Cleveland and Detroit are two cities intertwined in a brutal sports grudge match that has been in the works for over 60 years. The past and present of these two cities only leads me to believe that we as sports fans are on the cusp of a fierce rivalry - the likes of which no one has ever seen.
In order to break down a potentially competitive rivalry, it is necessary to understand the two things that make any rivalry truly bitter: history and similarity.
I'll start with the latter.
Cleveland and Detroit are eerily similar to one another. Both are lakefront cities, both have all three major sports team (NFL, NBA, and MLB), and both cities claim a strong tie to Rock & Roll, music, and fatty foods. In addition to their passion for the respective collegiate programs, these two cities share in social problems such as poverty, education, schooling, and obesity.
For a closer look at the two contenders, I present the tale of the tape:
- Age: 212 years old
- Weight: State Ranked 17th in TheCalorieLab's most obese state poll in 2008
- Famous Food: Cleveland Roast Beef Sandwich
- Rulership: Monarchy (King LeBron James I )
- MLB: Cleveland Indians
- NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers
- NFL: Cleveland Browns
- NHL: (none)
- Total Championships: 10 (8 Browns, Cavs 0, 2 Indians)
- Age: 307 years old
- Weight: State Ranked 10th in TheCalorieLab's most obese state poll in 2008
- Famous Food: Cooney Island Dogs, Detroit Square Pizza
- Rulership: Democracy (?) (President George Bush)
- MLB: Detroit Tigers
- NBA: Detroit Pistons
- NFL: Detroit Lions
- NHL: Detroit Red Wings
- Total Championships: 29 (9 Lions, Red Wings 11, Pistons 5, Tigers 4)
As you can see, both cities have significant achievements over each other - with Cleveland holding the edge in rulership and Detroit countering with total number of championships. The battle is close enough that we need to look to the second category to find out who holds the edge in this most heated rivalry - history.
Cleveland Browns versus Detroit Lions
The Browns and Lions might actually have the most bitter historical feud of the contrasting teams. Buried away a long time ago in the history books is arguably one of the most intense competitions in pro-sports.
During the early 1950s, when soul patches and top hats were the order of the day, the Detroit Lions and the Cleveland Browns stood atop the football universe. The Cleveland Browns from the AAFC (All-American Football Conference) were the juggernauts of their league and finally merged into the NFL. Awaiting the Browns were none other than the heavyweights of NFL at the time, you guessed it, the Detroit Lions.
These two franchises met for the first time in the 1952 title game, which resulted in a 17-7 Detroit victory for the 1952 NFL Championship. A year later, the two teams clashed once again - the outcome closer with a similar result, a 17-16 Lions victory.
Cleveland won NFL championships in 1954 and 1955 - to go along with the one they achieved in their inaugural season in 1950. Had the Browns defeated the Lions in '52 and '53, it would have marked the single greatest championship run in sports - with the Browns capturing the league title 5 times in a 6 year span.
Currently, this particular rivalry has lost steam due to confrontations limited to at least one preseason game per year and the general poor play of the two teams. The Browns and Lions have clashed this off-season with the Browns sending a 3rd round draft choice and Leigh Bodden to the Motor City in exchange for former Lions first round pick Shaun Rogers.
Also, Cleveland superstar Braylon Edwards is a Michigan native and attended the University of Michigan where he excelled as one of the best players in school history.
Cleveland Indians versus Detroit Tigers
Indians/Tigers is intense. The rivalry here stems from the fact that both teams normally contend for the AL Central Division Crown. Each series draws a significant amount of passion, as something normally is at stake for the winner. With baseball's American League being what it is with the big-market powerhouses to the east, the best chance either team has of winning is through the divisional title.
The past few years have seen the Indians and the Tigers flip flop for divisional superiority. Since each city has a passionate baseball fanbase, it can be argued that the brewing resentment is just waiting to erupt into full-blown hatred.
Cleveland Cavaliers versus Detroit Pistons
To my knowledge, this one is by far the most physical. Previous seasons are marred with hard fouls, clutch performances, and embarrassing dunks. With the Cavs still searching for their first NBA title, the Pistons' success in 2004 over the Cavs in route to their 5th NBA Championship only adds fuel to an already ferocious fire.
Cavaliers' management took the Detroit rivalry a step further by printing and advertising Crimson "Beat Detroit" shirts that were used in '06 in support of the Cavs and the Indians who were locked in a fierce race for the Central Crown.
Michigan versus Ohio State
Two main cities with a football hatred dating back to 1897. I think this one speaks for itself.
So there you have it.
Two cities, multiple teams spanning all along the sports and history universe. While few make anything of it now, don't be surprised if the Cleveland-Detroit feud escalates into one of the most heated rivalries in all of professional sports.