Words from the Wise: Rivalries add spice to sporting flavor

They bring with them excitement and drama and often make for gripping, thrilling on-field contests.

By DAVID WISEMAN
November 9, 2005 00:13
Words from the Wise: Rivalries add spice to sporting flavor

ulebasketball rivalry 88. (photo credit: )

Rivalries in sport never grow old. They bring with them excitement and drama and often make for gripping, thrilling on-field contests. It doesn't matter who else they lose to as long as Maccabi Haifa routs Maccabi Tel Aviv, that the New York Yankees beat the Boston Red Sox, that Real Madrid defeats Barcelona, Army conquers Navy, River Plate trounces Boca Juniors, the Washington Redskins take care of the Dallas Cowboys and the New Zealand All Blacks overcome the South African Springboks. Over the ages there have been some wonderful rivalries that gripped the attention of sports lovers across the globe. There was Martina Navratilova against Chris Evert-Lloyd and John McEnroe vs Bjorn Borg in tennis. In golf it was Jack Nicklaus against Arnold Palmer and his army. In boxing it was Muhammad Ali against Joe Frazier, in football it was the Cowboys against the Pittsburgh Steelers and in basketball it was Larry Bird and his Celtics against Magic Johnson and his Lakers. A good rivalry can only develop if the games between the two mean something. More often than not a playoff game, if not a championship one. While it wasn't a playoff game, Indianapolis's 40-21 win over the New England Patriots on Monday meant a lot. Peyton Manning had never before won a game at Foxborough in seven attempts and the Patriots had knocked the Colts out of the playoffs the last two years. While the victory doesn't mean that much in the scheme of things, you can be assured the Colts are glad they won. The Chelsea and Arsenal rivalry is currently out of control as the two managers conduct a war of words in the media. What began as some sniping between Arsenal's Arsene Wenger and Chelsea's Jose Mourinho has escalated into full-blown warfare. Mourinho labeled Wenger a voyeur to which Wenger responded by calling Wenger disconnected from reality. It is better for all concerned that they kiss and make up. There is nothing to gain from such an exercise and there can be no winner but for the editors who to get concoct more and more outrageous headlines. In World Cup qualifying the pre-match shenanigans between Australia and Uruguay also threaten to get out of hand. This is a unique rivalry and only exists because FIFA forces the winner of Oceania to play the fifth best South American team in order to qualify for the World Cup. Gamesmanship seems to be taken to a new level as the two try and gain every advantage they can at the expense of the other. The two met four years ago and the bad blood there has only escalated this time around. Every aspect of the two matches has been questioned and queried. It doesn't matter if an outcome disadvantages someone just as long as it disrupts the other more. First there was the scheduling of the matches. Uruguay is pushing to have the kickoff changed for the first leg in Montevideo this Saturday to be changed after its arrangements with a charter company to fly the team from Montevideo back to Sydney for the second leg fell through. This was after Uruguay altered the original kickoff time of 4 p.m. so Australia would miss their commercial flight back. Australia countered by hiring its own chartered flight back and when Uruguay's charter plans had collapsed it needed to finish the match earlier so its players could board, ironically, the exact same commercial flight out of Santiago it had wanted to keep the Australians off. Then the Uruguayans complained that Danish and Belgium refereeing crews were appointed for the two matches. Australian coach Guus Hiddink is Dutch and it was felt this was too much of an advantage for Australia. As a result of this the Belgium crew has been replaced by a Spanish one. With a World Cup spot on the line, the stakes could not be any bigger, especially for Australia, which is trying to qualify for the first time since 1974. The rivalry can't go much further though as after this campaign, Australia move into the Asian Football Confederation. dwisemanaway@hotmail.com


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