Yankees, Red Sox, and the Business of Rivalry

Assuming you've been alive the past week, you've likely heard something about a Yankees-Red Sox baseball series. This year's episode has been played out in two operatic acts: Yankee domination in the first three games, followed by a back-from-the-dead Red Sox rally in three absurdly close, obscenely long games since.

Well get Act III tonight. Some Boston fans think the historic comeback is a sign their team is destined to finally break through this year; others will say that it's all just an elaborate set-up for yet another novel, crushing way to lose. Meanwhile I challenge you to walk half a block in New York (or ten feet in Boston) today without overhearing a conversation about baseball.

Most of the games have been great, and there's always something to be said for a good athletic contest. But this isn't really about athletes or sports or baseball. Its about a rivalry. In this case, a longstanding feud between two cities with a rich history between them that pits a perennial underdog against a rival that seems to do no wrong, where both sides want to see the other one lose as much as they want to see their side win.

We all have rivalries in our work and our lives, rivalries that can provide you with anything from stress headaches to the motivation you need to post stronger earnings than your competitor this quarter. Whether it's the other leading company in your field or the coworker on the other side of your cubicle wall, much of what you do is driven not just by the desire to do well for yourself, but by the necessity of rising to the challenge and outperforming someone else who is trying to do the same thing better than you can.

How much of your own motivation do you draw from rivalry, and from the idea that you need to vanquish some challenger lest they do it to you?

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