State of Origin, once considered the greatest sporting rivalry in Australia, has left a little to be desired lately.
Queensland has famously won the last eight State of Origin series, making it less of a “great rivalry” and more of a “situation where one team beats the other team all the time”. Yes, some of the games have been very close, but the fact is absolutely nobody will be surprised to see Queensland take the shield home again this year.
Of course, State of Origin isn’t the only underwhelming rivalry — here are 10 other contests with foregone conclusions.
The 10 most one-sided rivalries
The Wallabies vs The All Blacks
There aren’t many things New Zealand does better than Australia, but when it comes to legalising gay marriage, cultivating wildlife that won’t try to kill you, and playing rugby union, we have to give it up to the Kiwis. The first time Australia and New Zealand played a test match against each other, New Zealand won easily, 22-3. That was in 1903, and not much has changed since then.
In 149 head-to-head clashes, NZ has won 102 times, with six draws and just 41 Aussie wins. As if that wasn’t enough, New Zealand has dominated the Bledisloe Cup in recent years (more than usual, that is), taking it out 11 times in a row.
They make the Maroons look like amateurs.
Tiger Woods vs Phil Mickelson
In the late ’90s and early ’00s, golf was desperate for a new rivalry to, uh, rival the one between Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus. Unfortunately, the feud between Woods and Mickelson was as good as it got, and it was a bit rubbish. It’s not that Mickelson was a bad golfer, it’s just that Tiger Woods was, well, Tiger Woods, and whether it was on the golf course or in the bedroom, you had to be competing at a historic level to keep up with him in his prime.
Tiger has won 79 events on the PGA tour, Phil has won 42. Tiger’s won 14 majors, Phil’s won 5. Tiger has held the number one spot for more weeks than any other golfer; Phil has only ever come second, both in the rankings and in our hearts. Yes, these two have had their moments — like when Mickelson referred to Woods’ Nike gear as “inferior equipment”, or when Mickelson beat Woods by 11 strokes at the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am in 2012 — but Mickelson will never challenge Woods for supremacy when it comes to the rankings, money list, total wins, video game covers, or anything else of significance.
(Rory McIlroy is another story, of course, but beating Tiger doesn’t really count now, does it?)
Rafael Nadal vs Roger Federer
At first glance, you might argue that The Fed has gotten the better of this match-up — he’s arguably the best player of all time, after all, with 78 career titles and 17 Grand Slam titles to his name (Rafa, by comparison, has ‘just’ 63 career titles and 13 Grand Slam titles). The thing is, none of that has mattered when they’ve gone head-to-head.
Nadal has had Federer’s number for a while now. They’ve played each other 33 times over the last nine years, and Nadal has a 23-10 edge in those matches. That’s… not very close. If Nadal’s aggressive playing style wasn’t so conducive to injury, it’s easy to imagine that he would have passed Federer’s career win total a while ago, and it’s still likely that he’ll catch up to his older rival at some point.
As it stands, all we’ve got is that head-to-head record, and it’s a compelling argument in favour of the competitive advantages of sleeveless shirts and short shorts.
Lakers vs Celtics
Widely hailed as the greatest rivalry in basketball, if not all of American sports, there’s a dirty little secret about this one that everybody seems to have forgotten — for the longest time, it wasn’t really much of a contest at all. Yes, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird had some great duels in the ’80s, and yes, they’ve had a couple of evenly matched battles for the championship in recent years, but it wasn’t always that way.
The Lakers and the Celtics met in the Finals seven times between 1959 and 1969, and incredibly, the Celtics won all seven series. The Lakers loaded up with superstars like Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West and Elgin Baylor, but it made no difference to the Celtics and the immovable Bill Russell. In the final game of the 1969 Finals, the Lakers looked like they might finally beat their ‘rivals’, and decided to celebrate prematurely by suspending thousands of balloons emblazoned with the words ‘World Champion Lakers’ from the rafters. For some reason, the Celtics weren’t thrilled about this, and it gave them all the motivation they needed to humiliate the Lakers yet again.
The Lakers didn’t actually beat the Celtics in a Finals series until their ninth attempt, in 1985, and since then they’ve (mostly) had the upper hand. There’s hope for you yet, NSW.
Harlem Globetrotters vs Washington Generals
The Washington Generals just can’t seem to catch a break when they come up against the Harlem Globetrotters, and they come up against the Harlem Globetrotters a lot. Even when the Generals snapped a 2,495-game losing streak to beat the Globetrotters in 1971, they still lost — the crowd was dumbfounded and disappointed, and as team owner Red Klotz recalls: “They looked at us like we killed Santa Claus.”
(The Generals weren’t meant to win that game, of course. It was a routine exhibition match, but the Globetrotters simply lost sight of the clock while they were busy spinning balls on their fingertips and didn’t leave themselves enough time for their patented ‘comeback’.)
The Generals played the Globetrotters more than 13,000 times between 1953 and 1995, racking up just six wins. They were then ‘disbanded’ and ‘replaced’ by the New York Nationals (in reality, the same guys wearing different uniforms), who haven’t fared any better against their arch-rivals.
Geelong vs Hawthorn
Say what you will about the Washington Generals, but at least they weren’t cursed. The same can’t be said of Hawthorn.
In 2008, Hawthorn beat the heavily favoured Geelong by 26 points in the AFL Grand Final. So far, so good, right? But then Jeff Kennett got involved. Kennett, the former Premier of Victoria, was the President of the Hawthorn Football Club at the time. After his side’s Grand Final glory, he was convinced they would never lose to Geelong again. ”What they don’t have, I think,” Kennett said of Geelong before their rematch in 2009, “is the quality of some of our players; they don’t have the psychological drive we have. We’ve beaten Geelong when it matters.” And thus began the Kennett Curse.
Geelong won that match in 2009. In fact, they won their next 11 games against Hawthorn over a period of five years, some of them in extraordinary fashion — nine of the 11 matches were decided by 10 points or less, and two were decided by kicks after the final siren. It was almost as if some higher power didn’t want Hawthorn to win.
In 2013, Hawthorn finally snapped their losing streak, defeating Geelong in the Preliminary Finals. Kennett had long since stepped down from his post by then, but they say on a clear night, his ghost can still be seen haunting the MCG, writing cheques with his mouth that his club can’t cash.
Springfield vs Shelbyville
Has there ever been a more one-sided rivalry between two fictional towns than this one? Sure, Springfield has its faults, but we’ll say this for The Simpsons’ hometown — at least it isn’t Shelbyville.
This rivalry goes back to the first settlement of Springfield, when Jebediah Springfield and his partner, Shelbyville Manhattan, had a falling out. (Shelbyville wanted Springfield to be a place where people could marry their cousins, and Jebediah wasn’t cool with that.) Since then, the one-upmanship has continued, with Springfield always coming out on top. “They built a mini-mall, so we built a bigger mini-mall,” Lisa Simpson once explained. “They made the world’s largest pizza, so we burned down their city hall.” When Shelbyville kids stole Springfield’s precious lemon tree, the citizens of Springfield got it back — and just as well, because Bart Simpson had promised to “choke their rivers with our dead” if they didn’t.
When smooth-talking salesman Lyle Lanley told Springfield’s Mayor Quimby that a monorail was really “more of a Shelbyville idea”, Quimby was quick to remind him that the people of Springfield are “twice as smart as the people of Shelbyville” — and that worked out for everyone, right?
Coke vs Pepsi
You know how one-sided this rivalry is? Pepsi is actually the third most popular soft drink. The most popular is Coke, of course. The second most popular? Diet Coke.
Coca-Cola and Pepsi have been engaged in on-and-off Cola Wars for decades, but Pepsi hasn’t had very many clean wins. One came when Coca-Cola was forced to ditch ‘New Coke’ and reintroduce ‘Classic Coke’ in 1985; another came when Pepsi — on the back of their successful Pepsi Stuff promotion — outperformed Coke during the summer of the Atlanta Olympics. (This was a big deal, because Atlanta is Coke’s hometown, and Coke was a lead sponsor of the Olympics.)
Pepsi attempted to revisit past glories by reintroducing the Pepsi Stuff promotion in 2005; Coca-Cola came back at them with Coke Rewards. Alas, the Pepsi Stuff promotion has long since closed, while Coke continues to offer Coke Rewards. Coke now outsells Pepsi in almost all areas of the world, with the exception of Oman, India, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, and some Canadian provinces.
Of course, it could be worse for Pepsi — they could be Dr Pepper.
Alec Baldwin vs All the other Baldwin brothers
Hollywood has seen more than its fair share of sibling rivalries, but none have been as one-sided as this one. On the one hand, you’ve got Alec Baldwin — Oscar nominee and host, two-time Emmy Award winner, three-time Golden Globe Award winner, and seven-time Screen Actors Guild Award winner; a legendary star of stage and screen (albeit one who’s had more than his fair share of PR nightmares).
On the other hand, you’ve got William Baldwin, best known for his intermittent work on television; Stephen Baldwin, who has starred in the likes of Bio-Dome, The Flinstones in Viva Rock Vegas, Celebrity Big Brother and Celebrity Apprentice; and Daniel Baldwin, who hasn’t starred in a theatrically released film in years and who was once arrested for running naked through the halls of New York’s Plaza Hotel while in possession of cocaine and shouting “Baldwin!” (Which, to be fair, sounds like something Alec might do as well.)
Honourable mentions here have to go to Mark Wahlberg and Donnie Wahlberg, Julia Roberts and Eric Roberts, Owen Wilson and Luke Wilson, and, of course, Charlie Sheen and Emilio Estevez (although Emilio might just end up winning that one).
Superman vs Batman
They’re two of the biggest icons in pop culture, and they’re set to do battle on the big screen in 2016′s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. On paper, it should be a cakewalk for the Man of Steel — he can fly, for starters, and he’s got heat vision, X-ray vision, superhuman strength, superhuman hearing, superhuman speed, and, for some reason, superhuman breath. On the other hand, Batman is basically just a rich guy in great shape.
But Superman is going to lose, like he always does, and here’s why — today’s superhero movies and comic books are essentially fan-fiction, written by people who grew up loving these characters. And there aren’t many fans who love Superman more than Batman, because, let’s face it, Batman is just much, much cooler. He sells more movie tickets, he sells more toys, and he’ll always have something in his utility belt to counter whatever Superman can throw at him.
It doesn’t help that Superman wears a blue uniform — a definite no-no, as any Queenslander knows. And, much in the same way that NSW’s Kryptonite has been its weak halves combinations, Superman also has a Kryptonite, a weakness that his enemies can use against him — his love for the mortal Lois Lane.
Oh, and actual Kryptonite. Because he’s, you know, Superman.
Did we miss any one-sided rivalries? Do you think New South Wales can claw their dignity back tonight, or will Queensland’s domination continue? Let us know below!