Football is a dangerous enough sport on its own; with 300 pound linebackers running full speed, attempting to force a running back of just about the same stature to a grinding halt; it’s a lot like hitting a brick wall at a high velocity for each. All this occurs while we sit back, watching with eyes unblinking, transfixed, only interrupting this gaze to begin cheering, daring the players to push themselves further and faster and harder while we wait for the bodies to go flying. Don’t feel bad though, it’s human nature to love this, it is after all America’s game, we love it for the strategy, the risk and reward, and the desire to prevail in spite of resistance. Sportsmanship is what makes a game this brutal civilized; after desiring to and then succeeding in bloodying the opponent, there is often seen a handshake or at the very least a nod of comradery . This is what makes it acceptable to bring the animal inside ourselves to the foreground and overtly express our desire to destroy another human being. But what happens when there is no comradery and the two teams truly hate each other? Well that just makes it all the better, like a sweet guilty pleasure; hagan daas on the tv screen. So close the shades and enjoy.
For every team in the NFL looking to make the playoffs, winning their division is the season long battle they have in their sights, between the 60 minute brawls each week. So while they’re on the field, in battle, fighting for each yard in a slug fest, somewhere in the back of their minds is the competition in the division standings. Because of this, it’s often phrased when two such competing teams meet that they are so called division rivals. This is usually said in passing and without much meaning, with the exception that they are in a struggle for the top seed in the playoffs. But one of the divisions since its inception has taken this phrase to a whole new level. The NFC east, consisting of the Washington Redskins, Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles, and New York Giants, is a conference that seems to breed hatred for their neighboring teams in the division. Every time any combination of these teams meet it is considered by most to be a bitter rivalry, and arguably the greatest of these meetings (especially this year) is between the New York Giants and the Dallas Cowboys.
The start of this rivalry can be traced back to one man, Tom Landry. That’s right the legendary head coach of the Dallas Cowboys was originally drafted by the Giants as a defensive back and would later become New York’s defensive coordinator. While occupying this position he would lead the giants to 3 championships in 4 seasons, until the expansion Cowboys team entered the NFL and hired him as their first head coach. He would go on to take his Cowboys team to 5 NFC titles and 2 super bowl wins. What isn’t very well documented is that because the Cowboys entered as a brand new team and therefore had some growing pains, that first season Tom Landry would lose almost every game. Every game that is, except one. The second to last game of the season for the Cowboys would be against the Giants, in Yankee Stadium; and this game would foreshadow what would become one of the greatest rivalries in football with a 31 -31 tie.
Through the years more tough fought battles would ensue, with the teams often meeting twice a season. From the 1960’s through the 70s the Giants would struggle with Dallas winning more than double the amount of games played between the two teams, but none of these losses would sting New York as badly as in 1976. With the Giants searching for a home stadium, playing home games at other team’s stadiums in the area like the Yale Bowl and the Met’s Shea stadium and struggling at each, with a 2 – 13 record at home over the 2 year spance. When they finally found their own place in the meadowlands at the newly built Giants Stadium, they were scheduled to host the Cowboys who would go on to defeat them in the stadiums opening game. This would leave a bad taste in the Giants mouths for more than 33 years, until the Cowboys moved to their new stadium in 2009. The Giants finally returned the 33 year old favor, defeating the Cowboys in their first regular season game at the new venue.
Multiple fights would take place through the years, as the hatred between the two teams developed. Keep in mind that these are just a few of the more notable ones. In 1994, after a fight on Monday night football, $43,000 worth of fines would be handed out by the NFL to both players and coaches for charges ranging from instigating hostility to wielding a photographers camera tripod. In 2009, offensive tackle Flozell Adams was fined $50,000 for pushing defensive lineman Justin Tuck after a heated confrontation at the end of the game; this feud had been ongoing for some time as earlier in the season Flozell was fined for tripping Tuck. A few unkind words were later said to the press in the locker room including “a nobody” and “dirt bag”. In 2010 the Giants would return to Cowboys Stadium where Giants linebacker Micheal Boley would sack Tony Romo, breaking his left clavicle and devastating the 1 – 5 Cowboys hopes to make the playoffs. And in that same year, just a month later, online news sources picked up a video of a fight in the stands between Cowboys and Giants fans during the first game between the two teams at New Meadowlands Stadium.
While at times pushing the boundaries of competition to its limits, there’s no argument that this is one of the most storied and interesting of the rivalries in the NFL. Some things are just meant to happen and this rivalry is one of those things; from their first meeting to the last, it seems both teams have always found a way to get under the others skin. You can see the difference between a friendly competition and two teams that just hate each other; each hit just seems a little harder, each yard just a little bit tougher to gain. And if you pair that with the occasional outburst of aggression (which the ones who have followed this rivalry have become accustomed to) you have the makings for one of the most entertaining games you’ve ever seen each time these two teams take the field.