Best rivalries in sports: Survey reveals top clashes across leagues — and fan bases

NEW YORK — Few things in sports are better than a clash between two bitter rivals. For fans, what could be more satisfying than a win over a team you simply love to hate? Well, the answer to that might be winning the heart of your bitter rival’s biggest fan! Three in four sports fans admit they would leave the rivalry at the door and have sex with a rival fan.

In a poll of 1,780 die-hard fans, commissioned by TickPick, 74 percent say it’s OK to “cross enemy lines” if it means they have a chance to “score.” Even more NHL fans (77%) would bless an intimate union between rival fans than any other major sport, including NBA (76%), MLB (75%), and NFL fans (68%).

As for which fans are the “friendliest” with their greatest rivals, the survey finds die-hard fans of the Minnesota Timberwolves (88%), Ottawa Senators (87%), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (84%), and Toronto Blue Jays (76%) are the most likely to support sleeping with one of their rivals.

Sleeping With Rival Sports Fans

Keep the fighting on the field, please!

Although only 43 percent of sports fans think it’s acceptable to get into a physical fight with a rival fan, some cities are home to a much rowdier crowd. If you’re going to a game or watching at a local bar, stay clear of fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs (69%), Brooklyn Nets, (66%), Arizona Diamondbacks (55%), and Arizona Cardinals (52%) — they’re the most likely to support brawling with a rival, ouch.

Moreover, things are more likely to get rough at a hockey game, since 52 percent of NHL fans support trading punches with a rival fan. Although half the poll think physical fights are one of the worst aspects of a bitter sports rivalry, even more believe the digital arguments are even worse. Nearly two in three fans (65%) say social media arguments are the biggest downside of sport rivalries.

More than half of respondents (51%) also agree that more fights at games is another negative consequence of rivalries. Other negative aspects include fans drinking more at games (37%) and riots as a result of major wins or losses (21%). Seriously folks, can we stop jumping onto cars and lighting couches on fire?

The oldest rivals are the best rivals

As for which teams have the fiercest rivalries in pro sports, the survey finds age-old rivals still have the most bad blood between them. In the NFL, sports fans say the classic rivalry between the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears is still the best grudge match in football. In baseball, it’s the century-long rivalry between the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox.

For NBA fans, the rivalry between the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics is still the best. These age-old rivals have actually faced off in the NBA Finals a staggering 12 times — talk about a high-stakes matchup.

Meanwhile, hockey fans actually named the Nashville Predators and the Arizona Coyotes as the league’s biggest rivals.

Interestingly, some rivalries don’t seem to have the same energy they used to. In fact, two in three respondents have changed the team they hate the most in recent years. As for why sports fans are moving on to new rivals, 80 percent admit their favorite team lost too many times to their old rival — making their matchups less exciting.

Top Sports Rivalries

TickPick also delved into whether these rivalries really were the intense battles on paper that they still are between fan bases over the past decade. In all, four of the top five NFL clashes seem to quite lopsided in recent years. Across the other sports, records were generally close — although in the NBA, it’s clear the Clippers simply own the Lakers.

Sports Rivalries Over Past 10 Years

 

Researchers also put together a list of the top 10 factors that cause sports rivalries, according to respondents. Leading the list was the obvious reason (though surprisingly only 53% listed it as a factor): Playing in the same division or conference. Coming in second with 49% of respondents is the outcomes of previous games, followed by proximity of the teams (38%). Here’s a look at the rest of the list:

 

As for some other notable findings that came out of this survey — of course there had to be something about the New England Patriots! Results show that New England Patriots fans (54%) were the most likely in the NFL to hate their rival. Meanwhile, San Diego Padres (56%), Boston Celtics (63%), and Colorado Avalanche (68%) fans were the most hateful toward their rival in their respective leagues.

As for who boozes the most, Tennessee Titans fans (64%) were the most likely in the NFL to drink excessively during rivalry games. Philadelphia Phillies (56%), Detroit Pistons (56%), and Toronto Maple Leafs fans (58%) were the most likely to drink heavily during rival games in their respective leagues (MLB, NBA, NHL).

Yet for all the hate and hangovers that come from these rivalries, there are plenty of pluses. The vast majority (83%) of respondents agree that rivalries simply make sports more exciting. Similarly, 70% believe they push teams and athletes to greater heights, and 59% appreciate the fact that they give fans an outlet to express frustrations.

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