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Raging rivalries

With Major League Baseball kicking off its season with its flagship matchup last Sunday between the Yankees and Red Sox, I decided to try to compile a list of the top 10 American team sports rivalries, with suggestions from friends and Cavalier Daily sports staffers. Such a venture proved to be extremely tough. So tough, in fact, that I realized near the end of compiling the list I had picked 11 rivalries, not 10. There are scores of superb rivalries that get left off such a list, and it was therefore difficult to decide which ones would make the cut. I wanted college-aged sports enthusiasts to be able to relate to this list but also wanted it to have some historical significance. I am most definitely not the authority on this, so please feel free to create your own lists in the comments below and debate among yourselves.

First, here are three rivalries I really like, but aren't in the upper echelon for one reason or another: Auburn-Alabama in football, Connecticut-Tennessee in women's basketball and Cubs-Cardinals in baseball.

No. 11 - Lakers-Celtics; first meeting: 1948; all-time series: Lakers 192-147

This series is distinct because he rivalry has been defined by the teams' postseason meetings. These two storied franchises - which have won a combined 32 of the 63 NBA titles - have met 11 times in the NBA Finals with the Celtics winning nine. The heyday of the rivalry was during the 1980s, when the Lakers' Magic Johnson and the Celtics' Larry Bird - who had played against each other in the 1979 college championship - starred against each other in three finals. The rivalry died down after their retirement but breaks into the top 10 with the return to prominence of both teams. The Celtics defeated the Lakers in the 2008 finals, while the Lakers beat the Magic to capture the 2009 championship.

No. 10 - Canadiens-Maple Leafs; first meeting: 1917; all-time series: Canadiens 373-306-88

Since the United States actually has been paying a little more attention to hockey the last couple years, I included arguably its best rivalry, which happens to be a bigger deal to our neighbors up north. The battle between these two clubs is the oldest in the NHL and not only pits Canada's two largest cities against each other, but two different cultures as well: Toronto is Anglo-Canadian and Montreal is Franco-Canadian. Additionally, the teams are wildly successful, having won a combined 37 Stanley Cups.

No. 9 - Oklahoma-Texas football; first meeting: 1900; all-time series: Texas 59-40-5

Known as the Red River Rivalry or Shootout, the annual football game between the Big 12's fiercest rivals has often held both conference and national title implications. One of these teams has competed in the Bowl Championship Series National Championship during each of the past two years. Controversy surrounded the rivalry in 2008, when Texas beat Oklahoma. Oklahoma, however, ended up in the Big 12 and national championship game with the same record but a higher BCS ranking.

No. 8 - USC-Notre Dame football; first meeting: 1926; all-time series: Notre Dame 42-34-5

Even though the Irish lead the series, they haven't won a game since 2001. And USC has definitely been the better overall team during the last decade. The most memorable game in recent memory was in 2005, when Trojan Reggie Bush pushed Trojan Matt Leinart across the goal line - now known as the "Bush Push" - completing a frantic two-minute drive that won the game 34-31 for USC.

No. 7 - Bears-Packers; first meeting: 1921; All-time series: Bears 92-82-6

The longest-running NFL series is often played in frigid temperatures, but the competition is always hot because these two teams and fan bases don't particularly like each other. My girlfriend's brother is a big Packers fan, and I went with their family to a Packers-Lions 2007 game. A store in the area was selling a CD and one of the songs on it is called "The Bears Still Suck." YouTube it.

No. 6 - Dodgers-Giants; first meeting: 1883; all-time series: Giants 1,081-1,066-13

This is the definition of a crusty old rivalry. These teams have been playing each other for more than 100 years, but the series is remarkably even. Following the 1957 season, Dodgers owner Walter O'Malley moved his team to Los Angeles and convinced Giants owner Horace Stoneham to also relocate to California to preserve the rivalry.

No. 5 - Army-Navy football; first meeting: 1890; all-time series: Navy 54-49-7

Navy has won eight straight matchups to take the series lead. In 2009, the game - usually played in Philadelphia - was moved back to the second Saturday in December to once again be the last regular season college football game, even after the conference championships. This is sports at its purest. The players don't receive athletic scholarships and a vast majority won't play professionally, so everything is left on the field.

No. 4 - Cowboys-Redskins; first meeting: 1960; all-time series: Cowboys 59-39-2

Because I'm a Cowboys fan, this rivalry is near and dear to my heart, as it is to thousands of local Redskins fans. It seems strange that these two teams even became rivals, but they have played each other twice each year every since 1961 - except in 1982 - and were two of the marquee franchises in the NFL during the 1970s. The games have often been unpredictable and close, no matter who has the better record entering the game.

No. 3 - Michigan-Ohio State football; first meeting: 1897; all-time series: Michigan 57-43-6

Simply known as "The Game," the rivalry between the Wolverines and Buckeyes was named the No. 1 North American rivalry of the 20th century by ESPN in 2000. Although Michigan leads the series, Ohio State has won six consecutive meetings. The contest has decided the Big 10 champion 22 times, and in 2006, the teams were ranked first and second in the nation when the Buckeyes won a thriller 42-39 to advance to the BCS Championship.

No. 2 - Duke-North Carolina basketball; first meeting: 1920; all-time series: UNC 131-99

It's often said that these two teams are separated by only eight miles and a few shades of blue. Famous names litter the landscape of this historic Tobacco Road rivalry: Michael Jordan, Mike Krzyzewski, Dean Smith, Shane Battier, Vince Carter, Jason Williams. The bitterness the fans of these two teams hold for each other is unparalleled, except for maybe the No. 1 rivalry on this list. I don't know if I can think of a matchup I've anticipated more each season than this one. Tobacco Road is lit aflame twice a year, and if we get lucky, sometimes in the postseason.

No. 1 - Red Sox-Yankees: First meeting: 1901; All-time series: Yankees 1,117-934

Is there any one rivalry that can define the identity of so many people? Is there any one rivalry that can be conjured up in the mind so fiercely by just saying the name of the two cities that are involved? Of course, the rivalry really kicked into high gear when Babe Ruth was traded from Boston to New York in 1919, sparking an 86-year run during which the Yankees won 26 World Series while the Red Sox won zero, as the Sox fell victim to what became known as the "Curse of the Bambino." But University students are more likely to remember events such as Pedro Martinez throwing down 72-year old Yankees' assistant Don Zimmer in the 2003 ALCS, Curt Schilling's bloody sock during Game Six of the 2004 ALCS and Game Seven of that same series in which the Red Sox completed the miraculous, becoming the first baseball team to ever win a series after being down 3-0. They went on to win the World Series that year, too, presumably ending the curse. In 2008, during construction of the new Yankee Stadium, construction worker and Sox fan Gino Castignoli placed a David Ortiz Red Sox jersey underneath a part of the stadium in an attempt to jinx the Yankees, but his prank was discovered, and it was dug up. And the rivalry rolls continues.