I don’t know what got me thinking about this the other day, but what happened to true rivalries in professional American sports? I don’t think it exists anymore. As much as I like free agency, I think it ruined rivalries. The history is no longer passed on from player to player, year to year because players switch teams every few years. Yes, there are still some cities that will hate other cities/teams and always will. I’m sure the fans in Baltimore will always hate the Indianapolis Colts, fans in Seattle will never root for the Oklahoma City Thunder, Yankee fans will always hate Red Sox fans, but I don’t think it goes past that. Maybe hockey still has some, but when divisions started getting switched around, rivalries suffered.
Growing up I always looked forward to football season. I knew there were three weeks that were going to matter more than any three weeks of the year. The Ohio State Buckeyes would play that team from up north and the Washington Redskins would play the Dallas Cowboys twice. If the Redskins lost to the Cowboys, you could expect a tough test in class the next day, but when they won, class was much more fun. Those were two of the great rivalries in all of sports. Now, only one of them really matters. Since Jerry Jones, Dan Snyder and free agency entered the picture, the Redskins/Cowboys rivalry really doesn’t mean much. Sure, there are still fans like myself who HATE the Cowboys and always will, but it pains me to hear players talk about the rivalry. They weren’t part of it, don’t understand it and I don’t think they care. I wish it could go back to the days of this...
Rivalries still exist in college sports and I think they always will. Nothing trumps school spirit. I know former Miami Hurricane football players used to call their old dorm rooms randomly to talk to current players and explain to them what it meant to be a Hurricane. There are probably other schools that do that as well and it’s something that keeps tradition alive. I used to work with a guy who went to Ohio State and when we started doing some painting around the office, it was decided that some of it would be done in yellow and blue. We both cringed and shook our heads when asked our opinion of it.
Today’s fan I think is more a fan of a particular player than a team. It’s not that they don’t have a favorite team and aren’t loyal to it, but the priority is to the player. I still look forward to those three weeks every year and those three games, for me, carry more weight, but I think if you ask a current, average Redskins’ fan, what game (or games) they look forward to the most each year, they would need to look at the schedule first and that’s just sad.