Congratulations to the Philadelphia 76ers for their victory over the Chicago Bulls in the first-round of the NBA playoffs. This now sets the stage for a classic playoff series between the Sixers and the Boston Celtics. Many fans who watched the NBA in the 1980s fondly recall the rivalry and it got me longing for some of those classic NFL rivalries which have become a thing of the past.
And without further ado ...
This is one of the most-famed rivalries in the NFL because only 135 miles separate the two cities, and groups of fans would often caravan to each city to watch the games. But sadly, the Browns haven't been relevant in their classic reboot, and the series has been one-sided. But this is one I would certainly love to see matter again.
The Raiders have huge rivalries with all AFC West teams, but the one with the Broncos has always stood out. From John Madden telling anecdotes about Broncos fans stomping their feet on the roof above the Raiders locker room at the old Mile High Stadium during halftime, to Lyle Alzado not being able to keep his new Raiders helmet on this head when he switched teams, this one had it all. Perhaps Peyton Manning brings this one back.
The Dolphins had some great rivalries with the Jets and Patriots, but the Bills one was always special. Unlike some divisional rivalries that are based on regional similarities and contempt, this rivalry was sustained by the very differences between the two cities and clubs. Buffalo has the Anchor Bar, hot wings and snow drifts. Miami has South Beach, pressed Cuban sandwiches and sunshine all year round.
This was the classic rivalry of the 1990s, as the NFC Championship Game served as the true clash of the league's best team and left the Super Bowl as an afterthought. In fact, the 1992 Cowboys and 1994 49ers each have an argument as the greatest teams of all-time. When you look at the number of Hall of Famers -- Troy Aikman, Steve Young, Jerry Rice, Emmitt Smith, Michael Irvin et all -- it's rather staggering.
The rivalry between San Francisco and Los Angeles as cities is often categorized by the folks in the Bay Area steamed with contempt, while citizens of L.A. are unaffected. But when it came to these two teams -- especially during the 1980s -- the disdain boiled over. But this rivalry has never been the same following the 1989 NFC Championship Game (and the subsequent "Major Leaguing" of the L.A. Rams) and won't be something again until the Rams return home to Southern California.
People talk about the Steelers vs. Cowboys, but it was the Raiders vs. Steelers which highlighted the 1970s. I mean, it got so contentious between the teams, Pittsburgh coach Chuck Noll was sued because he called Raiders DB George Atkinson part of the league's "criminal element." The rivalry also had underhanded shenanigans with the Steelers icing the Raiders sideline and one of the most memorable plays in NFL history -- the Immaculate Reception. And like the Cowboys-49ers rivalry, this had so many Hall of Famers on each side. The NFL would be a much better place if this game mattered again.