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A great sports rivalry (Sox/Yanks, Ali/Frazier, Duke/UNC) is marked by the level of competition and the caliber of insults. But sometimes rivalries are phony, calculated media creations designed to generate ratings. Years from now, will we really be talking about Lakers/Kings as much we talk about Lakers/Celtics? Probably not.
You can spot the Hype Machine when one team (or individual) dominates the other, and the “rivalry” comes out of nowhere without any history. Here are some examples of sports rivalries that weren’t.
For more on rivalries, watch “Guy Code” tonight at 11/10c on MTV2
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In the post-Jordan, pre-LeBron era, all the NBA had was Kobe and Shaq. Aside from the Ambien-inspired hoops of the Spurs, the Lakers were the closest to rim-shattering basketball that we got. No team even came close. The League obviously needed to spice things up, and desperately tried to make the whole Lakers/Kings thing happen.
There were some monumental playoff series between the two, sure, but ultimately the Chris Webber/Vlade Divac/Peja Stojakovic trio was no match for the Lakers, with Shaq going so far as to call them the “Queens.”
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Interleague play in MLB began in ’97. Since then, the Yankees and Mets have played 90 times, not including a dreadfully boring World Series in 2000. (The selling point for these games is the subway? We’d rather be stuck on a train with breakdancing teens and a guy who smells like a toilet.)
Obviously, if you live in New York City you take a greater interest, but the Mets don’t even come close to the Yankees. The highlight, so far, has been a ‘roided up (allegedly) Mike Piazza almost charging a ‘roided up (allegedly) Roger Clemens. The people who most need performance-enhancing drugs are the fans, just so we can stay awake.
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Although the schools are roughly 77 miles apart, their basketball teams have barely played (45 games, including 5 NCAA tournament meetings) and never saw each other once between 1959 and 1983. That’s 24 years. TWENTY-FOUR YEARS. Is this supposed to be a rivalry?
Besides, Kentucky spanks the living crap out of the Cardinals most of the time. The last meaningful game was during the 2012 Final Four when The Brow torched the Cardinals. Afterward, Kentucky had its entire team drafted in the first round. Louisville? Not one player selected for the NBA.
4. Nancy Kerrigan/Tonya Harding
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Figure skating is the last sport we’d normally get excited about. Back in ’94, though, it became a major freak show. Tonya Harding’s bodyguards slammed Nancy Kerrigan’s knee with a tire iron to eliminate her from the Olympic qualifiers.
The weirdest part is that both Harding and Kerrigan went to the Olympics anyway. The media trumped it up and trumped it up. Kerrigan earned a Silver medal and Harding finished in 8th place. Soooo it might’ve been a legal rivalry, but not an athletic one.
5. Tiger Woods/Sergio Garcia
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We’ll cover this one quick, because it was such a flash in the pan. Tiger Woods in 2002: The World’s Greatest Golfer. Sergio Garcia in 2002: Not the World’s Greatest Golfer. When Garcia started lobbing insults, Woods did what he does best and won the U.S. Open, leaving that jive-talkin’ Spaniard in the sand trap. The lesson: Don’t wake a sleeping Tiger, Sergio.
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Yeah, we might get some hate mail for this one. But despite its reputation as one of the bloodiest and most rage-filled rivalries in sports, Montreal straight-up OWNS Boston. They’re in the same division, but the similarities end there. The Canadiens have won almost 100 more games against the Bruins, and in the playoffs it’s not even close.
We love our Boston readers, but your NHL team just doesn’t match up. This rivalry is nothing more than a fistfight in the schoolyard, and Montreal happens to be the bigger kid with a harder punch.