A notable sports rivalry between two of the United States’ most prominent cities will again hit center stage this Sunday for Super Bowl LIII, but LA-Boston is just one of the several best sports city rivalries.
Boston vs. Los Angeles
This Sunday’s Super Bowl matchup between the Patriots (New England/Boston) and Rams (Los Angeles) is what got this discussion going, and the two cities have a long history of intense rivalry that’s continued in two major sports title games the last several months. Toward the end of last year, LA and Boston met in the World Series, with the Red Sox prevailing over the Dodgers in five games. Earlier this millennium, the Lakers and Celtics split a couple of NBA Finals in 2008 and 2010, and the two teams have met a stunning 11 times (12 if you count when the Lakers were in Minneapolis); the Celtics lead the Finals series 8-3, but the Lakers have won three of the last four.
While playing in opposite conference and having never met in the Stanley Cup Final, the Kings and Bruins don’t have much of a rivalry in the NHL, but the LA-Boston rivalry extends beyond the playing fields. Some of the best movies occur in either Los Angeles or Boston, and the two sides are pretty much opposites—LA is vibrant, showy, and casual (even the movies with killing have a more chill vibe to them), while Boston is tough, gritty, and realistic (think The Departed, The Town, and Black Mass).
And of course, the Boston-originated “Beat LA” chant that originated in the 1980’s is one of the most well-known chants and will live on forever.
New York vs. Boston
Dominated by Yankees-Red Sox, perhaps the best rivalry in all of sports, New York versus Boston has a strong case for the best sports-city rivalry. People from New York and people from Boston simply aren’t too fond of each other when it comes to their sports teams, and the rivalry runs through all four major sports: Yanks-Sox, Jets-Patriots, Rangers-Bruins, and Knicks-Celtics. Also, the Patriots and Giants have met in two Super Bowls in the last 15 years, which intensified the New York-Boston rivalry. The proximity of the two East Coast giants makes the rivalry all the more heated.
New York vs. Philadelphia
New York and Philadelphia are closer together than New York and Boston, and the rivalry is arguably bigger. The Phillies and Yankees met in the 2009 World Series, which the Yanks won, but the focus of the rivalry is certainly on the teams within the same conferences in the four major professional sports leagues: Giants-Eagles, Mets-Phillies, Rangers-Flyers, and Knicks-Sixers. Many New Yorkers look down on Philadelphians, while many Philadelphians don’t understand all the hype about the Big Apple. The debate even stretches to food, as citizens of both cities swear by their gourmet options, with the counterpart having simply terrible dishes in comparison.
The Bay vs. LA
The Bay Area versus Los Angeles is the West Coast’s most notable rivalry—which there aren’t many of in an area that’s more laid-back compared to the diehard fan bases throughout the rest of the country—but things have really picked up with the ascension of the Golden State Warriors into the NBA’s preeminent power. Giants-Dodgers, Athletics-Angels, Warriors-Clippers (and more so the Lakers now too), 49ers-Rams, Sharks-Ducks/Kings, and even Raiders-Chargers (for now) give multiple options in every sport, so these matchups are very frequent between groups of fans that probably have superiority complex when it comes to their respective cities.
Detroit vs. Chicago
Overall, the Detroit-Chicago rivalry hasn’t been all that intense, but there’s no doubt that it’s one of the best city rivalries historically. The Blackhawks and Red Wings have met since 1926 and has been one of the best rivalries in hockey. The Bears and Lions have the longest-running rivalry in the NFL, meeting at least once a season since 1930 (though they only met once in the postseason, with Chicago winning the NFL title in 1932). While both franchises have been down on their luck in recent years, the White Sox and Tigers have an MLB rivalry that’s gone on for over a century. And Michael Jordan’s Bulls had to get over the hump against the “Bad Boys” Pistons team before winning their first championship. Hopefully these two north-midwestern cities ramp the rivalry intensity back up in the coming years.
New York vs. Los Angeles
The two biggest cities in America fittingly have one of the better sports rivalries despite being on opposite sides of the country and not playing in the same division in any of the four major professional sports leagues. When NY and LA come together, it becomes an East Coast versus West Coast thing, probably to a higher extent than Boston-LA does because it’s the two biggest cities. New York and Los Angeles have played in 11 championship games, which isn’t a huge number—but LA holds a narrow 6-5 edge after the Kings broke the 5-5 tie with a 2014 Stanley Cup victory over the Rangers.
Philadelphia vs. Boston
Philadelphia versus Boston, the participants in last year’s Super Bowl, is becoming a big thing, with Philly acting in some ways as the upstart looking to eventually take the “City of Champions” title from the fellow East Coast city. The two cities have the most American history of anyplace in the country, they’re America’s most patriotic cities, they both have a bunch of working-class fans, and they’re just pretty similar overall.
Sixers-Celtics was one of the NBA’s best rivalries in the middle-to-later part of last century, and it’s picked up the last couple of years; while Flyers-Bruins have met both in the Stanley Cup Final (a Flyers win in 1974) and the Eastern Conference playoffs, including a stunning 3-0 series comeback in 2010—the next season, Boston got revenge with a sweep on their way to a championship. Phillies-Red Sox is a nice little interleague rivalry where both opposing fans travel well to the home stadium of the other team. A split in Super Bowl matchups, with the most recent win by the Eagles, gives each side some bragging rights in a great All-American rivalry with a ton of potential, as Boston is basically what Philadelphia wants to be.