Posted by: Jon Pyle | May 22, 2007

Shamefully Overlooked Sports Rivalry #1

Enough about the Yankees and the Red Sox. There are so many excellent rivalries and feuds out there that I would be remiss not to spotlight a few of them on Pyle of List. Here’s a glimpse at an overlooked rivalry from the world of sports.

Dan Cortese vs. Bill Bellamy
For those unfamiliar with either of these two warriors, please click on the links above.

The best rivalry in 90’s in my opinion. It spanned multiple years, multiple sports and even multiple TV shows. They both played and coached against one another in the Rock n’ Jock B-Ball Jam and Softball Challenge, while competing in the ratings with MTV Jams and MTV Sports. It concluded in a race to the unemployment line when MTV let them both go (pretty sure Cortese won that one).

For those that are unfamiliar with MTV’s Rock n’ Jock series, let me explain. Back in the early 90’s, MTV would host annual basketball and softball games featuring popular MTV VJ’s, musicians, actors and athletes. Basically it was Battle of the Network Stars for the Grunge era. Simple idea, amazingly enjoyable TV. Watching unathletic actors/musicians trying very hard to play a sport and look cool in the process is very funny. Equally amusing are athletic celebrities (or even athletes)  that play a little too hard and usually end up looking stupid by: a) trying to show up a professional athlete and being put in their place,  b) gleefully mowing down an unathletic celebrity in their quest for glory or c) all of the above.

But as a phoenix rises from the ashes, Cortese and Bellamy rose above the unintentional comedy and vapid circumstances to create a memorable rivalry. Since they were VJ’s with some athletic ability, they embodied the best aspects of both athletes and celebrities at the games (more skilled/athletic than a celeb, more fun/charasmatic than an athlete).  Both Cortese and Bellamy thought they would carve out a special niche for themselves as the ‘tweener, but they were unpleasantly surprised by the presence of the other on their wee pot o’ gold. Upon realizing the other was angling for the same niche, they essentially declared all out war on one another. Much like Magic and Bird, these two seemed destined to be rivals. Trash talk, pranks and good ol’ fashioned cheating seemed to fill every event. But with the one-upsmanship of these two fiery competitors, when would it stop? Sadly, the network that started it all had the unfortunate answer.

With no end in sight and a fight to the death looming, this rivalry suddenly and dramatically was pulled from the airwaves. With the growth of MTV as a media juggernaut the executives came to realize: “we can decide what kids will watch, just put on anything.” So, with that came the Boy Band era and the slow death of the Rock n’ Jock franchise culminating in a Super Bowl Flag Football disaster. Cortese and Bellamy gave way to Carson Daly and other personality-less VJ’s, leaving a void in the hearts of Americans everywhere and an inconclusive end to their feud.

Almost all recorded history of the Rock n’ Jock franchise has been wiped from the face of the Earth, extinguising the memory of this intense rivalry among those that experienced it and robbing those born after 1990 of it’s brilliance. Rosters, scores, and records have all vanished as though they were in the library of Atlantis. But the memory of the fortunate few just barely keep this rivalry alive, like embers on a dying fire.

Personally, I like to think that Bellamy and Cortese are still off competing somewhere. Staying in touch only so they can unleash the long-buried intensity that remains stored away inside their hearts and minds. Do they like each other? Probably not. But undoubtedly, they realize they need each other to be complete. Two legacies so intertwined, they are destined to be mentioned in the same breath for all of eternity. And while they’ll never admit it, I think that might bring a smirk to their face before they head out to practice on the 50-point basket they each built outside of their respective studio apartments.

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Responses

  1. The first thing I think of when I see Cortese is the episode of Seinfeld where he plays Elaine’s boyfriend. He goes rock climbing with Kramer and George, but ends up falling down the mountain and landing on his face. “Step off George! Step off!”

  2. The mention of the 50 point basket gets a round of applause from me. Now if you could only have worked in the “magic 8 ball” from the softball games (the ball where if you hit it out, it was worth 8 runs) you could have circled the bases. What were the basketball team names? Bricklayers and the…damnit! Help me out here, Jon.

    The flag football game wasn’t that bad. Deon Sanders was entertaining and Matt Laird juking Ruben Studdard onto his ass was awesome.

  3. […] and educate the fans on their merit (I briefly forayed into rivalries a few weeks back with this gem). This […]


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