The Pittsburgh Penguins are Stanley Cup Champions. Hooray?
No, not hooray. Philly’s cross-state rival winning the Cup is awful, terrible news for Flyers fans. Sidney Crosby winning the Conn Smythe trophy as playoff MVP is awful news for those who hate the Penguins’ best player for no other reason than he’s the Penguins’ best player. (And also all the diving.)
This is a bad day for Philly sports.
And that got us thinking: What teams get us the most upset when they win, and where do the hated Penguins rank?
In order to rank Philly’s most hated rivals properly, it’s important to qualify what makes a team a rival. In most cases, a rivalry stems from proximity and frequency, especially in important situations. We hate teams that are closer to us because we play them more often, but also because of the potential for intermingling fans. When you live in an area that has a lot of New York or Washington D.C. crossover, it’s easy to see why Philly fans may hate those teams (and their fans) more. And yet that doesn’t explain the Cowboys.
Being division rivals, the Eagles and Cowboys play at least twice a year, often with a spot in the playoffs on the line, and the success of the team in Big D has long left Philly fans feeling anything but brotherly love for those in Dallas.
Yes, jealousy can go a long way in creating a good rivalry, one-sided as it may be. And that’s where Philly fans are with Pittsburgh right now, too.
The Penguins have won four Stanley Cups since 1991. That’s four more than the Flyers have won in that span. And that hurts. So where do the Penguins rank in the list of Philly’s biggest sports rivals? We count it down from 10.
10. New England Patriots
Let’s get this out of the way first. The Patriots are not a rival of the Eagles. The Patriots are a rival of every team in the NFL other than the Patriots. Yes, the Eagles were one of the teams unfortunate enough to lose to New England in a Super Bowl, so the “rivalry” aspect of this hatred is justified, but they are no bigger rival to the Eagles than they are to the Rams or the Panthers or the Seahawks.
Still, we hate them and want them to lose every game. The same goes for the St. Louis Cardinals and their Best Fans in Baseball ™, the Yankees and their biggest wallets in baseball, the Chicago Blackhawks and the Detroit Red Wings who, after all these years, it’s still impossible to like.
9. Boston Celtics
Boston and Philadelphia are very similar in terms of size and historical significance, but when it comes to sports championships, it’s not even close, which gives us plenty of reasons to hate all the Boston teams.
With the Sixers being so terrible over the last half decade, it’s hard to point to anyone as a real rival, but that’s where this exercise differs from most “rivalry” lists. We aren’t looking for the team that’s our team’s biggest rival. We’re looking for the team we hate the most. We’re looking for the team that when we wake up and see they won, it makes our day a little bit worse. And when we see they won a title, it ruins our week.
In the NBA, that’s the Celtics.
The Sixers and Celtics have had a long-standing rivalry that goes back to Philly’s hoops heyday, but over the more recent past, the Celtics have routinely been a contender in the East while the Sixers floundered near the bottom of the standings. When the Celtics blew up their team of old veterans and decided to tank…they did it better than the Sixers, and are already back as one of the conference’s top contenders, having as many picks as the Sixers have to stock up for the future.
For some reason, lots of Philly people hate on LeBron and whatever team he is on, and it’s always easy to rip the Knicks, but the Celtics, for sure, are the city’s biggest NBA rival. Unless…
8. New Jersey Devils
In trying to rank the Flyers’ rivals, I asked for the opinion of CSN’s resident hockey expert Sarah Baicker, who offered this as something of a defense of the Devils being low on this list.
In many ways, it’s the Devils’ ownership that has the biggest rivalry with Philly, which is sad considering both the Sixers and the Devils are owned by the same group of businessmen. The Devils were purchased second, thereby potentially strapping the resources, if not just attention, promised to the Sixers, and making it clear Joshua Harris and his group are only in the ownership game to make a quick buck and flip the Sixers for a profit. Hell, the Sixers are even moving to New Jersey (for the tax breaks), making more and more like the Devils (and, in theory, more and more profitable for a new buyer) than ever.
7. Washington’s Football Team
Daniel Snyder is one of the worst owners in professional sports, and for years Washington’s football team was largely irrelevant in the NFC East. But recent years, the rivalry between the Eagles and Washington has turned more heated than any time in the last 15 or 20 years, sparked by the moves of first Donovan McNabb and then DeSean Jackson to Washington. Of the division rivals, though, right now Washington is the least hated, for sure.
6. New York Rangers
I asked an old friend who is the most knowledgeable hockey fans I know to rank the Flyers’ rivalries. This is what he shared: “Right now…Pittsburgh, Rangers, Devils, Bruins. Throughout franchise history…Rangers, Bruins, Pittsburgh, Devils.”
The rivalry with the Rangers has cooled somewhat over the years, especially as Crosby and the Penguins have taken much of the heat from Flyers fans. Still, people here really hate the Rangers.
5. New York Mets
Ten years ago this was probably the biggest active rivalry in Philly sports. Heck, 20 years ago the thought of going to a Mets-Phillies series brought on serious safety concerns. New stadiums may have priced out the hooligans perhaps, because the hatred between the Mets and Phillies fans — while still lingering — is nowhere near what it was in the days of the Vet and Shea Stadium.
Or, maybe, it’s as hot as ever.
Yes, this rivalry is deep. From guaranteeing division titles on one side or the other, to a corner of the stadium at Citi Field being named for Chase Utley, the hatred for the Mets is still pretty strong, mellowed if only a bit by another team in the division who seems to relish using old Phillies to spurn this town.
It’s worth noting here that for probably a decade the Braves were the most hated team in Philadelphia and there may be some lingering hatred toward Atlanta’s baseball team still to this day. And yet, when the Phillies finally topped the Braves and ran their own division streak of dominance, some of the jealousy washed away. Those old Braves teams of the ’90s were incredible, and despised, but now they’re about as annoying as the Marlins, and nothing more.
4. New York Giants
The thing that may have helped the Giants feel less hated in recent years is that they twice beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl, and Eagles fans really do hate those Patriots. Still, the Turnpike rivalry with the Giants — and perhaps moreso with Giants fans — is real, it’s angry and it’s never going to change.
Geographically the Giants are the closest team to the Eagles, with many parts of New Jersey serving as border towns for each NFC East team’s fandom. Any sports bar in and around Trenton is a disaster on Sundays, almost as if the fans of each team in that area only identify themselves as fans to rankle those who cheer for the other team.
And yet, in terms of pure hatred, it’s not close to another team in the division. This could admittedly be a misread, but it feels like Eagles fans hate Giants fans more than the actual Giants, which puts the team back a bit from the most hated in the city. Maybe that’s because, despite two Super Bowls for the Giants to none for the Eagles, many of the biggest moments in the rivalry have recently gone the Eagles’ way. It’s hard to hate them as much when you’re beating them in memorable ways.
3. Washington Nationals
The Nationals are a relatively new franchise, and they have only been good for about three or four years, but the rivalry between the Nats and the Phillies — and the fans — has quickly become one of the best in baseball.
For a while, Nationals Park was Citizens Bank Park South, with Phillies fans invading the area so much the Nationals owners had to put rules in place to take back their own park.
Somewhere around 2012, when the Nationals started to put together a division-winning caliber team, the rivalry got really chippy, with a young Bryce Harper making jokes like “hopefully they don’t throw any batteries or whatnot at me,” and Jayson Werth signing for big bucks and making it a point to stick it to the Phillies whenever he can (this weekend included).
Things got weird when Brad Lidge went to the Nats and talked about how great the team was. Then Jonathan Papelbon did the same, though admittedly without any of the success Lidge had when he was in Philly.
Mostly, Phillies fans look down on the Nationals fans and their nascent existence in the baseball universe. Washington was without baseball for decades, but is that worse than what Phillies fans have had to suffer through most of their history? And unlike the Mets hatred, something about this rivalry feels like it’s just getting started.
2. Pittsburgh Penguins
Let it burn inside you, Philly.
Not mad enough yet?
And yet…the Penguins are not the city’s most hated team. Not even close.
1. Dallas Cowboys