Florida. The Sunshine State. Home of Disney World, alligators, and some very funny local news stories. It's also home to the Tampa Bay Rowdies, a team we have a little beef with us Cosmos fans.
As any original Cosmos fan knows, the old NASL was home to some very interesting teams (and even better jerseys), but the Rowdies stood out. Maybe it was the hot weather down in Florida, or the constant fear of being bitten by some poisonous snake, but we do know is that there was something different about them. They had to be insane to have the gall to win the title in the first year Pele arrived. How rude!
With the Cosmos and Rowdies being two of the biggest names in soccer at the time, the teams drew huge crowds whenever they played. The antics of both teams off-pitch didn't help, especially once a former Rowdies manager landed the Cosmos job. But we really started to annoy each other when the Cosmos denied the Rowdies en-route to Pele's last competitive game with a win against the Strikers, who are a story for another day.
From then on, the Rowdies and the Cosmos had a rivalry that could never die, until it did with the rest of the NASL. But, with the reboot of the league and the teams, has the rivalry returned?
The thing about sports fans, and soccer fans in particular, we love to hate other clubs. When it doesn't get out of hand, rivalries can be good, even great, for a league or team's popularity. When people see others arguing and taking sides, our first instinct is to take a side. So many times, leagues will try to push a rivalry to grab a bit of attention, instead of watching it grow on the pitch. Sometimes there’s a bit of animosity, but most of the time it seems a little forced. The NASL says that the Rowdies are our "heritage rivals", but does that mean anything today?
Overall, in my personal opinion, this rivalry just isn't the same as it was during the old days. The clubs played one absolute barn burner during the 2013 season in which the Cosmos won after going 3-1 down to start their march to the 2013 title, but that's been the exception of late, as opposed to the rule. Most recently, the boys in green cruised to a comfortable victory, beating them 2-0 at the home opener. I wouldn't say the clubs are best friends. However, the spark of a rivalry between the two is probably going to stay just that, especially given the presence of a pair of local rivals for the Rowdies in Florida. But don’t you worry: there are plenty of teams we have a bone to pick with, and we’ll be taking a look at them in this series.