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Rivalries That Never Happened

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Since we've been discussing forgotten rivalries, what about the potential rivalries that, for one reason or another, never got off the ground?

This was inspired by discussion a buddy and I had today about the old American League divisional alignments that had Milwaukee in the East and Chicago in the West.  The Brewers were initially in the West, but were moved East to accomodate the Texas Rangers.  We agreed it was a mistake to split up teams who played 96 miles apart for the sake of a team that would be a couple states away from their nearest rival regardless.

Both the Brewers and White Sox got incredibly competitive by the early 80s (Milwaukee made the playoffs in 1981 and 1982, and Chicago in 1983).  Plus the White Sox had quite a history with Milwaukee:

-The 1959 World Series which came withing a hair of featuring Milwaukee (Braves) against the White Sox.
-The White Sox playing home games in Milwaukee in the late 60s, only to be frozen out of moving there.
-Bill Veeck having owned the White Sox and the American Association version of the Brewers.

They wouldn't be placed back in the same division (AL Central) until the 1994 realignment.  And by then, it was only another few years before the Brewers were out of the AL altogether.

The Brewers have a fairly intense rivalry with the Cubs and Cardinals now.  But with all the history those teams have with each other, it often feels like the Brewers are just crashing their party.  The White Sox were the Chicago team who could've used a true league rival and, if nothing else, the Brewers-Cubs rivalry proves that the Brewers could have not only been that, but they could have been each other's main rival.

What other examples are there of "should've been" sports rivalries?

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Seattle Totems-Colorado Rockies in the NHL as two Western expansion teams at a time when the only other American team west of Minneapolis was Los Angeles. But the Scouts moved to Denver and the expansion was cancelled. By the same token, a Totems-Canucks border battle.

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I see your point about the Brewers and the White Sox. After the expansion Washington Senators relocated to Texas, perhaps the American League should have moved the Twins to the Eastern division, geography be damned.

 

But please realise that teams do not need to be in the same division in order to develop a rivalry. In the 1970's, the Yankees' rivalry with the Kansas City Royals was second only to their traditional long-standing rivalry with the Red Sox.

 

And in the NFL, the Giants and 49ers had quite the "thing" going in the 1980's, a rivalry that for a time exceeded the Giants' divisional rivalries with the Eagles and the Cowboys. Also, don't forget the intense trans-divisional rivalry the Knicks had with the Indiana Pacers. Meeting in the playoffs is just as important as being in the same division; if only the White Sox and Brewers had managed to win their divisions in the same year a couple of times, their rivalry could have blossomed despite their being in different divisions.

 

The missed opportunities that come to mind for me are from smaller leagues.

 

The New York CityHawks and the New Jersey Red Dogs came into the Arena Football League together in 1997. The Red Dogs were well-prepared, while the CityHawks were put together hastily, and had only a fraction of the lead time. The difference showed: the Red Dogs were instantly one of the league's best teams, while the CityHawks were mired near the bottom in every conceivable category, and left town after their second season.

 

The second chance at a local rivalry in that league came up in 2001, when the former Iowa Barnstormers became the New York Dragons.  That year the Red Dogs changed their name to the New Jersey Gladiators; they were coached by the former CityHawk coach Lary Kuharich, and were led on the field by ex-CityHawk quarterback Connell Maynor (my favourite Arena player), so pieces seem to be in place for good rivalry. Unfortunately, the Gladiators had a terrible season, and the two games between the teams weren't close. The next year, the teams hooked up in an exciting overtime match; but any momentum towards a rivalry was scuttled when the Gladiators moved to Las Vegas after the 2002 season.

 

The other example comes from the Atlantic League. The Newark Bears started play in 1998, and moved into their home stadium in Newark in 1999. The following year, the Long Island Ducks began play. I longed for a rivalry between these two teams, one owned by a former Yankee star (the Bears; Rick Cerone), and one by a former Met star (the Ducks; Bud Harrelson). 

 

But this was, alas, my own fantasy. (I used to delight in calling my friend who attended Ducks games a "Duckwad".) The Bears' management considered their biggest rivals to be the Somerset Patriots.

 

After a few years of promising attendance in Newark, as well as the presence on the roster of established Major Leaguers such as Hensley Meulens, Ozzie Canseco, Jose Canseco, Jim Leyritz, and, most famously, Rickey Henderson, alongside a core of players well-known to local fans, such as Peto Ramirez, Rolo Avila, and Tim Cain, the team eventually demoted itself to the Can-Am League, and then, further, to oblivion. And the lack of a significant rivalry with the Bears sure didn't hurt the Ducks, who set minor-league attendance records and continue to thrive. 

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1 hour ago, Ferdinand Cesarano said:

I see your point about the Brewers and the White Sox. After the expansion Washington Senators relocated to Texas, perhaps the American League should have moved the Twins to the Eastern division, geography be damned.

 

But please realise that teams do not need to be in the same division in order to develop a rivalry. In the 1970's, the Yankees' rivalry with the Kansas City Royals was second only to their traditional long-standing rivalry with the Red Sox.

 

And in the NFL, the Giants and 49ers had quite the "thing" going in the 1980's, a rivalry that for a time exceeded the Giants' divisional rivalries with the Eagles and the Cowboys. Also, don't forget the intense trans-divisional rivalry the Knicks had with the Indiana Pacers. Meeting in the playoffs is just as important as being in the same division; if only the White Sox and Brewers had managed to win their divisions in the same year a couple of times, their rivalry could have blossomed despite their being in different divisions.


Indeed.  Those years where they were both good were remembered fondly enough for them to do this last year:

spacer.png

You said it yourself... for inter-divisional teams to become rivals, there needs to be an extended period of time when both teams are good.  That's not necessarily the case with divisional rivals, as they can effect each other's season no matter what, and the whole familiarity breeding contempt factor.

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I'm guessing teams played cross-division teams more than six times a year before expansion, wild card, and interleague, right? Maybe the Sox and Brewers didn't play 18 times a year, but I'm sure they played more than six. That helps those rivalries. 

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3 minutes ago, the admiral said:

I'm guessing teams played cross-division teams more than six times a year before expansion, wild card, and interleague, right? Maybe the Sox and Brewers didn't play 18 times a year, but I'm sure they played more than six. That helps those rivalries. 

 

When the AL and NL divided, teams played their division rivals 18 times (18 x 5 = 90) and teams in the other division 12 times (6 x 12 = 72).  The AL schedule was tweaked after the 1977 expansion.  The AL moved to a "balanced schedule" in 1979.  A summary of each schedule is below (courtesy of Wiki).

 

1969 162 18 games × 5 opponents in-division, 12 × 6 interdivision games 
(yielding 90 intra- and 72 inter-division games)
1977 162 expansion – 15 games × 6 opponents in-division, 10 or 11 × 7 interdivision games 
(90 intra- and 72 inter-division, as previously)
1979 162 13 games × 6 opponents in-division, 12 × 7 interdivision games 
(78 intra- and 84 inter-division)
1994 162 leagues split into 3 divisions – schedules based on 1993 alignments

 

Bottom line -- the Brewers and White Sox played 12 games a year for all but two years before the Brewers moved to the NL . . . and played 10 or 11 times in the other two seasons.

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DOUBLE POST -- I plead computer/server error.

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The Pirates were originally gonna the in the NL East instead of the Braves but this never happened. There was a thought that the Braves could form a rivalry with the then-new Florida Marlins, since they play close and would be in the same division. This has yet to occur in the NL East. 

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In 2002, they were originally thinking about putting the Bills in the AFC North and the Ravens in the AFC East. If that would have happened, a Ravens-Patriots rivalry would have started earlier and went for longer than it did (it was just the early part of this decade in reality).

 

Also, if the NFL would have kept the Seahawks in the NFC West after 1976 (like they should have, while putting Tampa in the AFC Central), maybe a Hawks-49ers rivalry blossoms in the mid-80's.

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3 hours ago, DnBronc said:

In 2002, they were originally thinking about putting the Bills in the AFC North and the Ravens in the AFC East. If that would have happened, a Ravens-Patriots rivalry would have started earlier and went for longer than it did (it was just the early part of this decade in reality).

 

Also, if the NFL would have kept the Seahawks in the NFC West after 1976 (like they should have, while putting Tampa in the AFC Central), maybe a Hawks-49ers rivalry blossoms in the mid-80's.

Where did you see the Bills being put in the AFC North? Back when the league was going to realign, they had seven options with the Bill the remaining in the AFC East in all of them. One of the options did have the Ravens in the AFC East though.

https://www.nfl.info/nflmedia/news/2001news/realignment_scenarios.htm

 

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When the NBA went to its current alignment, I really thought that Memphis and New Orleans would become a rivalry.  Both were in the Southwest Division, both are the only non-Texas teams in that division, both are similar cities (Mississippi River, music, similar socio-economic make-up, etc.).  However, it has never panned out.  Neither team has been good or even decent at the same time; they've never fought for a playoff berth against each other; never had a playoff series against each other (New Orleans has had two intra-division series; one against Dallas and one against San Antonio). 

 

Just didn't happen. 

 

 

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I'm still not convinced the Lakers and Clippers have ever had a true rivalry. It's generally been completely one-sided, heavily in favor of the Lakers (although recently the Clippers have been better). They've never met in the playoffs and while the Clippers certainly have their fans, it's not like Dodgers-Angels or Kings-Ducks where there is a physical geographical divide between the two (not to mention the numerous socio-economic differences between LA and Orange Counties).

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4 hours ago, Walter Sobchak said:

Where did you see the Bills being put in the AFC North? Back when the league was going to realign, they had seven options with the Bill the remaining in the AFC East in all of them. One of the options did have the Ravens in the AFC East though.

https://www.nfl.info/nflmedia/news/2001news/realignment_scenarios.htm

 

 

I heard about an option where Baltimore could have gone into the East. Maybe I was mistaken. On that link, I don't see them in the East in any of those options.

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2 hours ago, DnBronc said:

 

I heard about an option where Baltimore could have gone into the East. Maybe I was mistaken. On that link, I don't see them in the East in any of those options.

Whoops, it was Indianapolis not Baltimore.

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13 hours ago, Walter Sobchak said:

Where did you see the Bills being put in the AFC North? Back when the league was going to realign, they had seven options with the Bill the remaining in the AFC East in all of them. One of the options did have the Ravens in the AFC East though.

https://www.nfl.info/nflmedia/news/2001news/realignment_scenarios.htm

 

*Insert Illuminati joke* Those are the options that you saw for a reason. The Bills' owner wanted to remain in the same division with the Dolphins to preserve that rivalry, and 6 out of 7 options there reflect that. It's been reported before that the Bills and Ravens could have swapped places.

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22 hours ago, DnBronc said:

In 2002, they were originally thinking about putting the Bills in the AFC North and the Ravens in the AFC East.


In my opinion, when the expansion to Houston and the realignment of the NFL into eight divisions occurred, the divisional breakdown should have been:

AFC EAST
Baltimore Ravens
Buffalo Bills
New England Patriots

New York Jets

AFC NORTH
Cincinnati Bengals
Cleveland Browns
Indianapolis Colts
Pittsburgh Steelers

AFC SOUTH
Houston Texans
Jacksonville Jaguars
Miami Dolphins
Tennessee Titans

AFC WEST
Denver Broncos
Kansas City Chiefs
Oakland Raiders

San Diego Chargers

 

 

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23 hours ago, DnBronc said:

In 2002, they were originally thinking about putting the Bills in the AFC North and the Ravens in the AFC East. If that would have happened, a Ravens-Patriots rivalry would have started earlier and went for longer than it did (it was just the early part of this decade in reality).

 

Butterfly effect. If the Ravens and Patriots were division rivals, their playoff history might be completely different.

 

After all, the Patriots and Colts were divison rivals for 30 years, nothing of note ever occurred there, and then literally two years after the Colts were moved out of the East is when the Manning/Brady rivalry really took form. Put the Ravens and Pats together, maybe nothing happens, and we're taking away from the Ravens/Steelers as well in doing so, which would've really sucked. 

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25 minutes ago, Brian in Boston said:


In my opinion, when the expansion to Houston and the realignment of the NFL into eight divisions occurred, the divisional breakdown should have been:

AFC EAST
Baltimore Ravens
Buffalo Bills
New England Patriots

New York Jets

AFC NORTH
Cincinnati Bengals
Cleveland Browns
Indianapolis Colts
Pittsburgh Steelers

AFC SOUTH
Houston Texans
Jacksonville Jaguars
Miami Dolphins
Tennessee Titans

AFC WEST
Denver Broncos
Kansas City Chiefs
Oakland Raiders

San Diego Chargers

 

 

 

That certainly makes the most geographic sense.  That AFC North would be an insanely (in a good way) geographically compact division.  The longest trip would be Indianapolis to Pittsburgh, which is only 360 miles.

 

The AFC East in that scenario would be almost as compact.  The longest trip would be Buffalo to Boston, which is 455 miles.

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They got the divisions right, the divisions are fine.

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4 minutes ago, the admiral said:

They got the divisions right, the divisions are fine.

 

I'm fine with the divisions.  There are a few geographic anomalies, but the maintenance of historic rivalries (Dallas with the Giants, Eagles and Redskins; Miami with the Bills, Jets and Patriots) are worth the few blips on the map.

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