
In second place is a rivalry that almost everyone would call one of the biggest. Michigan fans gave Ohio State 69 points (with Michigan State and Notre Dame also getting support). And the fans of the state of Ohio even agreed: they gave Michigan 91 points.
Patriots jets rank fourth after Falcons-Saints, Steelers-Ravens and Packers-Bears, and Eagles-Cowboys rank fifth.
"What surprised me was how long fans hold a grudge or remember having defined moments," said the study's other architect, Joe B. Cobbs, an associate professor at Northern Kentucky. "Fans name certain moments from certain games and remember the players, sometimes even 15 years ago."
Rivalries often go back many years: the Lakers and the Celtics met in the N.B.A. From 1959 to 2010 twelve times in the final. But they are also brought to life quickly: The Canadian Classique between Montreal Impact and Toronto FC. Major League Soccer, dates up to 2008.
"It's what distinguishes a rival from a competitor," said Tyler. “A rival is part of a larger story. Every moment is bigger than the moment itself. "
It may be satisfying to hate a team when you know they hate you back. The fan who cannot stand a certain team that shrugs indifferently in return is lost. The Brewers may despise the Cardinals, but Cardinals fans are more focused on the Cubs, the poll shows.
The study rates the most unbalanced rivalry as Boston College Notre Dame. It is famous enough to have earned a nickname, the Holy War. But the war is pretty one-sided, at least in terms of antipathy. B.C. Fans award 74 rivalry points for Notre Dame. Notre Dame fans who are much more concerned with the United States. and Michigan give B.C. only 2.
Boston College fans can't even turn to their second-largest rival, Virginia Tech, to despise each other: Hokies fans don't care much about the B.C. Game. They rank Virginia, Miami and seven other teams higher than Boston College.
What does it take to become a real rival for the Memphis Grizzlies? Although Memphis fans are upset about the Clippers (38 points) and the Thunder (34), the N.B.A. The teams couldn't care less. In the same boat, the NHL's Tampa Bay Lightning (little mutual dislike of the Bruins and the Canadiens, colleagues of the Atlantic Division) and the MLB's Tampa Bay Rays (one-sided rivalries with two teams with only one eye) sit together, the Red Sox and the Yankees).
The Diamondbacks cannot get attention from their perceived main competitor, the Dodgers, who rank the Giants, Cardinals, and Angels higher. The same goes for the Sacramento Kings, who regard their main competitor as the Lakers, whose fans don't like the Celtics, the Clippers, the Spurs, and much more.
"A rival must be a perceived threat," said Tyler. "In these unbalanced rivalries with a better team that doesn't care, it's because this threat is not perceived." (Notre Dame has won his last six football games against Boston College.)
"A rivalry should be bilateral," wrote a San Diego state fan who participated in the survey. "For example, a hammer doesn't consider a nail to be its rival."
A strange thing about rivals is that they are often very similar. Harvard and Yale, Texas and Oklahoma, and Arsenal and Spurs seem to have more in common than not. And that is not lost for all fans.
A Portland Timbers fan wrote: "Seattle looks down on Portland as a cheap copy and Portland looks down on Seattle as a snooty version of Portland."
"We see no threat from someone who is not like us," said Tyler. "We don't measure ourselves against them."
Anyone who spends time with a super fan will see how aversion to a rival fandom can drive them. And it is clear to the professors that these passions are deeply rooted.
"Fans tend to show their attachment to a team on the outside after a win: students wear more logo-marked clothes for class on Monday after a soccer win," said Tyler. "People use more" we "and" us "when describing the team after a win.
“This shows why the threat of a rival is so acute, especially for highly identified fans. The rival is not only a threat to the place of the favorite team in the overall ranking – it can also be a threat to the self-confidence of the fans. "