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7 Of The World’s Most Heated City Rivalries, Ranked

Sometimes one city doesn’t like the look of another city. There’re many reasons for that – rankable reasons, too – and they’re explored below. If your city isn’t mentioned or there’s a category you’ve missed, feel free to contribute below using #dayofrivals on Twitter.


Minneapolis, that bastard. (Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.) 

1. Minneapolis v. St. Paul

Length of rivalry: 120 years, on and off.

Best/worst fight: In 1890, St. Paul was bent on hanging its hat on an aspect of civic pride: the size of its population. Meanwhile, demographic trends pointed toward Minneapolis becoming the bigger city. Both looked to the census as a means of asserting dominance. The low point (or high point, depending on your point of view) was when seven Minneapolis census-takers were basically kidnapped by St. Paul police.

As The New York Times wrote:

“They were arrested by United States Marshall Daggett on warrants alleging fraudulent actions in connection with their census labors … Every little point in the history of the case has been greatly magnified and the consequent indignation at what was considered improper and outrageous interference in Minneapolis affairs by the city of St. Paul has been intensified.”

The census-takers received bail. “The citizens of Minneapolis,” per the Times, were “greatly aroused.”  Nevertheless, and despite this, both cities went on to commit fraud, so much so that the government instituted a recount in both cities.” As brutal as were the census wars, though, it was far from the only example of civic discord: the fight over grain-selling agencies was pretty pointed, too

Are sports teams involved? No, but if you had “dueling mayoral media presences,” the current mayor of Minneapolis would win single-handedly. She created a “Die Hard Night” at City Hall (first annual, she told me), and then live-tweeted the film. When Pointergate happened, she cracked jokes. She photo bombs. She talks about uploading Merle Haggard CDs and then pivots to – “Going to call it a night, tho. I’ve gotten this far without anyone asking don’t you have a city to run, but I don’t want to push my luck.”

Best Insult of A City By Another City? “St. Paul is like an oasis for me, because I never go there.” (Source.) 

Who is the winner? Minneapolis.



The Bambino. (Photo: Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.)

2. Boston v. New York

Length of rivalry:  86 years. Potentially longer.

How it started: The Boston Red Sox had a pitcher by the name of Babe Ruth. In 1919, he was traded to The New York Yankees. After that, the Red Sox couldn’t win a World Series for the next 86 years. During that time, The New York Yankees won 26 World Series titles.

Best/worst fight: Pedro Martinez and Don Zimmer. During the 2003 ALC between the Red Sox and Yankees, a bench-clearing brawl erupted after Roger Clemens intentionally tried to hit Manny Ramirez after Pedro Martinez hit a Yankee batter. Don Zimmer, then 72, charged Pedro Martinez. And it’s not everyday that you see a 72 year old man try and pick a fight – but then Pedro Martinez grabbed Zimmer by the head and threw him off to the side and to the ground, which was an awful sight to see. 

Are sports teams involved? Are there sports teams involved? Are there sports teams involved? Is Derek Jeter’s name legally pronounced, “Jee-tah?” Did I play Little League with Wade Boggs’s son and still know what a big deal that was even then? (For those of you who might not be picking up on this: yes. There are sports teams involved. It’s pretty much the only thing involved here. There’s no kind of socio-political crossover at the level you saw between Madrid and Barcelona, what, with Franco temporarily renaming the Copa del Rey after himself.)

Best Insult? “You know what a New York accent is? It’s like a Boston accent if you took out your vocal chords, rolled them around in sharp glass and gravel, and then sent them to live platonically with 1993 Marisa Tomei.” (Source.)

Who is the winner? New York is a wonderful city but—Yankees suck.



Obviously the fighting spilled over onto the ice. (Photo: Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.)

3.  Edmonton v. Calgary (aka, “The Battle of Alberta”)

Length of rivalry: About 100 years, though some would claim it’s been going on longer, starting as early as fur traders squaring off against buffalo traders in the 18th century.

How it started: One reason: Edmonton was named the capital of Alberta in 1905. Calgary wanted it. Calgary didn’t get it.

Are sports teams involved? The Oilers! The Flames! For a time, they were the two best teams in the NHL. They traded playoff runs between each other like they were a neighbor asking to borrow some sugar – and they did this for nearly a decade. Also, Wayne Gretzky was playing.

Best Insult? Q: Why can’t you have coffee in Calgary??

A: Because they only have one cup!!! (Source.)

Who is the winner? Edmonton. More cups. More parks. (The Edmonton River Valley is 22 times larger than Central Park.) More festivals. (It hosts enough festivals to earn the nickname “Festival City.”) More, more, more.



Carbs can split us apart. (Photo: Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.)

4. Glasgow v. Edinburgh

Length of rivalry: Possibly 300 years ago. (See below.)

How it started: Possibly over a loaf of bread. The Herald noted in a story from two years ago that one of the first recorded fights happened in 1656, when Glasgow’s city council “expressed concern at the bad quality of bread the local bakers were producing.”

According to Robert Crawford, a professor at St. Andrews University:

“Two bakers from Edinburgh offered an easy solution and also managed to one-up Glasgow – they would happily bake Glaswegians bread that met higher quality, Edinburgh standards.”

Are sports teams involved? There’s “The Old Firm,” but that’s between two teams based in Glasgow, Celtic F.C. and Rangers F.C., and though – in examining the two clubs – one can point to sectarian divisions between ‘Ulster’ Scots and ‘Irish’ Scots, Catholics and Protestants, and – for a time – conservative divisions versus left-leaning divisions – it is not a matter of Glasgow versus Edinburgh.

Best Insult? “Edinburgh! A castle, a smile and a song. One out of three isn’t bad.”

“If you see a Weegie on a bicycle, why should you never swerve to hit him?”

“It could be your bike.”

(Source: Ian Black’s Weegies v Edinbuggers: Why Glasgow Smiles Better than Edinburgh or Why Edinburgh is Slightly Superior to Glasgow.)

Who is the winner?

The cliché is that Glasgow is filled with nice people but Edinburgh is prettier. On the balance, it’s a tie.




Turku Central Railway Station, the site of a cruel diss. (Photo: Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.)

5. Helsinki v. Tampere v. Turku (Finland)

Length of rivalry: 18 years. Potentially longer.

How it started: Turku is currently the designated runt of Finland’s metropolitan litter. If you want to make an easy joke while visiting Finland, for instance, you could inform people that the best place to visit in Turku is the Turku railway station. Regrettably, other than through a natural difference in city size, there seems to be little available information about the origin of this rivalry, nor the wonderfully creative responses it’s birthed. (See below.)

Ilmari Ivaska, Professor of Scandinavian Studies at the University of Washington, characterized the rivalries to me as “stemming from the tensions rising from bourgeois vs. socialist ways of life and, later, ideologies … in many ways, [it] stems from the historical moving of the capital city of (then province) Finland from Turku to Helsinki by the czar in the early 19th century, after Russia took over Finland from Sweden … Turku had served as the provincial capital and coastal commercial center for centuries, while Tampere was growing around the blooming industrialization based on the textile industry, logging, and dammed rapids that penetrate the city.”

Best Insult? Here, the insults levied at Turku might take the cake, as – “Since 1997, students at Tampere have made annual excursions to Turku to jump on the market square, doing their part to undo the post-glacial rebound and push the city back under the sea. Students from Tampere also go to the border of Turku and hammer wooden nails to the ground, in order to make the city drift off the mainland someday.”

Who is the winner? There are no winners here.


 
A Harry Potter showdown between Cambridge and Oxford students. (Photo via Jeffc2u/Flickr)

6. Cambridge v. Oxford

Length of rivalry:  800-plus years.

How it started: Cambridge was founded by academics fleeing Oxford in 1208. For a time, they were the only universities in the country. A natural rivalry developed.

Are sports teams involved? There’s rowing, sure.

Best Insult? Lagrangian densities.

Who is the winner? In terms of numbers of Prime Ministers produced, Oxford wins. In terms of bike theft, Cambridge wins. In terms of needlessly “academic” language being produced that stultifies scholarship–well, there, nobody wins. In terms of a fictional detective solving murders in a specific city– there, Oxford wins. In terms of producing comedians and other noteworthies, Cambridge –with The Footlights (feat. Eric Idle, Peter Cook, Hugh Laurie, Stephen Fry, David Mitchell, John Oliver, Graham Chapman, Emma Thompson, Douglas Adams, John Cleese, Sasha Baron Cohen, et. al.)–wins by a mile. A tie.


 
A march for Catalonian independence. (Photo via SBA73/Flickr)

7. Madrid v. Barcelona

Length of rivalry: 125 years.

How it started: The War of Spanish Succession brought Catalonia under Spain’s domain in 1714. Catalonia drifted towards a degree of autonomy, which was crushed during Franco’s rule. (The Catalonian language itself was even declared illegal.)

Catalonia has sought independence since then. Madrid has had none of it.

Are sports teams involved? Yes. Barcelona v. Real Madrid. And not only is there incredible (and often awful) socio-historical crossovers with what was happening between Franco and the Catalonian region as a whole, but —if we can divorce ourselves of the region’s history for just a moment—where else will you see Xavi produce a goal so artful it becomes a beautiful animation in its own right? 

Best Insult? That you’re not eating Spanish, Basque, or Catalonian food right now. ¡Debería darte vergüenza!

Who is the winner? Barca! Or – as one individual on Twitter put it – “I’ve only lived in Spain for a matter of weeks but already I fucking hate Real Madrid with an illogical fervour.”