To the outsider, there appears to be no true rivalries to be had on the Arizona desertscape except the homegrown one (Arizona State University vs. University of Arizona) and even that one has an element of Stealers Wheel to it.
That's not to say there isn't hope to find something to despise that will properly loathe you back. SB Nation Arizona checked in with bloggers from other teams with potential to ramp up the bile production for both sides and found these budding rivalries fell into a few clear categories:
All Little Sisters Like To Try On Big Sister's Clothes
Being the much-younger sibling isn't easy. The older ones get to drive first and stay out past 11 p.m. first and drink sugar water-and-alcohol mixtures surreptitiously while feeling all adult'n'stuff first while the younger one has to be in bed by 8:30 and no mobile phone until you're older and can handle the responsibility.
And the younger kid can't even pick a fight with the older one to get noticed. The worst you can do is cramp their style when they're trying to emphasize their total adultness with push-up bras and severely wispy mustaches but have to admit they're watching the kid while Mom's at the store.
And so it goes for Dallas Cowboys, Detroit Red Wings, and Los Angeles Lakers fans (among others). Casey Richey of Winging It In Motown rattles off the teams in line for a shot at the feathered crown. "The Red Wings fans have a lot more opposition to the teams like Chicago, St. Louis, Nashville, Pittsburgh, Dallas, and Colorado than they do to Phoenix. Although the playoff series was heated and there was a lot of nasty moments each way, I think it was exactly that: a playoff series."
As Dexter Fishmore of Silver Screen And Roll notes:
"It's hard keeping track of all the different teams who think they have a rivalry with the Lakers. In the Western Conference alone, there are 11 different franchises (all but the Hornets, Grizzlies and Wolves) whose fanbases cultivate an imagined rivalry with the purple and gold.
"From the East, they're joined by the Celtics, Magic and now the Heat. The 76ers have faced the Lakers in the Finals four times since 1980, so they're probably on the list. I'm sure there's someone in Milwaukee still irked about the Lew Alcindor trade. You get the idea.
"This is what life's like for the NBA's flagship franchise. As Kenny Powers might say, 'Everyone wants a piece of our sh-t.'"
(Don't take the vitriol as hate, Suns fans; that's pride. Different sin, same level of fun.)
Arizona has taken heat for attempting to cast out interlopers camping on their jobs and foisting their ways of life on this place. At best, this brings Sedona hot dogs and salsa music. At worst, it ushers in Cubs fans.
Cubs fans (of which your author is one) are an abomination thrust upon Mesa every spring, stomping around for six weeks in the most boorish manner possible. They attempt to extend The World's Largest Beer Garden over a 30-mile radius in the East Valley and leave the locals to clean up their mess.
Yet the local hatred for Cubs fans runs deeper than that. Illinois transplants (of which your author is one) also represent another influx of outsiders slipping into the cultural and financial roles that theoretically could belong to third-generation desert dwellers.
Sam Fels of Second City Hockey adds, "Phoenix hasn't crossed [the Blackhawks'] path in the postseason yet, so there's not much bad blood. And we're not a division opponent. I would think the easy travel between Phoenix and LA would lead the Ducks and Kings to be far bigger rivals than us. Sure, there are a fair number of Chicago transplants in Phoenix, and I'm sure that riles 'Yotes fans. But sorry, don't see it."
Just a thought: while all the Cubs fans are in Mesa next spring, take the World Series trophy over to explain to Cubs fans that there are alternate goals to baseball seasons besides beer consumption. Just don't let down your guard and allow Tyler from Wrigleyville to fail wildly at turning it into a PBR bong.
That's Why They Call It Money
Of course, rivalries mean dollars to the teams and their leagues. Therefore, if you don't have a rivalry, gin one up to improve attendance and TV numbers and add in a few special sale items at the gift shop.
Leave it to the NFL to create yet another artifice to sell T-shirts and erectile dysfunction pills.
"The NFL has been pushing to get a 49ers-Cardinals rivalry going for several years," noted David Fucillo of Niners Nation. "Even when one or both teams has been struggling, they've pushed the rivalry into primetime and I think that has helped to develop the rivalry."
Odd personal beefs always help, adds Fucillo: "For some reason, (Darnell) Dockett seems to have a 49ers fetish that has led to him tweeting about the 49ers at an impressive rate. It's almost like back in elementary school where you'd punch the girl you liked. That's not to say Dockett wants to be a 49er, but it's just kind of bizarre."
And there are more creative ways to build rivalries from scratch, as spotted by Eric Stephen of True Blue LA: "For many Los Angeles fans, their only hatred of Arizona stems from political reasons, or simply having to listen to Daron Sutton and Mark Grace."
Gotta admit that's a good plan.
Strangers In The Night
Fucillo sees another trend at work that hurts the potential 49ers-Cardinals rivalry. "It seems like the two teams are like ships passing in the night. It seems like when one team is up the other is down, or at least not quite as good as the other team. For this rivalry to take the next step, I think they both need to be battling for the division title heading into both the November and January games. There hasn't been enough sufficiently at stake to fire up this rivalry."
Tim Callaham of Pounding The Rock finds the San Antonio Spurs and Phoenix Suns suffer the same uneasy fate. "The Spurs obviously owned the day in the rivalry for a long time, but the pendulum swung back in the other direction this past season. That's right, I'm implying that the Suns were clearly the better team last season. This season, we aren't sure what to expect out of our newest additions yet, but we're hoping the Spurs have improved their defense enough to once again be the better team."
The San Antonio Spurs
That's good news you just heard from Tim Callaham, Suns fans. The sweep-sized blow delivered to the San Antonio Spurs in last spring's playoffs left a rival-sized scar.
jollyrogerwilco of Pounding The Rock provides the proof:
"What do Spurs fans think of San Antonio's rivalry with the Phoenix Suns? Well, I think the first, and easiest, answer is: not much.
"Until this past May, that is.
"If we're having this conversation in 2009, then there's not really much to talk about. The Spurs had won four meetings in a row, including the exceptionally bitter (or sweet, depending on your allegiance) 2007 clash that included Nash's bloody nose in Game 1, Manu's bloody eye in Game 3, and then the infamous bench-clearing Horry hip-check in Game 4. Then came 2008's first round. By the time the dust had cleared after Game 1, Finley's three had tied it in regulation, Duncan had dropped his only three-pointer of the season to send it to double-overtime, and Manu had levitated to drop in the game winner. That's when it appeared that the Suns were fighting each other for the rest of the series, with no energy left to take on San Antonio. After that, whenever Spurs-Suns was mentioned, there seemed to be definite smell of pwnage that would waft through the discussion.
"By late 2008, it got to the point that the average Suns fan was so snakebit, that Roger Mason's game winning three-pointer in the Christmas game caused not one, but two fans on the baseline to put their hands on their heads in defeat -- one before the shot even went in, and the other who followed up his cranium clasping by throwing himself to the floor in despair. Depressing. With this kind of dynamic going on, it's understandable that Spurs fans traveling to Phoenix for a Spurs-Suns matchup took pleasure in wearing Spurs jerseys (especially Bowen ones), confident that they wouldn't have to eat crow on the way back to their cars.
"But then came 2010's sweep. And now the all-time playoff series stands at 6-4 Spurs, which doesn't look all that dominating, and brings up some interesting facts and stats. In the last 18 years, the two teams have met in the playoffs more often than they haven't. (That seems weird, doesn't it?) None of the 10 series has ever gone to a seventh game. The only year that San Antonio didn't beat Phoenix while on their way to a title, was the strike-shortened 1999 season. (Actually, that's not an interesting fact at all, but just a obvious ploy to squeeze in a mention of the Spurs' four championships. Shame on me.) Phoenix owns the only sweeps in the series: the first meeting in '92 and the most recent brooming in May. (See, I'm an equal opportunity stat picker.)
"So I guess the last four months and six days haven't done much more than take the edge off the pain of those four losses. And this is where it would probably be appropriate for me to talk about how motivated Spurs fans are to seek revenge for being ousted, but with all of the changes to Phoenix's roster, including the departure of A'm'a'r'e', it just doesn't feel like the same team any more. Most Spurs fans harbor at least a grudging respect for Nash, at most an outright bromance. Grant Hill's almost universally liked, Hedo's an ex-Spur, Robin Lopez is talented if bland. Richardson, Frye, Dudley, Childress -- there's just not really all that much inspiration to get fired up over. Even Dragić, who should probably get temperatures rising at least a little bit, just seems to induce incredulity as much as anything else.
"So, what does San Antonio think of the rivalry? If I could speak for the entire fan-base, I'd have to say that we're thinking that it sure is great that a new season is about to begin, so we can forget about last year's hiccup, and get back to the way things ought to be: playing great defense, getting timely baskets, and sending the Suns home early. The 2011 playoffs can't get here soon enough."
Frequency. Competitiveness. Pettiness. Reciprocation. Bad blood. Controversy. Bruce Bowen. Spurs-Suns has been everything one could ask for from a rivalry and stands as the only true hatefest on the Arizona sports calendar.