February 4, 2013
Great American Sports Rivalries

It’s common practice nowadays to research a topic by googling it, frowns from teachers notwithstanding. I thought I’d take a different approach to the topic of “rivalry,” our focus for the Spirit of Competition in February and March. Instead of googling it, I “Sherlocked” it.


Sherloc is the Indianapolis Public Library’s Shockingly Easy Resource Locator, or catalog search engine, and it turned up a number of books that illumined the subject of rivalry in considerable depth.


For example, Rivals! The Ten Greatest American Sports Rivalries of the 20th Century by Richard O. Davies is about American sports rivalries of all kinds. Take a minute to guess which ones are included!


I of course thought about basketball first – college and pro. Davies picks Duke vs. North Carolina and the Celtics vs. the Lakers to epitomize rivalries in those categories. No argument there. Sections on Coach K, Dean Smith, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson are certainly included, but these famous rivalries go much farther back in history.


Rivalries between individuals – such as Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer, Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, Chrissie and Martina – are also featured in the book, along with pro and college football.


But perhaps the most iconic rivalries thrive in baseball, a sport surrounded by elements of legend. (Think “Field of Dreams.”) The Dodgers and the Giants battled in New York, and their famous rivalry moved to California when they did. The Red Sox and the Yankees proved to be enduring rivals in “the rivalry that will never end,” to use Davies’ words.


Certainly, sports rivalries aplenty exist in Indiana, too. What is your favorite rivalry?


[Bonus round: Seven of Davies’ ten greatest rivalries were named in this article. The other three are in football. Any guesses? Davies says the college football rivalries were the most difficult to select for the book because everyone has a favorite football rivalry.]


In February and March, Indiana Humanities is exploring the topic of “rivalry,” as part of its Spirit of Competition theme.

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