A sports rivalry is intense competition between athletic teams or athletes. This pressure of competition is felt by players, coaches, and management, but is perhaps felt strongest by the fans. The intensity of the rivalry varies from a friendly competition on one end to serious violence on the other that, in one case (the Football War), was suggested to have led to military conflict. Team owners typically encourage rivalries as they tend to improve game attendance and television ratings for rivalry matches, but a rivalry that gets out of control can lead to fighting, hooliganism, rioting and some, with career ending or worse, fatal consequences. Often the topic of sports rivalries is as heated and controversial as politics and religion.
Rivalries stem from various sources. Simple geographic proximity as well as frequent meetings in important games can lead to rivalries. Social and political tensions can also be played out by proxy in a sports rivalry, as when the Indo–Pakistani political conflict spills over to an India–Pakistan cricket match, or when Glasgow's sectarian differences are expressed in the Celtic–Rangers derby (known as the Old Firm derby). Rivalries of the friendlier sort are common between college athletic programs in the United States and often involve pranks that rival student bodies play on each other, such as stealing the other school's mascot or painting school colors somewhere on the opposing school's campus.
In some leagues, rivalries are officially regarded as important games and the winner gets an unusual prize (i.e. grill, trophy, high-definition television, etc.)
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