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Legendary Matchups That Made Sports History

Edited by David K. Wiggins and R. Pierre Rodgers

Publication Year: 2010

The sixteen original essays in this collection cover influential and famous rivalries from a variety of sports, including track and field, golf, boxing, basketball, tennis, ice skating, baseball, football, soccer, and more. The essays are diverse, but together they illustrate what is common to any rivalry: equally matched opponents that often have decidedly different backgrounds, styles, and personalities. These differences may center on race and culture, political and societal ideologies, personality, geography, or religion—a mix intensified by fans and the media. From highly publicized and emotionally charged individual competitions to bitterly fought team contests, Rivals illuminates what one-of-a-kind opponents and the passion they inspire tell us about ourselves and our society.

Published by: University of Arkansas Press

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pp. ix

The intent of this book is to provide insights and a more complete understanding of some of the more famous sport rivalries. Although it is impossible to include every sport rivalry that has ever existed, it is our hope that the ones we have chosen to include in this volume will provide a more thorough picture of how and why people are fascinated with...

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pp. xi-xx

This book provides detailed information and an analysis of sixteen famous sport rivalries. Not intended to be exhaustive by covering each and every sport rivalry that has ever existed, the sport rivalries chosen for inclusion in this book deal with a wide variety of sports, both individual and team competitions, and male and female athletes of various...

I: One-on-One

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1. The Purest of Rivalries: Rafer Johnson, C. K. Yang, and the 1960 Olympic Decathlon

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pp. 5-28

Rafer Johnson and Yang Chuan-Kwang (C. K. Yang) were rivals forever linked by their classic decathlon battle at the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome.¹ Track and Field News called it “one of the greatest man-to-man battles in the history of track and field.”² The event is still routinely included in Olympic and track and field histories.³ The 1960 decathlon ...

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2. The King and the Bear: The Arnold Palmer–Jack Nicklaus Rivalry and the Rise of Modern Golf

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pp. 29-48

On Wednesday afternoon, June 2, 1993, fifteen hundred golf fans gathered in a drenching rain around the eighteenth green at the Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio, to pay tribute to Arnold Palmer, that year’s honoree of Jack Nicklaus’s Memorial Tournament. Previously, the committee that chose the recipient had selected a person who had...

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3. The Mortality of Kings: Ali versus Frazier

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pp. 49-68

As with all sports, boxing’s drama depends on great matches between evenly matched opponents. But rivalries in the sport depend on more than just this. Opponents must have faced each other more than once, for a rivalry must be a series of encounters in order to constitute a true test of the fighters’ abilities: the fighters must know each other well. The creation...

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4. “We Were about Winning”: Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, and the Rivalry That Remade the NBA

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pp. 69-108

On the eve of the 2008 National Basketball Association (NBA) playoffs, almost two months before the finals, Sports Illustrated featured Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers and Kevin Garnett of the Boston Celtics on its cover. “There’s a long way to go, of course,” mused senior writer Jack McCallum, “but the idea of a Celtics-Lakers title showdown, which...

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5. Friendly Rivals: Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert

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pp. 109-132

I’ll miss playing Martina. My biggest thrills came in beating her. Yet when I lost to Martina, I was disappointed but never devastated. If I couldn’t win the tournament, I wanted her to win it. I could feel the rivalry emanating not only from us but from the crowds around the world as well. The excitement and the tension ...

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6. The Battle of the Carmens: Debi Thomas versus Katarina Witt

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pp. 133-144

Graceful figures gliding effortlessly across the ice—Who would think that this type of activity would elicit stark competitive fire? How could rivalries emerge in a sport where throughout most of its history the competitors met only once a year at the World Championships—and nation or continent—and once every four years in the Winter Olympics?...

II: Team Games

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7. Bitter Foes, but Marketing Pros: The Red Sox–Yankee Rivalry

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pp. 147-174

As I write this chapter in the fall of 2008 the baseball world seems asunder. The Tampa Bay Rays lead the American League East, a division dominated over the past fifteen seasons by the struggling third-place New York Yankees. Hank Steinbrenner’s aforementioned quote reflects the recent frustrations felt by the most successful American sporting ...

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8. A Tale of Two Cities: The Toronto Maple Leafs versus the Montreal Canadiens

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pp. 175-192

The Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs remain two of the most successful and enduring franchises in the National Hockey League (NHL). The two teams have won the most Stanley Cup Championships and have a rivalry that dates back over ninety years. Just as the two franchises have vied for hockey supremacy over the years, Montreal and...

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9. Like Cats and Dogs: The Massillon–Canton McKinley Football Rivalry

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pp. 193-212

For many of us, high school was about much more than just attending classes and making new friends. Most of us remember Friday or Saturday nights during the fall because it meant the varsity school football team was scheduled to play. Throughout the day, you heard chatter about the upcoming game and whom your school was playing. The big question ...

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10. A Rivalry for the Ages: Tennessee-UConn Women’s Basketball

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pp. 213-238

In June 2007, the sports world buzzed with speculation as to why Pat Summitt, coach of the University of Tennessee Lady Volunteers basketball program, declined to sign the contract that would continue their regular-season contests with the University of Connecticut. Since the two teams first met in 1995, theirs has been alternatively framed as “the ...

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11. Three Yards and a Pool of Blood: Ohio State versus Michigan

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pp. 239-264

Regardless of what you might think personally of football at Ohio State remember that on October 21, your football team was in the spotlight. I do not know how many hundreds of college football games there were that day. I do know that your team, my team, the team representing the Ohio State University was good enough ...

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12. Corporate Cowboys and Blue-Collar Bureaucrats: The Dallas-Washington Football Rivalry

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pp. 265-289

The longest sustained rivalry in U.S. professional sports, between the Dallas Cowboys and the Washington Redskins, evoking the violent conflict associated with westward expansion, a central theme in American history, is unusual in that it involves cities that are neither regional nor economic competitors. No other professional sports rivalry of this ...

III: Wide, Wide World

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13. Imperial Rivalries: America versus Britain for the Davis Cup

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pp. 293-304

During the summer of 1899, four members of the Harvard University tennis team competed in a Monterey, California, tournament and they were chuffed (happily encouraged) by the level of play (beyond the East Coast) in the new game of lawn tennis. Having keenly followed the America’s Cup competition earlier in the summer (during which time a...

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14. This Has Nothing to Do with Money: The Ryder Cup and International Rivalry in Golf

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pp. 305-326

We have seen in this volume many cases of rivalries in sport, but within individual sports such as golf and tennis we often think of personal rivalries such as Arnold Palmer versus Jack Nicklaus or Roger Federer versus Rafael Nadal, Chris Evert then Steffi Graf versus Martina Navratilova, etc. While golf is primarily an individual sport, the Ryder Cup has become ...

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15. The Match of the Century: The U.S.-USSR Rivalry in Sports

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pp. 327-358

On July 27, 1958, the day the Soviet Union was to compete against the United States in the very first head-to-head track meet between the two nations in Moscow, an article about the two-day competition was published in the Soviet newspaper Trud. “Who Will Win?” the headline asked. Surprisingly, the article’s author, Yuri Vanyat, praised the American team ...

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16. Dare to Dream: U.S. Women’s Soccer versus the World

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pp. 359-381

The U.S. women’s soccer team is a winner on the world’s stage, earning them a consistent number one ranking. Yet, with the notable exception of the China-U.S. rivalry, women’s soccer and its international team rivalries have been overlooked by the media and, consequently, remain unfamiliar to the wider U.S. audience. In this chapter I discuss the virtual...


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pp. 383-441


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pp. 443-449


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pp. 451-465

E-ISBN-13: 9781610753494
E-ISBN-10: 1610753496
Print-ISBN-13: 9781557289216
Print-ISBN-10: 1557289212

Page Count: 491
Illustrations: 21 photographs
Publication Year: 2010


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Subject Headings

  • Sports rivalries -- History.
  • Sports -- History.
  • Athletes -- History.
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