Rivalries are one of the greatest things about sports. Well, they used to be. Nowadays, the friendliness and fist bumping tends to override the competitive spirit that fuels a classic rivalry. Super teams are being formed by friends. Free agents are signing with teams that should forever hate each other. Sadly, it comes down to loyalty and pride being thrown out the window. This will ultimately be the downfall of sports, and I’ll be forced to explain all this to my grand kids someday. I can hear my future self now: “…Kids, back in my day there was this fellow named Michael Jordan…”

We, as fans, pledge allegiance to our teams’ flags, but the problem seems to be that the players don’t feel the same hometown connection to the cities and its inhabitants that root them on day in and night out.

Ever since the anticlimactic conclusion of Super Bowl XLVI between the Patriots and Giants, there has been some speculation swirling as to who are the greatest sports rivalries of the here and now. There are, of course, certain prerequisites for a matchup of two teams to be allowed to consider itself an actual rivalry. Both teams must establish a certain level of success. They must have regularly scheduled matchups as well as postseason series spliced in to spice it up a bit, because rivalries become such in the playoffs. There must be some level of legitimate hatred in their somewhere, too. At the collegiate level, the rivalry is somewhat easier to establish, but in the professional realm with ever-prevalent free agency always just lingering there and friends plotting fucking super teams with each other, rivalries come and go, no real chance for lasting effect and historical significance.

Since we just exited the midst of rivalry week in college hoops, let’s talk Duke/North Carolina. No matchup in NCAA Basketball has the tradition and folklore of the Duke Blue Devils versus the North Carolina Tar Heels. The Tobacco Road geographical proximity adds to the intrigue. The NBA has seen more impactful alumni from these two schools than any other. First and foremost, the G.O.A.T, the best player in the history of the game, the one and only, Mr. Michael Jordan. Then you’ve got two of the greatest coaches ever to assemble Xs and Os, Dean Smith and Coach K Mike Krzyzewski. James Worthy. Grant Hill. Larry Brown. Luol Deng. Rasheed Wallace. Elton Brand. Sam Perkins. Carlos Boozer. Vince Carter. Shane Battier. Antawn Jamison. Johnny Dawkins. Tyler Hansbrough. Kenny “The Jet” Smith. Mitch Kupchak. Jerry Stackhouse. Kyrie Irving. Ty Lawson. Stuart Scott, even. “Holla at a playa when you see him in the street!” What? You thought this all started with a buzzer beater from freshman sensation, diaper dandy, Doc’s kid, Austin Rivers?

Without a solid understanding of rivalries from the past and those which have withstood the test of time, we can’t speculate on our teams’ current and future nemeses. With that in mind, let’s look at our city’s teams and the foes they’ll face in significant situations over the next few seasons.

Bulls/Heat and Bulls/Pacers: Outside of my man, Jeremy Lin, the Knicks suck really bad, so that’s why they failed to make this list. The Pacers truly believe they could’ve and should’ve beaten the Bulls in last year’s playoff series. Bulls fans definitely believe we should’ve represented the Eastern Conference in last year’s NBA Finals. The Bulls might have to beat both of these teams come April to make The Finals for the next decade or so. The Pacers are sort of built the same way as us: reliant on team defense, not a lot of flash on offense outside of their leading scorer, a free agent power forward in the twilight of his career, and knowledgeable Midwestern basketball fans filling the seats. The Heat are sort of the anti-Bulls team. They play hard D…when they feel compelled to kick it into high gear. So, so, so much flash on offense…for crying out loud, DWade’s nickname is Flash. As much as I hate the guy and hate to admit it (because I actually preferred Booze to Bosh when this South Beach Superteam nonsense went down), Chris Bosh is a better power forward than Booze right now. As for the fans: I’m not sure most of them even knew Miami had a basketball team before LeBron came to town. Chi Town stand up!

White Sox/Twins: I was raised a Chicago sports fan, so you’re not going to hear any Cubs/Sox-as-an-actual-rivalry-gobbledygook from me. Instead, the South Siders’ main rival resides in their own division. You know them as The Twinkies, and they’ve been a thorn in our side with their little farm system, which is a respectable way to build a team, if you ask me. The Minnesota Twins are the closest thing we’ve got to a true rivalry. C’mon, Sox. Not much to lose this year. Go start some shit with a club, and get a real rival.

Cubs/Cardinals: The Cubs have just sucked for the better part of the last century with glimpses of greatness peppered in once every ten to twelve years, so why would the pattern stop now? With the departure of the best player in baseball to DisneyLand and the American League, the Cardinals don’t look to defend their World Series with much confidence this year, either. With Prince Fielder also swapping Centrals, the Cubs’ division actually seems wide open in 2012. I mean, when the Pirates have a chance, anyone’s got just as good a shot. This one could be on the list of all-timers with the two teams separated by Illinois/Missouri state lines, the rights to Harry Caray’s immortality and Central Illinois at stake, and inspiration to spawn books about their intense rivalry whenever they take the field.

Bears/Packers: This one doesn’t even need a description. Only thing I’m going to say is this: if you hated Brett Favre growing up for beating up on the Bears, prepare your suicide notes from what Aaron Rodgers will inflict on your football psyche.

Blackhawks/Canucks: These guys have legitimate hatred for each other, reducing the rest of these rivalries to mere matchups of friends who play the games as a matter of happenstance. Shit talking. Goalie mind games (LOLuongo). Fights. Like, real fights. I’ll put it this way. Actually, I’ll let Hawks Center Dave Bolland, who referred to Canucks stars Henrik and Daniel Sedin as “sisters” he wouldn’t want on his team and saying there are “weirdos” in the city of Vancouver, put it his way. Let’s have a chant, shall we: USA! USA!

These rivalries have become embedded into the national psyche, but on a world stage, shit gets waaaaaaaay out of control with soccer riots, national pride-filled cricket matches, sports with not only in-game rivalries but religious implications as well. Let’s realize that we live in a country where sports do not dictate what happens politically, socially or religiously. We live in a country where freedom of choice still exists, and that’s a beautiful thing.

I, for one, cling to the old school rivalries of yesteryear, the ones with real history, so here are my Top 5 American Sports Rivalries of All-Time.

Honorable Mention: Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier, Michael Jordan vs. The Bad Boys, Hulk Hogan vs. Macho Man Randy Savage, Michigan Wolverines vs. Ohio State Buckeyes Football

5. Duke Blue Devils vs. North Carolina Tar Heels Basketball

4. New York Yankees vs. Boston Red Sox

3. Chicago Bears vs. Green Bay Packers

2. Los Angeles Lakers vs. Boston Celtics

1. Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers vs. New York/San Francisco Giants

Sportsmanship, yes. But, seriously, leave the peace loving, hand shaking, friend making and hugging for the real world. Lord knows it needs it.

Dictum Meum Pactum…

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