Rivalry 101: Why we hate the other team

O's - Red Sox fight it out in August 2011.

Why do Red Sox fans hate the Yankees and vise versa?  How about Redskins and Cowboys or Lakers and Celtics?  Do you take more pleasure in the victories of your teams or the defeats of your rivals?  As a lifelong DC sports fan I have my list of hated rivals, that I’ll reveal in a bit, but first let’s look at why we hate.

Reason 1:  Envy.  Typically a hated rival has dominated your team over several years or decades, building up tremendous resentment and animosity between fans.  Sox fans hate the Yanks and their 27 world championships for this very reason.  Yanks fans hate the Sox for different reasons, primarily because they’re from Boston and they know they are being hated.  Other one-sided rivalries include Cleveland Browns vs. Pittsburgh Steelers, with the side being dominated (Cleveland) typically feeling disrespected by the other (Pittsburgh) whether the feeling is real or perceived.  When I was at University of Maryland, we had great football teams but never could get by Penn State and hated those guys for it.  Our 24-game winless streak against them ended with a tie in 1988 but the hate was there.  It has ebbed as of late since they no longer schedule us.

Reason 2:  Bad Blood.   Here, one or more team’s fans or players feel they’ve been wronged by the other team for years.  The San Francisco Giants and LA Dodgers have hated each other since they played in New York and moved to their respective cities in California in the 1950s.  The rivalry exploded in 1965 when Giants pitcher Juan Marichal hit Dodger’s catcher John Rosboro over the head with a bat, igniting a bench clearing brawl.  Through the years emotions have run high, and exploded out of control in 2003 when Giants fan Marc Antenorcruz was shot and killed in the parking lot after a game at Dodger Stadium.  Real Hatfield and McCoys stuff.

Reason 3:  Competitive Balance:  The hate is born out of a classic rivalry between great teams like the Lakers vs. Celtics in the 1980s, which featured Magic Johnson and Larry Bird going head-to-head in three title match-ups with Magic winning two.  Overall, Magic won five titles to Bird’s three in a span of 10 years and the rivalry exploded due to the greatness of the two.  Sometimes a regional rivalry between two great franchises like Packers vs. Bears can crank up the animosity between fans.

Reason 4:  Tradition:  These are often bitter rivalries, and games are typically hard-fought but are born out of respect for the other team.  The annual Army Navy game features a fiercely contested battle but when the game is over, the players unite under a common bond.  “Go Army, beat Navy” and vise versa can often be heard at the respective academies, but you’d be hard pressed to find a service member that says they “hate” their rival.  Michigan vs Ohio State falls into this category because the rivalry is so old and traditional, but a bit of bad blood and regional competitive balance mixes in here to bubble up some real hate between sides.

Reason 5:  Cockiness.  You hate the other team because they’re so good and they know it.  You hate the other team because their fans feel entitled to win year after year and they usually do.  You hate the other team because you don’t want to see long standing records of your favorites fall.  Here, you’re satisfied if anyone will knock them off, not just your team.  Those who hate(d) Belichick’s Patriots, Michael Jordan’s Bulls,  Tiger Woods, and yes, the Yankees, fall into this camp.

So, with apologies to all my friends, neighbors, relatives, and colleagues who root for these teams, here is this DC Fan’s All Time Top 10 Most Hated List:  Send me yours (even if my teams are on it!)

  1. Dallas Cowboys
  2. Philadelphia Eagles
  3. Philadelphia Flyers
  4. Boston Red Sox
  5. Pittsburgh Penguins
  6. New York Yankees
  7. Duke University Blue Devils
  8. New England Patriots
  9. New York Giants
  10. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

About Brian Penn

Avid sports fan and golf nut. I am a lifelong resident of the Washington D.C. area and love to follow the local teams. Also worked as a golf professional in the Middle Atlantic PGA for several years and am intrigued by the game to no end. I love to play and practice and am dedicated to continual improvement.
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2 Responses to Rivalry 101: Why we hate the other team

  1. Tim says:

    Nice Site!!! I really enjoyed this article about “Why we hate the other team”. Any fan from any city can relate, especially on this NFL draft evening!

    TLouder in PA

  2. brianpenn says:

    TLouder, great to hear from you! That Flyers – Pens series was an awesome one from a blood rivalry perspective and must have given you great satisfaction while it gave the rest of us some great hockey to watch. Here’s hoping the NHL can realign soon and get the old Patrick Division resurrected for some excellent rivalry hockey. Thanks for the comment!

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