The League

Dan Levy
Sports Media Guru

Dan Levy

The host of On the DL with new episodes every weekday.

A media rivalry


There's no hate between the Colts and the Patriots because it's not really a rivalry. I read that some people are tabbing this as the best rivalry of the decade. The question was posed to the panel if it's one of the best rivalries ever.

It's not even a real rivalry. The people who claim this is the best rivalry of the decade should cover the NFC East for a season. Or the AFC West or NFC North. Those teams hate each other. That's what a rivalry is... not two teams with mutual respect who happen to face each other every season because the NFL wants a ratings uptick.

This weekend's game will be the 10th time the Patriots and Colts have played since 2003 -- far more than normal non-division opponents might play -- but that doesn't make it a rivalry. This is total media fabrication. Even if the players have bought into the 'rivalry' aspect of the game with their comments, it's clearly just to placate the media and get a little buzz going for the game. They can't actually believe that.

If you think about real rivalries in the NFL, nearly all of them are inter-divisional match-ups. The Packers and Vikings is a rivalry. The Redskins and Cowboys or Giants and Eagles is a rivalry. There is always animosity bordering on hatred between sides when there is a rivalry. Shoot, Dan Snyder has more of a rivalry with his own fans right now than the Patriots have with the Colts.

Sure Petyton Manning is the best quarterback on the planet not named Tom Brady. And Brady is the best in the history of the game whose name isn't Peyton Manning. The two will be interlocked in the game's history like Manning and Ryan Leaf were supposed to be. But that doesn't make it a rivalry. Of the nine games they've played since 2003, three have come in the playoffs, with two coming in the AFC title game. You can make a case that they have a playoff rivalry. When playoff time comes, then this can be considered a rivalry, but only in the sense that they've played each other in important games that have been fun to watch. I still don't think they ever hated each other.

To make this game more than what it is -- two of the best teams in the AFC fighting for eventual home field advantage -- is creating a story that doesn't need to be created. The Colts and Patriots haven't played a real, meaningful game -- in the playoffs -- in two-and-a-half seasons. I'm sorry if I want my rivalries to be on the field, and not manufactured in the press box.

By Dan Levy  |  November 13, 2009; 10:54 AM ET  | Category:  Indianapolis Colts , New England Patriots , Peyton Manning , Tom Brady , Tony Dungy Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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You pointed out something else many in the national football media seem to gloss over: the league has gerrymandered these regular season NE-Indy matchups to a ridiculous level. At least when they are playoff games, they happen through a more natural course of events.

Posted by: pk_1 | November 13, 2009 12:23 PM

The NFL actually hasn't "gerrymandered" these regular season matchups. The league schedule's is based on a formula. You play your division opponents twice a year. You play all the teams in one other NFC and AFC division, with the particular division rotating from year-to-year. That makes for 14 games. The final two games are against teams from the other two divisions in your conference that finished in the same spot in their respective divisions as you did in your's the year before.

So, the Pats and Colts automatically play at a minimum once every three years in the regular season (just like you play all the other teams in your conference but not in your division once every three years). The reason they've met even more often is they have been the predominant powers in their divisions for the last decade. They both usually end up in first place, meaning they will play each other even when their divisions aren't scheduled to play one another.

Posted by: gkronenberg | November 13, 2009 3:48 PM

I'm a Patriots fan. And a Red Sox fan. I'd be a Celtics and a Bruins and a Revolution fan if I cared about basketball or hockey or whatever the Revolution play. Or plays.

The Yankees suck. Derek Jeter sucks. Alex Rodriguez sucks. Johnny Damon sucks. Manny Ramirez sucks, and he doesn't even play for the Yankees.

I have a rivalry with the Yankees.

I prefer the BSO to the New York Philharmonic. I wouldn't put tomato in my clam chowder if you paid me.

I have a rivalry with the Yankees that extends to my soup.

But Indianapolis? Indianapolis has no place in my emotional life. Indianapolis is not my enemy. Enemies have a place in your heart. Or your spleen. Indianapolis is like Perth. Who cares about Perth? Is it in New Zealand? Who cares! It has no place in any of my organs. New York, I can hate. Everything bad is from New York, except maybe in politics. This recession is from New York. My ex-girlfriend is from New York. But Indianapolis? That's where the Browns play, right? In New Zealand?

Posted by: Bill_In_DC | November 13, 2009 4:49 PM

Anybody who experienced the Redskins/Cowboys rivalry in its heyday, or who saw the infamous Redskins/Eagles "bodybag" game knows that Colts/Patriots isn't a real rivalry, even if it's a compelling matchup.

The Patriots and Colts didn't even have much of a rivalry when they played in the same division. The two teams were almost never good at the same time during that period (1970-2002). The real AFC East rivalry was always Patriots/Dolphins, and it still is.

The test of a great football rivalry is that the game is still tough, nasty and close-fought even when one of the teams is much worse than the other.

Posted by: acoberst1 | November 13, 2009 5:26 PM

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