The Biggest Game of the Year: Part 2 (Or: How to Have a Great Rivalry)

It’s been awhile since I visited the topic in writing. We’ve gathered several interviews from former and current players and only just now do I realize that I’ve taken granted that all our readers acknowledge that the Pilots and the Broncos have the greatest rivalry and understand what that means. Ruth has pointed out that Notre Dame and Santa Clara have a series stretching back over a decade. But they don’t have a true rivalry.

First of all, what makes a good rivalry? This can be argued, but I believe there are a few essential elements.

  1. The teams must play each other with regularity.
  2. The game must mean something to the end result of the season.
  3. The match up must be truly competitive. (e.g. no Chelsea-Southampton rivalries, right?)

While the Notre Dame-Santa Clara series certainly fits the first and third requirements, it lacks the second. Unless their season hangs on going undefeated, the Irish/Bronco game exists as an early barometer for where the teams are at the start of the season and as gravy for their fans.

In the first post I mentioned that the Portland-Santa Clara game typically happens only once a year. Of course, one year, the game was played twice. (It’s been played twice more than once, of course, but I’m about to tell you the time that the second game mattered most.) The second game took place in Texas in 2002, the NCAA Division I championship final. The previous year, Santa Clara had won their first National Championship in a win over North Carolina, propelled by MAC Hermann winner Aly Wagner. 2002 was special. Portland coach Clive Charles was in his last year of life.  He had cancer, but several years before had promised then player, now assistant coach Garrett Smith that he would win a National Championship.  The game was tense, competitive and eventually won in overtime by Portland on a Christine Sinclair goal.  It was the first national championship for Portland.

It seems that since, the battle has taken on new meaning. Two soccer powerhouses, slugging it out. Two programs, whose firmly held ideas about how the game should be played are sometimes their undoing.

A great rivalry can really get your blood up, really give you something to scream about. As a Roma fan, I see all the time how intense passion can turn into something ugly. To me, what makes the UP-SCU rivalry so remarkable is the mutual respect and lack of bitter animosity between the programs and fans. (Part of this may stem from the fact that as non-UNC fans, a great deal of animosity is directed at UNC.) I hope you’re hearing that respect in the interviews. You’ll read about it soon.  In this battle, there is genuine excitement, but none of the vitriol you might see from a UNC-Duke basketball game or a Roma-Lazio matchup. It’s a foreign thing, so rare and something to be treasured.

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One Response to The Biggest Game of the Year: Part 2 (Or: How to Have a Great Rivalry)

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention The Biggest Game of the Year: Part 2 (Or: How to Have a Great Rivalry) « The Cross-Conference Collector -- Topsy.com

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