I was perusing my timeline the other day and encountered a tweet about an epic 2004 at-bat between 2003 NL Cy Young winner Eric Gagne and 7-time (!!) NL MVP Barry Bonds. It got me thinking about classic standoffs/rivalries in history, and I think I came up with a pretty good Top 10. Without further ado, here it is:
10. Alexander Hamilton vs. Aaron Burr
I wish I could have bought stock in Alexander Hamilton like a decade ago. I mean seriously, he goes from someone only history nerds have ever heard of to the star of the biggest Broadway smash hit in recent memory. I won’t even pretend to know the plot of Hamilton, but I do know that Burr, the sitting vice president, killed Hamilton, a former Cabinet member, and somehow got to wake up the next morning still VP. Just picture the headlines if Mike Pence had a bone to pick with John Kerry and they settled it on the National Mall nineteenth century style.
9. Ron Artest/Jermaine O’Neal vs. cups
Ah, Malice at the Palace. We all know what happened, so I’m going to spend some time discussing a lesser-seen part of the brawl. There’s a legitimate case to be made that if Jermaine O’Neal doesn’t slip when he’s coming in hot that the idiot in the Rip Hamilton jersey would no longer be with us. That’s 6’ 11”, 250+ pounds coming at you fast, and I don’t see a path to surviving that blow. Imagine going to an NBA game, seeing Ron Artest and Jermaine O’Neal, and deciding that those are the two guys you think you can take.
8. Michael Scott vs. Toby Flenderson
Everyone can relate to this one. We’ve all had a colleague who just sucks the life out of you and any semblance of joy you get on a daily basis. Hot take, but I actually didn’t mind Toby at all and thought he provided a nice change to the ridiculousness that was The Office. In any case, their rivalry was legendary, and the bit when Michael claims he’d shoot Toby twice when locked in a room with Hitler and Bin Laden is absolutely all-time.
7. Terry Collins vs. umpires
This one is really just an excuse for me to include my favorite manager-umpire clip of all time. “Ass in the jackpot” went from something uttered by nobody ever to something I say at least weekly at this point. Keep an ear out for umpire Tom Hallion’s New York accent too, it really puts it over the top.
6. Kyrie Irving vs. spheres
It really shouldn’t come as a surprise that Kyrie isn’t an expert in geoscience. After all, he was at Duke for *checks watch* 11 games worth of classes (of which I’m sure he went to every one), but being a flat earther is a weird hill for even him to die on. It’s such a wild take you almost have to respect it. The most outrageous thing is that the NBAPA just elected him vice president. That ticket must have been pretty awful if he was the one most qualified for that position.
5. Kevin McAllister vs. The Wet Bandits
What we have here is your textbook standoff. It wouldn’t shock me if Merriam-Webster plastered Macaulay Culkin’s mug right by that word in their latest edition. Hopefully it’s the Home Alone version, and not the weird-looking face he has currently. You gotta feel like a real waste of space if you’re Harry or Marv, not being able to case a house well enough to outsmart an eight-year-old. Whenever I’m asked to give my favorite Christmas movie, it’s always the initial Home Alone, so I figured I’d give it due respect on this list.
4. LeBron vs. the 2016 Golden State Warriors
If hearing Mike Breen yell “blocked by James!” doesn’t give you chills, you’re not my boy. Simple as that. I remember being on high school beach week while this was going on and tackling my friend in celebration after they won, just because the game was that hype. Yeah, Kyrie hit the big shot, but the Cavs are swept out of that series without LeBron (no shit), who averaged 30/11/9 with over two steals and two blocks per game while breaking the hearts of every Warriors “fan” across the country. I really could have put any LeBron Finals run on this list (looking at the Cavs roster he took to the 2007 Finals is laugh out loud funny), but opted to go for his homecoming title.
3. Skip Bayless vs. logic
The king of the cold take. How one guy can be wrong time after time and continue to double down amazes me. His awful LeBron takes are Mount Rushmore-level stuff. If you ever find yourself forgetting the outcome of a major sporting event, go to the Undisputed episode where Skip and Shannon talked about it, and assume the opposite of what Skip said was going to happen went down. His one saving grace is having incredible co-hosts, which does make for entertaining television. I have fond memories of being home sick in high school looking forward to the day’s First Take episode.
2. Trump vs. 2016 opponents
Did you really think he wasn’t gonna make it? He single-handedly provided endless memes and headlines for like two years, dropping the gloves and knocking down anybody who stood in his way Tie Domi-style. Nobody did more bits than Trump in his campaign. Love him or hate him, the dude created a personalized nickname that stuck for dozens of his adversaries. My favorite part of this election season were the SNL debate sketches, though. Look those up if you haven’t seen them.
1. Tom Brady vs. PSI
Taking the top spot is a standoff so great that it resulted in the most accomplished QB in NFL history being suspended. As a DC sports fan tired of the Patriots’ dominance, it made me chuckle to see that after making it through Spygate with nary a suspension Tom Brady was suspended four games for this heinous act. Although, was it really a punishment? I mean he got to spend four weeks at home with Gisele (and they still won the Super Bowl that season), so you tell me.
What did I miss? Hit me up at @jziller17 with your takes.
P.S. Here’s the tweet that was the impetus for this list, which obviously ended with the GOAT taking Gagne yard to dead center:
Eric Gagne vs Barry Bonds. Cy Young vs MVP. Everyone in the stadium was standing and every player was at the top step of the dugout. Awesome matchup. 🔥pic.twitter.com/TPLWXYPVcC— Ballplayer City (@BallplayerCity) March 31, 2020