What would sports be without rivalries? Boring. Plain and simple. Rivalries are formed between teams who despise each other. Sure Real Madrid vs Atlético Madrid would be a good game without a rivalry - but the passion and hatred between the two teams creates an atmosphere unlike any other game. In full disclosure, I have not attended the Madrid derby. I can say, however, that I have been to the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, Texas many times to watch my Texas Longhorns face off against our most hated rival, the Oklahoma Sooners. [#ousucks] It's an amazing sight to see; fans yelling at other fans, players jabbing at their opponent...it's emotional. It's emotionally draining whether you win or lose. [Of course you feel better after a victory]
It's very difficult, however, if not impossible, to create rivalries out of thin air. What does it really mean to the players & fans if you just slap the would "rivalry" on the game, or give a trophy to start a "rivalry"?
Maybe they've met in the postseason many times with championship status on the line. Maybe there are snide remarks or foul language exchanged between coaches or players..or both! Most passionate rivalries also stem from the geographical proximity to other teams. [see the Cascadia Cup] Some of the fiercest rivalries even happen within the same city! [see the Edinburgh derby & the North London derby]
Here is the reason I ranted about rivalries. Yesterday, FC Edmonton announced that the July 5th game versus the Scorpions would be the inaugural "Wood Buffalo Cup", its name coming from the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo where the game will be played. The game will have some significance both locally & for the North American continent. The Wood Buffalo Cup "will be the first professional soccer match in Fort McMurray's history" and "will be the northern-most professional soccer match to be held in North America." That's pretty cool. [pun intended] I asked if this would be a trophy that would be played against different opponents each year or not, but it seems that those details are still being discussed.
I think it's a step in the right direction in terms of creating interest in matches in the NASL, but this potential "rivalry" lacks what I think is necessary to have a true rivalry. Geographical proximity? Not a chance. Edmonton and San Antonio are about 2,202 miles away from each other. Is there history of post-season encounters or regular season jabbing or smack talk? Not that I know of... The all-time head-to-head series is 5-3-3 in favor of San Antonio.
I'm not writing this to bash FC Edmonton or San Antonio. I'm writing this because as much as rivalries make sports that much more entertaining, I have doubts as to the effectiveness of them when one is forced upon the fans & players.
Trust me, I do want to bring home the Wood Buffalo Cup to San Antonio. It's hardware to add to our trophy case, and who wouldn't want to take the inaugural cup from the hosts? Only time will tell whether this becomes an annual cup for only FC Edmonton or both FC Edmonton and San Antonio. Maybe since there is a trophy on the line the players might play that much harder? Could that be the spark that ignites the rivalry?
Soccer On -ASC
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