Chapter 2 – Rivalry Defined

One interesting thing about sport is the interaction between opposing teams and their supporters.  To give you first-hand experience with seeing how an opposing team or fan base can impact you, follow along in Activity #4.

Activity #4

Using the favorite team or teams you identified in Activity #2, identify who you believe is the BIGGEST RIVAL of each team.  Once you have identified the biggest rival, then identify a team you see as a SECOND rival, a THIRD rival, and so on until you cannot identify any more teams you see as a rival.  When you are finished with the list of your favorite team(s) and their rival team(s), create a similar list for teams you consider to be your second or third favorite team.  Keep this list of favorite and rival teams handy, and we will use it as we go through the rest of this book to see how the presence of these teams impact the ways you interact with your favorite team, and your rival team. 

Sport rivalry has been defined as “an adversarial relationship existing between two teams, players, or groups of fans gaining significance through on-field competition, on-field or off-field incidences, proximity, demographic makeup, and/or historical occurrence(s)” (Havard, Gray, Gould, Sharp, & Schaffer, 2013, p. 51).  Diving into this definition, a rivalry is something that can exist between teams, individual players, and fans of teams and players.  For example, the Texas Longhorns and Oklahoma Sooners consider each other rivals because they share a long history of athletics competition.  The rivalry can also exist between individual players or coaches on the teams, or between a fan of Texas and a fan of Oklahoma.  In fact, research is being conducted to see if a person identifies a rival team because of the team or because of fans of that team.  Sport fans can identify multiple teams as rivals (Wann, Havard, Grieve, Lanter, Partridge, & Zapalac, 2016), and rivalries can vary in intensity (Havard & Reams, 2017; Tyler & Cobbs, 2017).

Regarding the characteristics or facets of a rivalry, on-field competition can definitely cause a rivalry to form and increase over time (Havard, 2014; Kilduff, Elfenbein, & Staw, 2010; Quintanar, Deck, Reyes, & Srangi, 2015; Tyler & Cobbs, 2015).  For example, a search for “best” or “greatest” rivalries will typically pull up results of teams that share a long history or competition, in many cases close competition.  We will see a list of the most intense fan rivalries in college athletics in Chapter 6, and most teams on that list share long competitive histories with one another.  On-field or off-field incidences can attribute to the formation and intensity of a rivalry.  For example, Tyler and Cobbs (2015) found that competition for personnel and defining moments were characteristics that increase rivalry between teams and fan bases.  Additionally, participants cited cultural similarities and differences as contributors to the feelings they reserved for rival teams (Havard, 2014; Tyler & Cobbs, 2015).  Proximity of a team is definitely a contributor to the formation and intensity of a rivalry (Havard, 2014; Kilduff et al., 2010; Tyler & Cobbs, 2015).  One reason for this could be the closer teams are to one another, the closer their fan bases are, causing supporters of both teams to interact with each other surrounding athletic competition.  Demographic makeup, or cultural difference illustrates how differing beliefs or group norms can impact rivalries.  A great example of such a rivalry within the United States is the Holy War between the University of Utah Utes and the Brigham Young University Cougars.  Many fans of both teams are members of the Church of Latter Day Saints, however see supporters of the rival team in a negative light.  Finally, some rivalries can be traced back to a historical incident outside of sport.  For example, the land dispute surrounding the Red River between Texas and Oklahoma is said to have started and added to the rivalry between the Texas Longhorns and the Oklahoma Sooners.  The now dormant rivalry between the Missouri Tigers and Kansas Jayhawks dates back to the American Civil War.

In addition to some of the characteristics of a rivalry, the presence of a rival competitor made participants increase their playing intensity and training (Kilduff, 2014; Kildiff et al., 2010), but can also increase participant likelihood to engage in unethical behavior (Kilduff, Galinsky, Gallow, & Reade, 2016).  This is consistent with research at the turn of the 20th century that found cyclists pushed themselves harder when faced with competition from others (Triplett, 1898).  This is due to the fact that as humans, we want to (1) believe we are good at an activity (Deci, 1975), (2) be viewed favorably by others (Heider, 1958), and (3) our nervous systems are aroused by onlookers (Zajonc, 1965).  People will increase their effort in activities to meet both of these criteria (Bandura, 1977).

Spotlight on Rivalry – Adidas and Puma

The popular shoe companies Adidas and Puma were originally created from a sibling rivalry.  According to, Adolf and Rudolf Dassler started a shoe company in 1920’s Germany.  The two worked together for years, and their product grew in popularity with elite athletes.  Based on a family misunderstanding, and an off-handed remark taken the wrong way, the two brothers started a feud that ended their professional relationship.  Adolf created Adidas, yes, from Adi Dasslar, and Rudolf created Puma.  The brothers event built factories in the same town (which reminds you of the current Twix commercials right)?

Discussion Topic #2

Think about the effort you give an activity when you are by yourself as opposed to when you are participating with or against someone else.  For example, let’s say you are given a word find puzzle to complete as quickly as possible.  If you were alone completing the puzzle, you could take your time without judgment from someone else.  If someone were watching you, or worse, completing the same puzzle you would likely feel a need to hurry and finish before the other person could.  As a result, you may feel pressure that could ultimately impact your ability to complete the puzzle correctly, not to mention in a way that is fun.