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Wednesday, April 3, 2002
Updated: October 28, 11:37 AM ET
Let's play the feud ...

By Ralph Wiley
Page 2 columnist

Editor's note: This column originally ran April 5, 2002. But with Shaq and Kobe going at it ... well, they would need to be added to this list, wouldn't they?

Feuds R Us. Hatfields vs. McCoys. Jets vs. Sharks. Jets vs ... Dolphins? Jets vs. Dolphins ... hmm ... not quite right, is it?

Wilt Chamberlain
Somebody, somewhere should be thankful Wilt Chamberlain didn't have any feuds.
Not really a feud, is it?

A feud flows more bitterly, with more rancor and bad blood than a rivalry. A rivalry hints at acceptance, some mutual bond of respect. That's what you play for, really. Respect. The winning and losing are important, yeah, sure, but you play for respect. You watch for inspiration, communal tribalism, the rush of the bet, but, as I recall, you play because it feels good to play, and for respect.

Michigan vs. Ohio State in football is rivalry. Ditto Duke-UNC in hoop. Russell & Chamberlain was a rivalry. Russell would have Dip over for dinner the night before games, totally disarming him. If the Dipper had actually feuded with somebody, they'd be dead. Texas vs. Texas A&M is a feud. It got personal down there. Watch one of those College Station alums get all puckered up if you tell an Aggie joke. They act like they're laughing. They're not.

Cal vs. Stanford is a rivalry, a polite one, no matter how much they talk about burying an Ax in the neck. It's all just talk. Including the football. Cal hasn't shown up for football for several seasons. It takes two competitors to have a rivalry, two lunatics for a feud.

Then you have your basic faux feud. The WWF is full of those. The bowling guy -- "I am P... D ... W.!" -- he's a feud (and a laff riot) waiting to happen, only nobody seems to want to take him up on it. Nobody's home. You do have fake feuds in sports, often conducted for effect, as in the WWF. Sometimes you have combinations. To Muhammad Ali, him vs. Joe Frazier was a fake feud (until they got in the ring). Until here lately, since Ali lost motor function, to Joe Frazier it was a feud, a very real one.

Florida vs. Florida State in football, that's a real feud! Can't let any of the followers of those two camps near each other with blunt instruments, much less axes, in the run-up to the yearly bloodbath. Seen people sitting at a Bucs-Jets NFL game at Raymond James get into fistfights where orbital sockets were broken, fighting over not whose winning that game, but next year's UF-FSU tilt.

In a feud, a red mist descends over the eyes of participants and backers, and they can't be reasoned with. Not ever. You can try to reason with them, but they're gone. All you can do is let them go.

What is the best feud in sports? Is it one of these, you think?

Bobby Knight vs. Murray Sperber
The ex-Indiana U. basketball coach vs. the Indiana U. professor. They have what you might call ideological differences, and a failure to communicate. Knight got run out, so Sperber holds the high ground for now, but Bobby Knight has a movie and three national championships at IU and a new world to conquer, so he has Q, fame and popularity.

Note to self: The high-ground ain't all it's cracked up to be. Just don't get these two together in a small room or the taco meat will fly.

Tony La Russa vs. Barry Bonds
Barry Bonds
Barry Bonds averages more feuds than most folks.
This one is calm now, like the eye of a hurricane is calm. Too calm. Scary calm.

La Russa thinks Bonds thinks he's better than the game itself. Bonds thinks La Russa is the one who thinks that; not only that, he tells LaRussa he's going against the laws of physics whenever La Russa orders his pitchers to pitch to Bonds in GW sitchies, instead of walking him, even walking him with the bases loaded, as ESPN analyst and former D'backs manager Buck Showalter did once -- and quite successfully too -- although the next batter almost gave him a heart attack by lining out. Give a dude an RBI to keep him from maybe beating you a game. Wow!

Never catch La Russa giving Bonds anything but the spiked Kool-Aid. Look in the box score for Bonds being HBP by the Cards this season ... then you'll know it's on again.

Jeff Kent vs. Barry Bonds
Traded off last two MVPs, so can't really say if it's a rivalry, a feud, a fake feud, or just a hissy thrown by JK last year where the Illy's Rick Reilly could hear it.

Al Davis vs. the NFL
This used to be Al vs. Pete Rozelle, pure-D Celebrity Death Match feud. They wanted each other dead, figuratively speaking (at least, I think).

Al wanted to move Raiders to Los Angeles. He thought Pete wanted the L.A. market for himself. The lawsuits flew. No love lost even today, Tags standing in for Pete. When reversal came down on Pump-Fake against Patriots in AFC semifinal, Al's first thought was it came down from way upstairs. (And by the way, I would not recommend that you wear another team's colors in amongst the Black Hole Faithful at the Oakland Coliseum. But if you do, make sure your insurance is all paid up).

Steve Spurrier vs. Jim Haslett
Steve Spurrier
Without Tennessee or FSU to pick on, Steve Spurrier wasted no time making enemies in the NFL.
Less than a year ago, this was Steve Spurrier vs. Bobby Bowden. Spurrier threatened to help sue the Florida State Seminoles and one of their linebackers because he twisted the knee of Florida RB Ernest Graham.

"That's the way they do bid'ness," Steve said. Bowden circled the wagons. Lawyers all over the Sunshine State queued up for that one. Steve moved on.

Like The Outlaw Josey Wales, Spurrier lives by the feud. Spurrier is from the blue-green hollers of east Tennessee, where feuding is breathing.

Immediately after giving Florida the gate for the NFL, he took on New Orleans coach Jim Haslett, hard-working ex-linebacker with Cro Magnon-like offensive tendencies. Spurrier doesn't think Haslett (or anybody else) can X and O with him. In mentioning that he doesn't like to work long hours, Ol' Steve mentioned Haslett shows up at the Saints' offices at 4:30 a.m. "Not that it's going to do him any good," said Steve. Whoa.

Note to self: Check NFL schedule. Gotta see this train wreck.

Bobby Clarke vs. the Lindroses
Eric and his old man nearly drove Clarke nutzo during Lindros' Broad Street Powerpuff Days ... Lindros didn't trust Clarke, the Flyers or their doctors, hummed something about Clarke and vast right winger conspiracies, generally made a mockery of Clarke.

Lindros had concussions, and yet, when the Flyers got within sniffing distance of the Stanley Cup finals, he recovered enough for Clarke & Co. to be forced by popular expectation to put him out there in Scott Stevens' gunsights. Ask Clarke today, and he'll tell you Stevens is one of his favorite players. Wonder why? He's not even a Flyer. Clarke and the Lindroses can still curse each other's unholy names all night long and never repeat themselves.

Roger Clemens, Mike Piazza
Roger Clemens, left, and Mike Piazza are about the only remaining reasons for interleague play.
Roger Clemens vs. Mike Piazza
Every time they face each other, Piazza launches a home run, or Clemens plunks him. Was over at Yankee Stadium for the last Piazza beaning, which preceded the later jagged broken-bat tossing event. Add the fact that these two play for the Yankees and Mets, respectively, and you have the potential for a bloodbath this October, if not sooner.

John Chaney vs. John Calipari
"I'll kill you!" Kind of says it all, doesn't it? Said by Chaney, exploding at an A-10 press conference against Calipari some years back, three jobs ago for Cal, who went from having a Final Four team at UMass to the Nets, where he developed mini-feud with a Latino writer, to his eventual regret. Should've stuck with the hand-checking Chaney. Now Cal is at Memphis; people were waiting for that NIT semifinal this year to see who might kill who. Suprisingly, they made up, all nice and sweet and kissy-face. Of course, Chaney is past 70 by now.

Jerry Tarkanian vs. the NCAA
Tark the Shark took the profits from his brief stint coaching the San Antonio Spurs and fed them into his lawsuit against the NCAA, which he eventually won. NCAA followed him around with tweezers from then on, ready to pull the slightest wild hair out of his torso, then charge him for it. Make no mistake, they basically ran him out of coaching Fresno State. You'll never see Tark as game analyst, not on CBS' NCAA tourney. Not as long as David Berst has anything to say about it.

Charles Oakley vs. Gen Z
Oakley takes no prisoners. You can ask Jeff McInnis' jawbone. Oakley is aware of who among the young NBA ballers has the lower pain thresholds, and those aren't the guys who should be dating his sometime girlfriends or letting him down at crunch time. Hello, Vince Carter.

Junior Griffey vs. Dmitri, Pokey, etc.
Ken Griffey Jr.
Mirror, mirror on my wall, tell me there's no one better than Ken Griffey Jr., after all.
Griffey is baseball royalty, and the problem is, according to Young, Reese and others, is he brags on it all the time, speaks about it too much, and doesn't act on it quite enough. Junior also had a thing going on with Marty Brennaman, the Reds' broadcaster, who probably should have called him out on being so in love with himself. One thing Junior doesn't have a feud with is the clubhouse mirror.

A-Rod vs. Jeter
This is more rivalry than feud, true, but we can hope, can't we? Seems to drive A-Rod crazy that people don't appreciate him -- or appreciate that he's a better hitter than Jeet, he has to do more with less than Jeet, can turn more models' heads on South Beach quicker than Jeet, makes more money than Jeet, yet still, somehow ... he ain't Jeet. It also drives him crazy Jeter shrugs off any of A-Rod's impolitic remarks about the sitchie and says, basically, "Whatever," implying, "I'm Mr. Yankee, and you ain't." A few years ago, it was passed off on us that they shared little black books and great admiration for each other. Whatever.

Mark Cuban vs. NBA refs
Would a manager of a DQ have the stomach to call a charge on a superstar in his home building with a game on the line? Earl Strom would. Earl is no longer with us, which is Mr. Cuban's point. Of course, the NBA refs think Red Auerbach buries Cuban, too; thus the continuum.

"Monday Night Football" vs. Fox
Dates? What dates?

George Karl vs. Doc Rivers
One-man feud.

United States vs. Russia
Feuding off memory. This is now really a fake feud, used in a marketing, advertising, promotional sense, mostly for Olympics. As far as NBC in concerned, this feud will never die.

Martina Hingis vs. the Williams sisters
Jennifer Capriati vs. Venus and Serena Williams, that's just a rivalry. They compete, then seem to stay out of each other's business otherwise.

Swiss Miss loves agitating the sisters, sniping away, realizing that getting under their skins is the only way she can affect them, since that dinky second serve sure won't. But since she's dating Sergio Garcia now, and is probably past her prime anyway, at least as far as the Williamses, Lindsay Davenport and Capriati are concerned, maybe she can teach some of her best feuding stuff to Sergio, so maybe he can get something going on with El Tigre. It would help if Sergio won the Masters. That would be sure to get Tiger's attention.

Video vs. print
It's over. TV won.

***** ***** *****

And the winner is ...

Jim Brown vs. O.J. Simpson
This one goes back years. Jim may intimidate us, but at least he's honest about it. At least he's stand-up. A sneaky sort like O.J. always did make Jim Brown's skin crawl. Ours too ... now. Jim saw the mask, the duplicity, the lie. I first met Jim years ago at a TV studio (see video vs. print) where I worked on the same team with O.J. Too bad we all weren't younger, playing football, on the same team. Wouldn't have been much work for me, and lots of glory.

Jim Brown
Jim Brown had a stylish way of laughing off comparisons with O.J. Simpson.
Here, it was just the opposite.

The feud started back when Juice played; a lot of people said he was a better back than Jim Brown. Not to mention a more upstanding citizen. Jim just laughed in reply. Jim had a way of laughing about it that drove Juice crazy.

Jim never give O.J. any props as player or man. They bandied a few quotes back and forth in the papers whenever the strata of great running backs would come up over the passing years. Theirs was a quiet feud otherwise. A feud of philsophies. Crossfire in cleats. O.J. mostly avoided talking about Jim, preferring to talk about himself, and fooling a great many people into thinking that he had good character by doing it.

When Jim Brown was just being honest with people, he couldn't keep a job as a football color commentator. O.J. would wink about this "flaw" in Jim. O.J. could say a thing and make it seem like it was right, even if it was wrong. He said of himself, in counter-point to Jim. "Everybody can't be like Martin Luther King." No, I guess not.

"What are you doing here with him, little ------,? Jim asked me, after looking laser beams right through me on the set. "Not your favorite guy, right Jim? Well, he does seem to have to be the focal point of all life around him. You're right; something has to be wrong for me to be here, too, doesn't it? It doesn't add up. With Juice, one plus one equals He's the One. I just had an angel here, Jim. Trust me. I had a BRAVE angel."

Jim looked me up and down, then looked over at Juice, who was holding court with the bosses in his own charming, ingratiating, slime-sucking, shuckey-jivey way. "Watch out for O.J.," Jim said. "He can be a dangerous dude." Never forgot it.

Now Jim's in the joint. O.J. is on South Beach. Lunatic. This quiet feud isn't over.

Ralph Wiley spent nine years at Sports Illustrated and wrote 28 cover stories on celebrity athletes. He is the author of several books, including "Best Seat in the House," with Spike Lee, "Born to Play: The Eric Davis Story," and "Serenity, A Boxing Memoir."