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Question of the day: What’s the greatest rivalry in sports?

July 16, 2010 |  9:52 am


Reporters from around the Tribune family tackle the question of the day, then you get a chance to chime in and tell them why they're wrong.

Andrew Wagaman, Allentown

The best rivalry in sports is in college because of the real affiliations to teams in addition to the national interest they garner.

Duke and UNC are only eight miles apart, yet the intensity based on the school pride of a relatively small number of students and alumni is embraced by an entire nation of fans.

The only thing I remember about one friend’s Bar Mitzvah is sneaking into the country club kitchen to watch overtime of one game. We were junior high kids with no real relationship to either team, yet something about seeing those Cameron Crazies made us want to either join them or hate them.

College football has so many such rivalries that one doesn’t really distinguish itself from the others. Duke and UNC have won four of the last 10 national championships, so the rivalry is relevant, too.

It’s the best in college sports and thus the best in all of sports. 

Updated at 11:23 a.m.

Dave Johnson, Newport News (Va.) Daily Press

The easy answer would be Army-Navy or the Red Sox-Yankees. Or maybe LeBron James-Dan Gilbert-Jesse Jackson.

But let’s pick a rivalry that goes back five decades and has decided 12 championships. One that’s featured Hall of Famers and packed the stands with annoying celebrities.

We’re talking, of course, the Boston Celtics vs. the Los Angeles Lakers.

In the old days, it was Cousy and Russell vs. Baylor and West. In the ‘80s, Bird took on Magic. And in two of the last three NBA Finals, it was The Big Three vs. Kobe.

The TV audience for Game 7 last month was the largest in 12 years.

OK, maybe it’s not as intense as when McHale clotheslined Rambis and Bird jawed with Kareem. But it still rules.

Updated at 11:57 a.m.

Paul Doyle, Hartford Courant

Let's sum up the greatest rivalry in sports with two words: Babe Ruth.

Arguably the most famous athlete of the 20th century, the Bambino is at the heart of sports' best rivalry. When the Red Sox sold Ruth to the Yankees in 1919, the key was turned and a century of hatred was ignited. It took the Red Sox 86 years before they won a World Series. And for much of that time, the Yankees were winning titles and establishing themselves as one of the most successful franchises in sports.

From Williams vs. DiMaggio to Fisk vs. Munson, from Bucky Dent's home run to Curt Schilling's bloody sock, this rivalry has more memorial moments and unforgettable games than any other. And this isn't manufactured. Players from various generations have talked about their disdain for the other side — just look at the number of on-field brawls between the teams.

In the stands, it's always been dangerous to wear visiting garb in Fenway Park or Yankee Stadium. The fan bases rub up against each other in Southern New England and we've seen how heated things can get when the teams are playing. Even now, Yankee paranoia is passed from one generation to the next in Red Sox families while dismissing the Red Sox is seemingly bred into Yankee fans.

These days, the franchises stalk one another 12 months a year and fans wonder how each team will respond to the other in the rivalry's game within a game. So after more than 100 years, our little regional duel is showing no signs of cooling.

Photo: North Carolina's Raymond Felton, right, gets the loose ball from Duke's Lee Melchionni of Duke on February 9, 2005 in Durham, North Carolina. Credit: Ellen Ozier / Reuters.