Cross Town Rivalries: How far is too far?


In the world of sports, rivalries emerge for various reasons. For example, our Paly-Gunn rivalry started due to the two being competitive public high schools in the same city. Our Paly-Los Gatos rivalry emerged due to decades of athletic dominance and fierce competition between the two schools. These types of rivalries also exist in professional sports, such as the NFL’s Eagles-Cowboys rivalry and the MLB’s Dodgers-Giants rivalry.

Rivalry games are truly electric. In the days, weeks, or even months leading up to these games, anticipation builds as fans and players from both sides know that they are to experience some of the most intense competition they will ever encounter. This results in massive profits for sports organizations, as everyone wants to see two opposing juggernauts battle it out. Stadiums sell out, nosebleeds fill up, and ticket prices skyrocket all thanks to the presence of rivalries. It is no doubt that rivalries raise the stakes and the drama within the sports world and make the game more entertaining overall.

However, oftentimes rivalries are taken too far. Vigorous team spirit causes fans to riot, fight in the stands, and disrupt play. A quite extreme situation in which a fan took it too far took place after the 2022 NFC championship between the Los Angeles Rams and our San Francisco 49ers, in which a Niners fan was struck by a Rams fan in the face outside SoFi Stadium and was sent into a coma. While it can be frustrating to see your team lose, sportsmanship is always the number one concern in sports. Always respect your opponent, whether you win or lose. What makes this story even more disturbing is that the Rams had actually come out on top during the contest –– there was no reason for that fan to be angry.

This is the main problem with rivalries, and it’s a big one. Publicly, sports organizations frown upon this sort of violence. However, like the phrase “any publicity is good publicity,” says, violence between rivalries puts even more stake into said rivalry. After scuffles between fans or players, the next game between the two teams will be even higher-stakes because both teams will feel as though they have even more to prove. We saw this in the Grizzlies-Warriors series of last year’s NBA playoffs. The young Grizzlies team talked a lot of trash and played extremely dirty throughout the series, which caused the Warriors to play with extra heart and energy for the whole series. The Warriors came out on top, but not without rubbing it in the Grizzlies’ faces a little bit. A rivalry was born that day. This season, every game between the two has been nationally televised, as the rivalry has brought so much attention to the two teams, and in turn, the entire NBA. Sports organizations are profiting off of bad sportsmanship and although they may overly denounce it, covertly, they fan the flames.

But let’s bring it back home, back to a local level. Five months ago, in September, the Paly-Gunn football game ended in an absolute blowout, Paly came out on top by 41 points. Due to our historical rivalry, our Paly student section decided to go across to the Gunn section to rub it in their faces. This caused concern to staff overseeing the game, and the referees called off the play with minutes still left on the clock. Players were frustrated at the premature end and watchers were mad they didn’t get to see the entire competition pan out.

Fans should never cause such a disturbance that a game would have to be called off. It doesn’t matter if you want to crush your rivals, sportsmanship comes first. Sportsmanship decides reputation. I have had people from other schools come up to me asking “why did you raid their stands?” or to tell me “you guys have such terrible sportsmanship” even though I wasn’t even at the game. Our actions have consequences and a rivalry game isn’t an excuse to be arrogant, and it’s unfair to the players from both teams as well as the well behaved fans who didn’t participate in these actions.

But how can rivalries become less violent? For players, put your head down and play your game. If you’re frustrated, take it out by getting better and playing harder. If you lose a game, there’s always the next one. If you lose in the playoffs, get back on the line or out on the field, and get to work. There’s always next season and there’s always something to look forward to. For organizations, do more to protect your integrity. For fans, it’s never that serious. It’s not like you’re retiring from being a fan of your favorite team (unless you’re a bandwagon). You’ll probably win a championship at least once, so take a chill pill, sit tight, and wait your turn. Unless, that is, you happen to be a Cleveland Browns fan.