#97. Reluctant Rivalry


Here in the Dallas – Fort Worth Metroplex there has been a lot of discussion recently on the local sports radio stations regarding a budding rivalry between the Dallas Mavericks and the Oklahoma City Thunder. This debate of course bled into our office discussions resulting in minor emotional scarring as well as unintended surfacing of ignorance.

Proponents for labeling said matchup a rivalry like to use a lot of touchy feely verbiage to muddle and confuse the issue. “The players bring added intensity to these games.” “Things get extra heated and downright chippy.” “There is developing hatred between fans and players.”

Blah, blah, blah, blah…

Definition time.

Rivalry: Competition for the same objective or for superiority in the same field.


Until the most recent matchup, the Mavericks had won seven of the last ten contests. The Thunder achieved only one victory in a five game playoff series against the Mavs this past year.

So the “experts” on the radio and some of my more delusional co-workers believe that due to frequency of meetings and geographical proximity of the two clubs as well as the aforementioned distaste for each other, a rivalry has developed.

Does any of this fluff sound like a competition for superiority to you? It sounds like pre-eminence has been definitively secured by the Mavericks to me.

When I was eight and my brother was five, we would play and wrestle. It would undoubtedly escalate, but it was never a rivalry. He would push a little too far; thinking he was bigger than he was, then I would impose my will and make him cry. That’s not competition. That’s domination. Fast forward eight to ten years, and my brother was now equal in size or slightly bigger than me. 


Now we had a competition on our hands. Either of us might win, and we would both certainly end up exhausted. At some point I came home from college one weekend and picked the usually fight. I had vastly underestimated how much bigger and stronger “little” brother had gotten. We don’t wrestle anymore if I can help it.

Maybe I’ll concede this is a one-sided rivalry where one party thinks they are on the verge of truly accomplishing something (and maybe they are). But big brother is still capable of squashing little brother like an insignificant insect, completely unaware of the impending storm that is most assuredly brewing.

Final thought:

This past Wednesday these two “rivals” clashed at the American Airlines Center in Dallas. The Mavericks ultimately lost, but the game was tied with two minutes left, and here’s the kicker: Dirk Nowitski, the Mavs all-time leading scorer, coming off a week of rest and battling back from knee pain, only had eight points on a dismal two of fifteen shooting. On top of that, Hall of Fame starting point guard Jason Kidd was not playing due to injury. Starting center Brendan Haywood was out with back soreness, and last year’s Sixth Man of the Year, Lamar Odom was sick and didn’t play.

So yeah, maybe this is a rivalry, and maybe next year Merriam-Webster will alter the definition of the word to better suit people’s skewed perspectives.

Does this sound like a rivalry to you? How do you define rivalry?



3 thoughts on “#97. Reluctant Rivalry

  1. Ignorant? Delusional? Thems is fighting’ words!. I didn’t read anything in that definition of rivalry that didn’t apply. "Same objective" – win championship. "Same field" – NBA. Kind of a robotic definition of rivalry, though. Needs some emotion, despite the softness of that word ;). Rivalries aren’t defined by records, just a mutual dislike between parties. They do require time to develop, but it seems the Mavs/Thunder are on the right track. Only time will tell, though. After looking at the numbers, it isn’t as one-sided as I thought reading this. Disregarding playoffs, the Mavs lead the Thunder 7-6. If you toss in preseason games (which I would rather not) Thunder lead 8-7. This is since the Thunder’s inaugural season in ’08-’09.

  2. Thanks for the comment Hal. Good points and admittedly my data may have been slightly biased. (Gotta make sure the stats back up your position) I agree they have the same objective, and they are certainly in the same field, but superiority? I don’t see it yet. I also agree we shouldn’t count preseason. The starters often play limited minutes, but if we are hinging the discussion on "objective" in the "field", you have to include playoffs. And since the postseason is the only thing that does matter, that 4 and 1 record should have added significance given the pressure of what is at stake. Let’s leave emotion out of it, unless it serves my own point of view. Haha.

  3. if cole got in the game, this is not a rivalry game. however if he stayed on the bench, we’ll have to look into this issue further

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