Better late than never, right? I was working on something else, so I didn’t have time to get to CF until much later than usual. Today, I want to focus on rivalries. There’s kind of a big one for Arsenal tomorrow with the most consequential North London Derby in years. It’s just a Champions League place and St. Totteringham’s Day on the line, nothing major.
I’ve been privileged to be part of some great rivalries and have enjoyed the heck out of them. My high school and our cross-town rival were two of the best lacrosse teams in the country when I was in school. We hadn’t beaten them for years and flipped the script during my days to beat them multiple times. Not that I had anything to do with it on the lacrosse field beyond screaming like a lunatic from the stands.
We did, however, smash them in hockey my senior year in one of the most fun games I’ve ever played in. A bunch of students from both schools turned up (normally, our only fans were parents) and the rink was rocking. I played arguably my best game of my high school career, which was pretty sweet, too. One of my lasting memories is coming off the ice. The way to the locker room went between two stands, and all my classmates were going nuts, cheering, slapping me on the back. My dad says one of his favorite memories is the image of me just before I stepped off the ice — I paused and took a final look at the scoreboard in triumph (I don’t remember doing that — I think I was more focused on the 75-100 high schoolers cheering for me and my teammates).
As most of y’all know, I went to Duke. So I had Duke-UNC, the best college sports rivalry in the country for four years. We’ll breeze past the fact that my stint at Duke was among the worst (if not the worst) four-year period during Mike Krzyzewski’s tenure. I know it sounds a bit spoiled, but my year was one of the only ones to not make a Final Four, and we went 2-6 against UNC to boot. I did have one year of J.J. Reddick, which was fun to watch, but even his team got bounced in the Sweet 16. Other than that, it was a whole lot of Greg Paulus. Which should speak for itself.
It’s become a refrain for me lately — sports are meant to be fun. Rivalries play a big role in that. For my money, they’re at their best when they’re friendly, or at least respectful. You can have all the dislike you want towards the other team, but their fans? For me, I prefer the good-natured ribbing / trash-talk and the connection you can form with another person over a shared interest towards hating them, too.
What are some of your best memories of sports rivalries that you were a part of? Save NLD memories for tomorrow’s CF, please.