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Friday Cannon Fodder: rivalry

The Glasgow Celtic FC and the Glasgow Rangers FC Club Badges Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images

Good morning and happy Friday, TSFers. Today’s CF is inspired by the tweet that informed me there is an Old Firm on Sunday in the Scottish League Cup final. Talk about a derby. Those two clubs and their supporters plain don’t like each other. From Wikipedia:

It has as much to do with Northern Ireland as Scotland and this can be seen in the flags, cultural symbols, and emblems of both clubs. It was infused with a series of complex disputes, sometimes centered on religion (Protestant and Catholic), Northern Ireland-related politics (Loyalist and Republican), national identity (British or Irish Scots), and social ideology (conservatism and socialism).

Another primary contributor to the intensity of the rivalry in the west of Scotland was that Rangers supporters are historically native Scots and Ulster Scots, and Celtic supporters are historically Irish-Scots. Although the confrontation between the two sets of supporters was often labelled as ‘Sectarianism’, ‘Native-Immigrant tension’ was an equally accurate catalyst for hostility between the two teams’ supports in Scotland. Rangers’ traditional support was largely from the Protestant community, and for decades the club had an unwritten rule whereby they would not knowingly sign a player of the Catholic faith....Celtic’s support was largely from those of Irish Roman Catholic backgrounds and while the club practiced no exclusion of Protestants and signed many of them to play for the team, there was a pro-Catholic mindset among some of the employees. One effect is that Scottish flags are rarer than might be expected amongst both sets of supporters; Celtic fans are more likely to wave the Irish tricolour while Rangers fans tend to wave the Union Jack.

I’m pretty sure I’ve written about derbies in CF before, but so be it. We don’t really have anything that comes close to them in U.S. sport. We have rivalries between clubs, but nothing that rises to the level of historic, socio-political rivalry among clubs and supporters. For example, the teams in the NFC East don’t like each other, but their fans aren’t going to get in large-scale brawls in the streets over their teams (okay, maybe Eagles fans might).

And don’t even get me started on River Plate - Boca Juniors or Flamengo - Fluminese. Totally different universe from rivalries here. The differences between clubs in the U.S. are mostly geographic, not based on ideological divides that stretch back decades or even centuries. We don’t really have those in the U.S., and to the extent that we do, they aren’t tied to sports and teams. Nor is sports fandom a fundamental part of personal / family identity in the U.S. in anything approaching the way in which football fandom exists for generations of people elsewhere.

U.S. collegiate sports might get closer to the level of tribalism that exists in world football, but it still falls short. I’ve lived the Duke-UNC rivalry. I’ve been to an LSU-Alabama football game. And while I’ve never been to one of the historic football derbies, I’m picking [insert derby here] over any of the U.S. rivalries for level of vitriol.

If you could attend one historic derby, which one and which ground would you go to? Have you been to any already?