Rivalry, shmivalry

This post, and in particular, this particular comment, got me thinking: we know and love the Islanders-Rangers rivalry.  It is clearly one of the best in pro sports, hitting all the hallmarks of a great rivalry:

  1. There's something at stake - usually playoff series or spots, but always pride and bragging rights on top of that.
  2. The teams are in the same city or region, so there's a lot of fan mingling, especially in each other's home arena.
  3. The teams have a history of great games against each other.
  4. The teams have other links, such as one employing the Public Enemy #1 of the other (or of the whole sport), or of a beloved player who eventually "turned traitor."

If one of those four elements is missing, but the other three take up the slack in intensity, then you have a great rivalry - for example, the Celtics and Lakers are obviously on opposite coasts, but they meet in the Finals A LOT, they have national followings (as thus the real chance fans can annoy each other in person), and they have a huge history together.  It's intense.

Below the jump, however, I submit for your consideration some dud rivalries - these are the games that should be all-out border wars but usually make nary a ripple in the great ocean of athletic competition.

Sticking first with hockey - I've always wondered about the Lightning and Panthers.  They are each other's closest geographic rival, they play six times a season, it should go somewhere.... but it doesn't.  Usually they're both terrible teams, nothing's at stake, and I don't recall a single big moment between the two (no big fight or huge win), nor a player who's "jumped the fence."  Hence, it's a big fizzle.  (In contrast, think about how big the Rays and Red Sox got all of a sudden, when there werer playoff spots at stake and a big bench-clearing throwdown.  That'll do nicely, thanks.)

Second is Columbus and Pittsburgh.  These two teams should loathe each other, the same way the Browns and Steelers and Bengals and Steelers do.  But in their infinite density, the Board of Governors stuck the Blue Jackets in the opposite conference, so they only play each other sparingly; worse, the Jacks have been relentlessly terrible for nearly their whole ten+ years, failing to win a single playoff game in all that time.  Rivalry FAIL.

Third, to me, are the Sharks, Kings, and Ducks.  They share a division, a state, and usually at least two of them are good at the same time.  So what's going on?  Are folks too laid-back around there?  Is all the LA hate focused exclusively on the Celtics and USC?  I mean, you've got the Dodgers and Giants thing, so they DO have it in them.  Or is it that the Sharks inspire only pity and sadness because of their playoff history - is it like hating a baby bunny or something?  Even the Battle of California says it's dedicated to "the NHL's most pathetic rivalry."  Huh?  Someone help me out here.

Any other shoulda, woulda rivals you guys can think of?

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