Natural Born Rivals?

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When you think of the greatest rivalries in sports, which ones get the juices flowing?

Yankees-Red Sox
Blackhawks-Red Wings
North Carolina-Duke
Ohio State-Michigan

Just to name a few.  There are many more.  But the ones above are some of the biggies.  Deep-seeded rivalries.  These teams have been going at each others’ throats literally for decades.  OhioState and Michigan, have been entrenched in battle for 115 years, an ongoing battle that has spanned over three separate centuries.

In every one of these storied sagas there have been legendary games, epic games that have punctuated not only their respective rivalries, but the sport itself.

The 2006 “Game of the Century” betweenMichiganandOhioState.  The “Sandberg Game” between the Cubs and Cards on June 23, 1984, Magic Johnson’s “Baby Sky Hook” in the ’87 Finals, the 2011 NFC Championship between the Packers and Bears, Game 7 in both the 2003 and 2004 ALCS, and so many more.

These monumental games, combined with total number of games played against each other, and the number of years these teams have played each other are what forge the intensity, and occasionally, the hatred that fuels the rivalries.

There are two teams that are not on my list, nor will they be unless MLB pulls a “Bud” and does something recockulous in the near future like a radical realignment and thus an imbalanced schedule that overloads interleague play so heavily, that it becomes a season-long necessity.  Two teams that just don’t qualify, no matter how hard some try:

The Cubs and the White Sox.

While I agree that the Cubs-Sox interleague is exciting for the City ofChicago, that unfortunately, is where it ends.  It is what it is intended to be:  a Classic.

The definition of “rival“, as per the Merriam-Webster Dictionary:
“one of two or more striving to reach or obtain something that only one can possess
That’s the World Series, the Commissioner’s Trophy.  Not the BP Cup, by the by.

It’s been 106 years since the two met for that.  1906.  Just ask Brian Morgan.  He’ll tell you (Sorry folks.  Just some late night WSD humor that you may have seen last night).

The Cubs and White Sox play six games against each other, usually in late-May or early-June.  Games that, while generally wildly entertaining, have no real playoff implications of any sort.  If the Cubs played the Kansas City Royals six times a year, I wouldn’t expect to consider them rivals.  The fact of the matter is, that of all of the rivalries I mentioned above, more times than not, one has to go through the other to get to that elusive title.

Think about it:  How many times have Duke and UNC battled twice during the   season, only to have them matchup a third time in the ACC tournament?  After 18 regular season meetings, how many classic playoff series have we seen between the Red Sox and Yankees?   How many times has the outcome of the Ohio State-Michigan game decided or at least directly affected the outcome of the Big Ten (Eleven, Twelve) conference?

In the case of the Lakers and Celtics, they’ve met each other 12 times In the NBA Finals.  Yeah, they’re “striving for that thing that only one can possess“. The NBA Championship is in arm’s reach and only the other has been in the way 12 times. THOSE are rivals.

The Cubs and White Sox have met once for the ultimate prize.  They have met a grand total of 84 times in those 106 years since the first meeting.

Conversely, the Cubs and Cardinals have met 2,167 times. No lie.  If it makes you feel any better, the Cubs lead the series 1096-1054-17 (No, it doesn’t make me feel better either).

The Cardinals are the Cubs’ rivals. Hands down.  I struggle to define a specific team that the Sox call their since Milwaukee shifted to the National League. The Twins?  Indians?  I dunno.  But I do know that the Cubs are set with theirs.

In truth, the Cubs and Sox are no more rivals than the Orioles and Nationals.  Than the Rays and Marlins.  Than the Giants and A’s, Angels and Dodgers, or Yankees and Mets.  The only thing these teams have in common is their geographical logistics and the fact that they fight for the same market share.

So Cubs and Sox fans alike, enjoy the Midseason Crosstown Classic for what it is:  a hiccup in the schedule and an opportunity for two teams that have no relevance to one another (other than the fact that they reside 10.2 miles from each other – as the Honda drives) to give one side of town or the other bragging rights for a meaningless 6-game split series.

That is, unless the Cubs coerce Michael Barrett out of retirement….


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