What’s a rival sport?

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Sports that involve direct competition between participants and frequent encounters have the potential to become rivalry sports, especially team sports. Geography can also play a role. Individual sports struggle to create the same level of passion, but when rivalries do occur, they are memorable. Examples include the tennis rivalry between Connors and McEnroe, and the cycling rivalry between Armstrong and Ullrich.

Rivalry sports are sports that lend themselves to good competition between teams or individuals building a history of competitive games or matches against each other. The best opportunity to create rivalry is in sports where competitors meet on a frequent, or at least consistent, basis. Some sports, because of the passion they generate, tend to build rivalries better. However, the potential for almost any sport to become a rivalry sport is very high.

The sports that have the best chance of becoming rivalry sports are those that put participants in direct competition with each other. Sports where the goal is to beat the clock or the course, such as golf, tend to have a harder time building rivalries. However, whenever there are a few people fighting for supremacy in any endeavor, a rivalry can develop. Geography can also help create rivalry sports, such as when high school duels are encountered, perhaps inter-town rivalries.

The most common rivalry sports include: soccer, American football, basketball, baseball and hockey. These too have the quality of being team sports. Team sports are often useful for building rivalries, simply because of the interest they generate and the large fan base they generally have. Also, team sports, because they create long histories that outlive any player, create a perpetual rivalry. A good example of a sports team rivalry is the rivalry between the Boston Celtics and the LA Lakers in the National Basketball Association.

Individual sports can also be rivalry sports. Often, these sports struggle to create the same kind of passionate rivalry that team sports generate. This is true for a number of different reasons. First, most individual sports are not as popular as team sports. Also, in some sports, competitors may only rarely face each other. Therefore, it is more difficult to create passionate interest. Also, in individual sports, it is easier for one side to dominate, which nullifies rivalries in any sport.

However, when rivalries are created in individual sports, they are truly memorable. In tennis, for example, many still remember and discuss the 1980s, when the Americans Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe quite often faced each other on the court. The fact that their matches were always unpredictable added to the rivalry.

Besides tennis, other individual sports have also had their notable rivalries. In cycling, Lance Armstrong and Jan Ullrich had some epic battles in the French mountains during the Tour de France which created a fierce rivalry. This was true even despite the fact that Armstrong dominated the race during his prime years. Boxing, golf, and even swimming have all become rivalry sports in certain times with certain personalities.

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