One of the great aspects of sports is rivalries.
When your team is involved in a great rivalry, there is nothing that matches it. As fans will say, with tongue firmly planted in cheek, as long as your team beats that rival it could lose every other game.
The Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears.
The Washington football team and Dallas Cowboys.
The San Francisco 49ers and New York Giants.
Of course it reaches well beyond football.
New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox.
Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals.
Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants.
Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics.
Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs – any of the “Original Six” for that matter.
For the Denver Broncos it’s simple.
Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise: The biggest rival of the Broncos is and always will be the Oakland Raiders.
It doesn’t matter how awful the Raiders are and have been for almost two decades, that fact will never change.
Want to know how much this rivalry still means? Listen to former Broncos linebacker and current ESPN analyst Tom Jackson talk about the organization. He still despises Oakland and all it represents.
He told a story last year about how when he sees former Raiders in Canton, Ohio over Hall of Fame weekend, it’s hard for him to be friendly because of how much he hated and still hates the Raiders.
Broncos Country has a phrase for when Denver plays that wretched franchise – Raider Hater. People may say this rivalry isn’t what it used to be, but that’s complete nonsense. Those people need to sit down with Jackson, the members of the Orange Crush and the fans lucky enough to be at Mile High Stadium when the Broncos beat Oakland in the AFC Championship Game on Jan. 1, 1978. It was that game in which Denver finally beat its hated rivals in a game that mattered. It was that game that sent the Broncos to their first Super Bowl.
Those who say this rivalry is dead need to learn their Broncos’ history. How the rivalry is now for Denver is how it was in the 1960s and most of the ’70s for the Raiders. The Broncos could never beat Oakland. So hopefully the way it is now is how it remains so for a long, long time.
This is one of those rivalries for Broncos Country where the games don’t have to be close because there is so much hatred. Broncos fans shouldn’t want Oakland to ever get in contention for the division title. They should hope they remain this bad as long as that sorry franchise exists.
Sure, there is history with the Kansas City Chiefs and San Diego Chargers. There is the recent rivalry with the New England Patriots; especially with Peyton Manning involved. At this point, the Manning and Tom Brady talk is nauseating. Plus, Brady can’t beat Denver; especially in Denver. Yes, the Broncos got their first win against New England but there’s no history.
I would actually put the Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers over the Patriots in terms of rivalries for the Broncos. There is more history with both of those franchises.
The Broncos beat Pittsburgh in Three Rivers Stadium en route to their first Super Bowl win. They also beat the Steelers on Dec. 24, 1977, in the divisional round of the playoffs for the chance to play the Raiders in the AFC title game.
As for the Browns, all you need to say is “The Drive” and “The Fumble.”
Give me history over fake drama. The Broncos and Patriots have faced one time in the AFC championship game with Denver winning that game. There is just no history between these two franchises. There are no doubt highlights – Champ Bailey with his long interception return in the 2005 divisional round, and the most recent overtime win in the snow. The rest just feels like manufactured drama to get ratings or clicks.
In terms of the city of Denver, the only rivalry that comes close to Broncos-Raiders is the Colorado Avalanche and Detroit Red Wings. The hatred, quality of games and what was on the line for those games made that rivalry the best in all of sports in the mid-to-late 1990s.
But in terms of the biggest rivals for the city and Broncos – it’s not even close. It is and always will be the Raiders.
Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
In fact, don’t let Jackson hear any of this nonsense.