(CNN)There are great rivalries and there are Great Rivalries — and we all know the difference between the two.
Athens vs. Sparta. Ali vs. Frazier. Adolescence vs. Orthodontistry. All great rivalries.
Coke vs. Pepsi. Star Wars vs. Star Trek. Beatles vs. Stones.
These ones deserve capital letters.
Great Rivalries can be huge enough to impassion countries and cities. They’re powerful enough to launch fiery debates out of seemingly mundane subjects (e.g. rice).
They can be small and strange enough to consume just a few people for years — and the rest of us for at least the time it takes to flip through this list of Great Rivalries. And you can quote us on that.
Crosstown sports rivalry
Rangers vs. Celtic
Nothing tears asunder nice cities like Milan, Istanbul, Buenos Aires or any other football-fervid dot on the globe like an intense derby match between two teams that share the same home town — but not the same fans.
Of course, all of these places proudly lay claim to the most heated crosstown rivalry on the planet.
But Glasgow’s notorious Old Firm derby between the Scottish Professional Football League’s two most famous clubs, Celtic and Rangers, gets our nod.
And only partially for their 399 hostile matches dating to 1888, fueled by generations of enough sectarian animosity and occasional bloodshed to recently usher in desperate “Pride over Prejudice” and “Bhoys against Bigotry” campaigns promoting some semblance of basic decency.
What’s the kicker?
Last year’s bankruptcy-related ouster of Rangers from Scotland’s top tier division means that these two teams currently aren’t even playing each other. And yet there’s still no team either one hates more.
Can such age-old loathing survive the unthinkable suspension of a 400th Old Firm match?
“As long as the Pope remains a Catholic,” one local fan tells us.
Now that’s a rivalry.
English breakfast vs. Continental breakfast
What goes better with tea?
Two fried eggs, ham, bacon, sausage, baked beans, fried mushrooms, toast drenched with butter and marmalade?
Or seasonal fruit, muffins and assorted yogurts?
Europeans, and by extension the rest of the world, have been waking up to this dietary fork in the road every morning since the Victorian era, when cured pork entered its first industrial phase.
Last year’s launch of The English Breakfast Society, whose rousing mission “to restore the traditional English breakfast to its former glory and encourage the spread of establishments serving a high quality traditional English breakfast throughout the land,” portends an imminent battle.
Let the (yet-unformed) Continental Breakfast Society or at least every budget hotel lobby armed with a toaster and aging fruit basket be warned.
Everest vs. K2
The number of climbers who’ve reached the top of the world’s highest peak, Mount Everest, has now surpassed the 3,000 mark — including a 13-year-old boy and a 73-year-old woman.
K2, the world’s second-highest mountain, has allowed barely a tenth of that number to the top of its far less climber-friendly peak — killing one mountaineer for every four summiters, according to 8000ers.com.
In other words, if mountains could talk, these two would definitely have it out about who’s higher and mightier.
But they can’t, so we leave that to all the high-fiving Everest masses versus a handful of elite K2 alpinists who’ll gladly point out that bagging the highest peak on any given continent is usually nowhere near as tough as climbing the second-highest.
Staple food rivalry
White rice vs. brown rice
It’s half the world’s primary food source, responsible for more than a fifth of our species’ caloric intake, and which shade of it you eat apparently says something about you.
The health-conscious tout whole grain brown rice for its fiber and nutrients — most of which are lost during milling and polishing processes that leave only the white grain (sans bran and germ).
Who-cares types choose white because life’s too short to eat chewy rice that tastes like stale nuts.
Contrarians argue that white may actually be healthier (or less “unhealthy”) for its higher folate and thiamine content, whereas brown rice contains phytic acid, which can interfere with mineral absorption, as well as higher levels of arsenic.
Arsenic? This is rice we’re still talking about, right?
A quick white vs. brown nutritional info comparison at U.S. chain Chipotle (which offers a choice of the two) on fastfoodnutrition.org finds almost no nutritional difference between them, leading yet others to suggest that the choice may often be more psychological than dietary.
The rest of us to wonder how such simple carbohydrates got so complex.
Weather pattern rivalry
El Nino vs. La Nina
If Mother Nature had a rival son and daughter it’d be these two opposing ocean-temperature-derived weather system shakers marked by abnormally warm Pacific surfaces (El Nio) or cool ones (La Nia).
Whichever sibling has the upper hand in any given year can lead to consequential climate dysfunction — battering the Americas with vicious droughts, superstorms and floods, while wreaking havoc with Asian monsoons and making various weather extremes felt as far off as Australia.
The only thing potentially worse than El Nino or La Nina fighting for the upper hand, note NASA scientists, is a “La Nada” year like this one, when neither is dominant — this can lead to even more extreme weather conditions that are harder to forecast.
Top city rivalry
Sydney vs. Melbourne
Every city worth its art museum or revived waterfront has a rival city.
Usually they’re within easy driving distance and share the same highways, currency, soap operas, chain restaurants, hated domestic politicians, even more-despised international rivals and a hundred other things that confirm these two places actually have way more in common than they’d ever care to admit.
Every Barcelona has its Madrid. Every Dallas its Houston. Moscow its St. Petersburg. Sao Paolo its Rio.
But Australia’s two biggest cities have been relentlessly butting heads since Melbourne was founded in 1835 by exactly the sort of industrious Tasmanian pastoralists that Sydney’s founding felons couldn’t stand.
What continues to brutally divide these two cities, other than fewer than 500 miles, some beer brands, the usual sports grudges and less than two points on the latest annual “World’s Most Liveable Cities” list (Melbourne 97.5, Sydney 96.1)?
Self-proclaimed cultural capital of the known and unknown universes, Melbourne thinks Sydney is flashy and showy with little to no cultural taste. (But — not that Melbourne would ever admit it — with a pretty harbor, great beaches and warmer water.)
Sydney’s persistent inferiority complex is chalked up to a poisonous self-awareness that it’s a superficial tart, blessed with good looks, who dropped out of school early.
Melbourne is the sophisticated, wealthier sister with a MA from Oxford and innately more interesting.
Or so it claims.
As for Sydneysiders, they just think Melbourne is a constant weather anomaly with an unsophisticated mob of latte-sipping sports heads, so caught up in their own “we’re better than Sydney” pretension that it creates a reverse snobbery not worth even acknowledging.
“Deep down, you wish you were me,” feels Sydney. “Let me get back to my champagne and don’t stick your reflection in my sunglasses ever again.”
To prevent a family tragedy between these bitter sisters, the capital of Canberra was pretty much built from scratch somewhere in between. Charged with keeping things in order, the Spanx-wearing ugly sister is pretty much ignored by its cantankerous siblings.
University of Alabama vs. Auburn University
Classic college rivalries spring from all sorts of heady stuff — like which school has bred more world leaders, Nobel laureates or ivy leaves on its tony limestone walls over the last however many centuries.
Some of these lingering spats even have to do with academics.
But for those who think the most fist-shaking battles waged between institutions of higher learning have to do with economics, photon theory or just plain snob appeal, we present the Iron Bowl, the Thanksgiving weekend football game between neighboring universities in the U.S. South
The annual, in-state grudge match between Auburn University’s Tigers and the University of Alabama’s Crimson Tide dates to 1893 and “basically forces people in this state to take sides the second they’re born,” notes one local fan who can recite every score back to that 33-22 Auburn nail-biter 120 years ago like it was yesterday.
Last year, top-seeded Alabama destroyed Auburn 49-0.
This year, Alabama is still ranked number one in the country (at time of publication), but a resurgent Auburn team could pose a formidable challenge at home, so you can bet there’s going to be a score to settle on November 30 at Auburn’s Jordan-Hare Stadium amid 90,000 fans screaming “War Eagle,” “Roll Tide” and some less printable things.
India vs. Pakistan
More than a fifth of the world’s population (1.5 billion viewers) tuned in for the 2011 World Cup Semifinal cricket match between India and Pakistan.
According to TV ratings firm, Initiative, a regular match (no such thing) between these two not-exactly-friendly neighbors attracts about 300 million viewers.
India and Pakistan’s national cricket rivalry has been dubbed by The New York Times as the Yankees vs. Boston Red Sox plus Barcelona vs. Real Madrid plus England vs. Australia (in any sport) “distilled and deepened with an extra dose of hostile geopolitics and the passions of 1.4 billion people.”
Since their first test match in 1952, only three wars, a political assassination and a major terrorist attack in Mumbai could keep these two teams away from their drawn-out pursuit for cricket supremacy — which remains as unresolved as Kashmir.
Cairo vs. Pena vs. Reyes
Some world records hog all the spotlight: Fastest man. Longest jump. Most hot dogs consumed in 10 minutes.
Everyone expects high-profile drama and the stuff of great rivalries from these achievements.
Most wouldn’t expect the same to be true for cigar rolling. Most would be wrong.
For more than a decade, the Guinness World Record title for the longest hand-rolled cigar has bounced numerous times between a trio of fiery competitors.
Current record-holder, Jose Castelar Cairo, from Havana, Cuba, held the first title by hand-rolling an 11-meter cigar in 2001 — before breaking his own record a couple years later with a 14-meter-plus effort.
Enter Puerto Rico’s Patricio Pea, who would stunningly shatter Cairo’s record in 2005, before Cairo grabbed it back, before Ybor City, Florida, couple Wallace and Margarita Reyes climbed into the ring — rolling an even longer one in 2006.
Then Pea bettered theirs in 2007 before Cairo rolled back into first in 2008 before the Reyes duo topped Cairo’s in 2009 with a cigar just short of 60 meters that took them a week to roll.
On April 25, 2011, Cairo quietly sat down with his cigar leaves and tree resin glue. Nine days later, there it was. An 81.8-meter cigar. The longest one ever.