By Travis Stahl
Do you know what made Magic Johnson so good? It was Larry Bird. Rivalries drive sports to new heights because they fuel the competitive spirit. Look at baseball, there is nothing more hotly contested than a Red Sox-Yankees game. College football has Alabama and Auburn, college basketball has Duke and North Carolina and the NFL has the Bears and Packers. Rivalries are important in sports and it could be the one thing that is lacking in youth sporting leagues.
When I was still in middle school we still had rivalries and it made sports fun. Playing basketball at Marshall Middle School we still played the other township schools. Going up against Etna Troy or Washington was fun but we knew we were going to win. Our games against Thorncreek though were the ones we looked forward to the most because those guys could beat us and often times did. We had nobody that was tall enough to guard Mark Webber and Kevin Simmons. As a result, the Trojans were the one team we wanted to be on the schedule every year.
Playing little league at Morsches also developed some great rivalries. Playing on the Pizza hut team in 1986 with Jim Duff and Chris Judd we knew we had the best team. But we also knew we were going to face some tough games against the Mets because they hated our guts like poison. When you have that added passion of playing a team you consider your most despised enemy it amps up the intensity and makes the game mean so much more.
The thing that made those rivalries so much fun was that we knew the other kids we were playing against. We weren’t friends with them, we just knew who they were and we knew we wanted to beat them as badly as possible. It’s hard to consider somebody your arch enemy if you don’t know who they are. In today’s youth sports there is not the passion to win, let alone consider some other team your biggest foe.