Battle of the Bay "Rivalry": A Product of Two Struggling Franchises

Andy BenschSenior Writer IJuly 26, 2009

Every year the San Francisco 49ers and Oakland Raiders meet during the preseason in a game which has become known as "The Battle of the Bay."

However, for a game that doesn't matter, the media and fans always seem to over-hype a rivalry that in reality should not exist.

The 49ers were the glory team of the 80's and early 90's, winning all five of their Super Bowls in that span.

Meanwhile, the Raiders won all three of their Super Bowls in the 70's and 80's. From the mid 70's to the mid 90's, at least one of the Bay Area franchises was always a legitimate contender.

There were a couple of seasons immediately before and after the turn of the millennium when both franchises had playoff talent, but since 2002, when both teams lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the same postseason (49ers in the divisional round, Raiders in the Super Bowl) neither team has been good.

Over the last six years, both teams have been either mediocre or genuinely terrible.

Therefore, over those six seasons, fans of both the teams and media have gotten hyped up about "The Battle of the Bay" because they really haven't had much else to cheer about once the regular season rolls around.

Consequently, depending on who wins the annual preseason game, either 49er fans or Raider fans tend to start "talking sh**" about their team because they won "The Battle of the Bay."

In reality, the fans of the winning team are "talking sh**" that their third- and fourth-stringers are better than the other team's third- and fourth-stringers. I must respectfully say, who the f*@% cares?

As a die-hard 49er fan, the whole concept of the 49ers-Raiders rivalry is just as annoying as the half-Athletics, half-Giants baseball cap.

Clearly, Bay Area sports fans are either A's or Giants followers and 49ers or Raiders fanatics. To use the words "Cross-Bay Rivals" for either sport is the most over-blown statement in the history of rivalries.

Just like in the MLB, the NFL Bay-Area franchises are in opposite conferences and rarely play each other when it actually matters.

True "rivals" are teams that play within the same division or teams in the same conference that often match up against our Bay Area teams in the playoffs.

For example, neither the A's and the Giants nor the 49ers and Raiders are rivals. The A's have a legitimate rival in the Los Angeles Angels and the Giants have a notorious rivalry with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The same rule applies to football.

Even when the NFC West was a cakewalk for the 49ers, they still had playoff rivals in the Dallas Cowboys and the Green Bay Packers. Nowadays, with the Arizona Cardinals and 49ers playing on Monday Night Football seemingly every season, a true inter-division rivalry is being created.

Meanwhile the Raiders have always had a true rival in the Kansas City Chiefs. One could argue that Oakland fans don't like the Broncos or Chargers any more than they like Kansas City, but there just seems to be a little something extra when the Raiders and Chiefs get together.

However, the fact that both the 49ers and Raiders have been awful the last few seasons means that all of their respective rivalries have diminished in intensity and prestige.

Fans of both teams look to try and find that passionate rivalry during preseason, when hopes have yet to be dashed by the poor regular season performances on the horizon.

Realistically, there shouldn't be any sort of rivalry. As a fan of the 49ers, I always root for the Raiders to do well when they aren't playing against my beloved 49ers.

However, I can't say the same about the rival of my San Francisco Giants; the Los Angeles Dodgers. I truly want the Dodgers to lose every game they play. That's how it should be.

If your team has a true rival, then you should want that team to lose every single game they play. Perhaps the die-hard, over-the-top Raider fans in "The Black Hole" always want the 49ers to lose, but I guarantee you that there is a significant portion of Oakland fans who casually root for the 49ers the way I casually root for the Raiders.

That being said, the consistent losing of these two franchises is extremely irritating, because it makes fans of both teams overreact about a meaningless preseason game.

If just one of these teams could return to their winning ways, then perhaps fans of both teams can refocus on their true rivalries and stop over-hyping the annual "Battle of the Bay."