Imagine this: you are in a vast stadium, surrounded by thousands and thousands of passionate fans wearing their team color who are screaming at the top of their lungs. Fans from both sides of the rivalry are here to cheer on their team, maybe with friends or family. You feel exhilarated. The energy in these games is unmatched by any others. The emotion, history, and skill surrounding the rivalry matches are what makes them so special. But how did these rivalries come to be?

One of the biggest rivalries in sports history is the Michigan vs. Ohio State rivalry. This rivalry originally started as a real land war. The Toledo War was a fight over the Michigan/Ohio border. Although the conflict played out with no deaths, it was still fresh in the teams’ minds when they began competing. Their rivalry became an outlet for their anger.

The first matchup between these two teams took place in 1897. Michigan started the rivalry overpowering Ohio State, but since then, both teams have been equally prominent. Now, they are both prominent teams in the Big Ten (a college football conference) and are often both in the running for the college football championship. Their annual game is called “The Game,” which is the biggest event of the year for many fans. One such event was deemed the “Game of the Century,” which took place in 2006 when Michigan and Ohio State played in the championship game. The preseason rankings had Ohio State at #1 and Michigan at #14, but as the season progressed, Michigan came back and eventually landed at #2, while Ohio still reigned at the top. There was understandably much hype around this game. It was very close, up until the end when Ohio State pulled out with a 42-39 win after a failed Michigan onside kick.

Next, one of the biggest rivalries in basketball is the University of North Carolina vs. Duke rivalry. Although both programs are currently struggling, historically, these two teams have been dominant in the ACC and the NCAA. Their relevance has contributed significantly to their rivalry, as skilled teams are more likely to form strong rivalries.

These teams have many passionate fans in their students. In the past, Duke students used to camp out days in advance hoping to get admission to the game. These were called “Cameron Crazies,” named after Duke's stadium, the Cameron Indoor Stadium. Now, students must get their tickets months in advance if they want to see the two teams head-to-head live. One of the biggest moments in this rivalry took place in the 2022 NCAA tournament, which was arguably the last time both teams were very relevant. Duke was a #2 seed and UNC was a #8 seed, and they matched up in the Final Four. Not only was this their first time meeting this late in the tournament, it was their first time meeting in the tournament, ever. Furthermore, 2022 was Mike Krzyzewski’s (Coach K) last season. UNC had beaten them in his last home game right before the tournament, but they were still the underdogs because of their seed. UNC ended up taking the win 81-77, sending Coach K home from his last game ever with a loss to his rival. Although UNC lost to Kansas in the championship game, this win was still a triumph.

Finally, I had to include our hometown rivalry: Red Sox-Yankees. This rivalry started in 1919 when Harry Frazze traded Babe Ruth to the Yankees. This started a “curse” known as the “curse of the bambino,” which is believed to have caused a Red Sox World Series drought lasting 86 years. The rivalry has also been very heated, with many fights. One of the most famous was on July 24th, 2004. Bronson Arroyo, a Boston pitcher, hit Alex Rodriguez in the arm when pitching, and Rodriguez started yelling and shouting profanities at him. Jason Varitek (a Boston catcher) went after Rodriguez, starting a big fight. They ended up having to clear the bleachers.

Passionate fans, proximity, and skill are the common threads between these diverse rivalries. They have all been relevant, either past or present, and care about doing well in these games to not only improve their standing in the league but also to please their fans. In addition, they are close to each other, whether being in the same section of the United States, sharing a border, or being just down the road. Either way, rivalries are imperative when it comes to fueling fans, the sports industry, and entertainment in general. There is nothing like rooting for your team during a rivalry game with other passionate fans surrounding you.