On Rivalry

Rivalries are, by definition, competitive Even rivalries that go through periods of domination by one team, historically the teams are fully equal (think: OSU v. Michigan; NYY v. Red Sox). There are nontraditional rivalries that are born specifically from two teams dominating an entire league or conference for an extended period of time (think: Colts v. Pats; Lakers v. Celtics). Finally, you have the traditional rivalries, bred out of regional pride and neighborly hatred (think: NC v. Duke; Ravens v. Steelers)

The rivalries mentioned thus far have attributed to the East Coast/West Coast bias. In the upper Midwest, there is no bigger or more long-term rivalry than Packers/Bears. If you lived in this area, you’d say there is no rivalry that spans more sports, wastes more productivity at the water cooler, or frustrates more fans than Minnesota and Wisconsin. It crosses nearly every sport, nearly every discussion. In the last 18 months, I have debated Wisconsinites over:

  • Who has the colder winters?
  • Which is the better state to live?
  • Who ranks higher in national rankings?
  • Which state has more Forbes 500 businesses?
  • Who has a more annoying fan base?

This rivalry is deep. Its combatants are intense and passionate. There is no general. The war is chaotic and vindictive.
I have carried the torch, brandished a weapon, debated from the pulpit. But there is no more war to fight. It may have been a ruse the whole time, a faux competition because we share a border. The faithful will label me a Benedict Arnold, but it doesn’t change the truth.

Wisconsin has won the battle, they’ve won the war, now there is nothing more than the slaughter.

Here it is, in stark detail (in order of importance):

NFL – Vikings vs. Packers

I’m going to start with stats that give Viking fans hope, whether they even know about them or not. These are compiled stats since the modern era of the NFL began; when the NFL wasn’t just 6, 8, or 10 rag-tag teams playing a sport that had no developing youth.

The Vikings franchise ranks:
5th in wins and win pct.
3rd in playoff births
4th in division titles
2nd in all-pro players
4th in winning seasons

The order of greatness in the NFL since 1970 is quite clear: Pittsburgh, Dallas, Minnesota, Miami and San Francisco.

That is if you compare the totality of work, and all games were created equal.

But all games are not created equal.

The Packers win games when they matter.

Even as rivalries go, this has been one of the best in terms of competition — as through 100 meetings, the Packers hold a 51-48-1 advantage. At one point recently, total yardage, points, turnovers, time of possessions between these two team were all within mere percents.

Guess what? It doesn’t matter. Minnesota holds only 1 NFL championship, and it was one of the four before the merger during the Super Bowl era, so it doesn’t count — like the 7 won by the Packers prior to Super Bowl I. The Packers hold a grand total of 13 championships (11 prior to 1970).

In contrast, the Vikings have the distinction of losing Super Bowl IV by 16 points after being favored by 13 — one of the biggest upsets in Super Bowl history (until 2007). The “Hail Mary” pass was named after another ridiculous turn of luck. Then, you have the Herschel Walker trade, which spurred 3 titles for Dallas — with Hall of Fame players that were drafted with Viking picks. You have the Gary Anderson miss, the only miss of the season, the only kick he actually needed to make in 1998.

And, 12 men in the huddle. If it wasn’t for bad luck…

In totality, the Vikings have been a successful franchise…with no championships to show for it. If anything it shows the failure.

NCAA(F): Badgers vs. Gophers

You could argue that this should even be above the Packers-Vikings. However, as good as the Badgers have been in the last decade, these two teams do not compete with other rivalries in college football that get all the attention. Pack-Vikes gets a ton of attention and gets the respect it deserves.

Regardless, facts are facts — and the fact is that Badgers/Gophers is the oldest rivalry in college football. These two annoying rodents have met every season since 1907, with 120 matches dating back to 1890. As if it would surprise you, this series is razor close to, with a Gopher edge at 59-53-8.

I am consistent and honest in my principles. So, when I constantly argue with Packer fans that titles won in the 1920’s are not even in the same league as titles won now; or that players like Babe Ruth would not make a roster today; that sports continue to get better through eras and that it is not comparable, I mean it. This holds true for the “legendary” Gopher football program. Yes, you were epic in the ’30s and ’40s; but now you are, by yourself, making the Big Ten a joke.

On the flip, the Badger football program is becoming elite. While the Big Ten is the most overrated football conference in football, this program is one of the only up-and-coming programs in the league. The SEC boasts over 6 elite programs, the Big 12 has four, the Pac-12 has four, and I will stand by my claim that Ohio State is the only elite program in the Big Ten.
However, with seasons of 11-2, 10-3, 7-6, 9-4, 12-1, and 10-3 since 2005 — the Badger program is becoming elite. By elite, I mean this: There are some programs that never have a 7-6 season, an elite college football program would fire their coach and hang players after a 9-4 season. OSU is the only one in the Big Ten that fits this description. Technically, so does Nebraska — but they are on Big Ten probation for 5 years, they don’t just inherit the label in their first season.

While the head-to-head may be 59-53 for the Gophers, the Badgers have won all but 2 games in the last decade-plus, and will likely win the next ten. This isn’t even a contest.

MLB: Brewers vs. Twins

This one will be impossible to sell to Twins fans, and for good measure. But I’ll still do it.

This really isn’t a rivalry, and this article from BleacherReport.com puts a great local feel on why that’s the case. Two fan bases that focus on much more juicy rivals, and the franchises are both small-market that operate very similarly. Unlike any other Minnesota-Wisconsin sports linkage, there is a mutual respect between these fan bases, especially since they play in two separate leagues.

Back when MLB wasn’t about sapping as much money out of us as possible, these two teams played in the same division and there was some rivalry starting to brew. The Brew Crew was still young, and they just were never good. But the Brewers finished 4th or worse in well over half the season, while the Twins won two championships and played in 4 World Series.

Even though it isn’t a true rivalry, the record between these two teams are very reminiscent of a rivalry. The Twins hold the lead, if that’s what you’d call it, 211-206.

Guess what? The Twins invented the model of how a small-market team can operate and be successful and they are failing miserably. Either finishing last or winning a division and then taking a deuce in the playoffs. Meanwhile, the Brewers stole the Twins model and are doing it right.

NBA: Timberwolves vs. Bucks

It’s the NBA. Who cares? The fans don’t even care.

NHL: Wild

There is a very interesting project that polled regional identies, including sports team. When you look at Wisconsin, most residents, by a 2-to-1 margin, root for the Minnesota Wild. Coming in a far second and third are the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks. In discussing the border rivalry, I’m not going to compare the Wild to these two teams, because these are the other two cities in states that encompass the true four-state northern Midwest rivalries.

I could discuss college hockey, which is the greatest sport that no one pays attention to. But since no one pays attention, I’m going to leave it alone. Both states have great programs, but Minnesota is handicapped by the fact that there are 4 other D-1 schools in Minnesota for hockey that steal players. If SCSU, UMD, Mankato, and UND (yes, North Dakota is a territory of Minnesota, let’s be honest). So, this discussion is moot.

Thus, by default, Minnesota wins in the NHL.

Because Wisconsin doesn’t have a team.

So, what have we learned from this experiment?
That when Wisconsin doesn’t show up, Minnesota can win.

Good to know.

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About Creed

I often ramble. What some people can eloquently say in 10 words, when most people would take 25, I will intentionally take 100. It's always been this way. This blog is mainly to spare my friends, family, and co-workers from my epic long rants.
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