After watching the Los Angeles Lakers and the Los Angeles Clippers face off in quite the showdown last night, it made me wonder how the Blue Jays could become more than just a peripheral franchise in the eyes of the MLB.
To recap, the Clippers have acquired one of the best players in the league in Chris Paul, and they are primed to make the playoffs and end their reign as one of the worst franchises in the league (they have only had two seasons over .500 since they moved to LA in 1984).
Last night, they had a competitive, scrappy game with ejections and much bad blood. It ended with Lakers forward Pau Gasol "pushing" Chris Paul on the top of the head, which made Paul state, “[you] don’t touch the top of my head like I’m one of your kids.”
The Clippers have always been the little brother of the successful Lakers, but that is about to change—a rivalry has begun.
Rivalries bring about emotional, excited fans and a great competitive game on the court, field or pitch.
This is one thing that the Blue Jays have lacked throughout their existence. Fans and players alike mark their next meeting on the calendar, and there is excitement brewing (when else have I DVR’d something from 3:00 a.m to 6:00 a.m? Nadal vs. Federer this morning).
When these two franchises/players face off, everyone is on alert, the attendance skyrockets and it is always a great, fearsome, competitive game.
Case in point is the Toronto Maple Leafs.
One of the most historic franchises in the NHL, it has some hated rivals across the board. The Ottawa Senators and the Toronto Maple Leafs don’t like each other. Every time the Leafs come to Ottawa, the stadium sells out, and there is much bad blood among the fans that I have definitely been a part of.
It becomes a huge event, and the city is excited to see some great hockey.
And the Senators aren’t even the Leafs' biggest rival. When the Leafs visit the Bell Centre in Montreal, you will have a tough time finding a ticket.
This type of intrigue, excitement and general callous play intrigues the fans because there is a storyline that continually evolves.
Before I continue, the Jays do attract a larger fanbase when the Red Sox and Yankees come to town, but it is completely different. The extra fans that come see the Sox and Yanks do not attend because of the rivalry between AL East foes, but because the Sox and Yanks are two of the most well-known and famous MLB franchises.
So how can we "create" a rival for the Jays? There are many ways that a rival is created in this day and age.
Here are a few quick points.
One of the biggest hindrances for the Blue Jays is that they are the only Canadian team, and the closest opponent in the division is a 10-hour drive away.
This does not allow for the fans to often drive to and from the opposing city to watch their team on the road (in the case of the Senators vs. the Leafs, it is only a four-hour drive).
Without being in close proximity to their opponents, it does make it tougher than most other franchises in creating a heated rivalry. Let alone the fact that they are not competing to beat their in-state rival.
One of the easiest ways for a rivalry to be formed is playing them when it matters most—in a competitive series in the playoffs. Playing a specific team over and over in the playoffs over a five- or seven-game series will create animosity and some truly fiery competition.
Throughout these series, tempers flare and the games become a little chippy.
There is nothing wrong with this, as long as it isn’t blown out of proportion. In fact, it truly helps build the intrigue of each game in the series (re: Chicago Blackhawks vs. the Vancouver Canucks).
Unless you happen to meet one squad in the playoffs year after year, most rivals are in your own division. Creating that hatred and disdain for the opposing team that you play on a regular basis can help create a rivalry.
With this comes the need for what our good friend Charlie Sheen would say: "Winning."
You need to beat these division rivals . If you don’t then there will be no excitement for the game, no real competitive play, as the outcome is usually the same (take the Cleveland Browns vs. the Pittsburgh Steelers).
There are many other factors at play here, but the Blue Jays really need a true rival to increase the intrigue and storyline of their season.
The powers of the AL East will look at the Jays as their little brother until they show that they are for real and that their games will not be so easy (the Jays were a combined 21-33 against the top three teams in the AL East last season).
Perhaps Edwin Encarnacion needs to give A-Rod a little smack upside the head? Just kidding.
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