The Rivalry Issue

Heated battles, from high school sports to Thanksgiving sandwiches


They simmer uneasily for years. They make us paint our faces and shout from the bleachers. They even come doused in cranberry sauce. Rivalries. They bring out our best, our worst and our most competitive. From Desert Trolls to casino execs, Las Vegas has its fair share of grudge matchups. Let the battles begin!

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      Steve Wynn vs. Sheldon Adelson

      It was a quote that could only be born of a genuine rivalry. Years ago, Las Vegas casino mogul Steve Wynn took a swipe at Sands Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Sheldon Adelson’s Sands Macau resort, calling it, “Sheldon’s box of baccarat.” Adelson has fired back at Wynn for being dishonest and acting as an egomaniac, even complaining about the noise emanating from Wynn’s volcano at the Mirage in the days Wynn owned the landmark hotel.

      Wynn said Adelson suffers from an inferiority complex, and opined that Adelson’s Venetian resort on the Strip lacked sufficient parking. “Mr. Magoo, with an edge,” is how Wynn once described Adelson. Six years ago, Adelson told Time magazine that Wynn was no longer a competitive concern because he was more focused on design than profit.

      Today, Adelson’s reported net worth exceeds $21 billion, which far outdistances Wynn’s $2.1 billion (this according to the most recent Forbes list of the world’s richest people), but these two men share similar influence on the worldwide gaming market. Certainly, no two gaming executives have done more to remake Las Vegas than the wildly dissimilar personalities of the flashy Wynn and hardscrabble Adelson.

      This has been one of the gaming industry’s more fascinating, public back-and-forths for years, as two of Las Vegas’ most powerful personalities have butted heads while expanding their resort properties into the fertile Chinese enclave of Macau and other gaming markets outside Las Vegas. More recently, the two have settled into a more conciliatory tone, with Wynn publicly defending Adelson in the wrongful-termination lawsuit filed by fired Sands executive Steven Jacobs in 2011 and praising Adelson’s success in Macau.

      Of Wynn, Adelson said last year, “We can live together, we can survive and we can flourish together.” For the moment, the terse words and public rivalry seem to have been parked. –John Katsilometes

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      Smashburger vs. In-N-Out

      Have you noticed that Smashburger is attacking In-N-Out? Three of the four Smash spots now open in the Valley are within a few blocks of the California-based competition—including the UNLV location that is literally next door to In-N-Out’s campus hub. These Smashburgers are pretty cocky, huh? How are you just gonna roll into Vegas in 2010 and challenge a legend’s supremacy with an all-out burger war?

      Smashburger might seem to have an attitude problem, but really it’s a fast and friendly joint with a high-quality spin on America’s iconic meal. Sound familiar? I don’t know if there will ever be a better burger than In-N-Out’s Double-Double (not to mention the peerless fresh-cut fries), but Smashburger does have some serious diversity on the menu, including salads, chicken, dogs and a recently revised black bean veggie burger that packs a powerful flavor punch. And if you can’t find anything you like, you can always walk across the street for In-N-Out. –Brock Radke

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      Vegas Vikings vs. Desert Trolls

      For nearly 20 years the Vegas Viking Lodge has proudly carried the torch for the local Norwegian community—annual lutefisk dinners, holiday bazaars, a Viking ship on wheels(!) and routine social gatherings. It’s everything you could want in a Sons of Norway chapter. But then came the Desert Trolls, who also host an annual lutefisk dinner and monthly meetings and celebrate Syttende Mai. Question is, is this town big enough for both? –Kristen Peterson

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      Neon Reverb vs. The Pastel Project

      This one might not yet qualify as a full-blown rivalry, but you don’t schedule a new indie music festival for the same weekend as the well-established Neon Reverb without ruffling feathers—particularly considering the Royal House’s new Pastel Project (March 23-24) will compete for the same sorts of local and touring acts as NR, not to mention the same attendee dollars. Having both could be a bonanza for local music fans, but when you factor in logistics, it’s tough to imagine it’ll be “one big, happy music scene” around here next month. –Spencer Patterson

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      Green Valley vs. Summerlin

      Pro-Summerlin I imagine there are any number of factors in deciding where to live—proximity to work, quality of schools, housing affordability, etc. While Summerlin and Green Valley are practically doppelgängers of one another in most respects, they differ greatly in one very important way—their culinary scenes. And seriously, is there anything more important than proximity to good food?

      I’ll be the first to admit that Summerlin proper is a culinary void—possibly even worse than Green Valley—with only Nittaya’s, Due Forni and Vintner Grill providing inspired local dining options. Step just across the Summerlin border, however, and a ridiculous wealth of eateries awaits: Marche Bacchus, Sen of Japan, Chef Marc’s Pastavino, DW Bistro, Forte, David Wong’s Pan Asian … I could drone on about the smorgasbord of options—in fact, I regularly do! This doesn’t even factor in the coup de grace, the fatal shot for which Green Valley has no answer: Chinatown. Need I say more? –Jim Begley

      Pro-Green Valley I’m writing this inside Settebello, and I didn’t have to navigate around six traffic circles to get here. Put another way, my suburb could beat up your suburb.

      Summerlin and Green Valley are roughly equidistant from the Strip. Neither has a reliable nightly music venue. Both are home to Whole Foods, Lee’s Discount Liquor and exactly 74 PT’s Pubs. But here on the southeast side, we chew authentic Neapolitan while our distant neighbors choke down whatever they call pizza in their wasteland to the west.

      Need I say more, or is this competition officially over? More? Okay … um … we’ve got the Galleria Mall. I don’t think Summerlin even has an indoor mall. Ha! Plus the temperature averages, like, three degrees cooler in Green Valley, which means July’s a breeze over here. Melt away, Summerlin suckers.

      Pretty lopsided, right? One suburb’s definitely not just like any other, at least not around here. And don’t even get me started on parks. Ever notice the first word in Green Valley is green? –Spencer Patterson

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      Las Vegas Academy vs. Green Valley High School performing arts

      Many Clark County schools have been recognized for excellence in the arts, but these two high schools have distinguished themselves as performing-arts powerhouses. Both have been awarded multiple Grammy Signature School titles, and both routinely pack their auditoriums (and even draw media attention) during their entertaining (and sometimes edgy) theater productions. Green Valley constantly wants to show the arts school up, and LVA reciprocates. The school that sends more students to perform in all-state ensembles, gets the most prestigious performing opportunities, puts on a better theater season—it all matters. Long live the rivalry (and all that great entertainment)! –Mark Adams

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      The Bobbie vs. The Robert

      It’s one of the Valley’s most popular sandwiches—Capriotti’s Bobbie: turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce and mayo. But Eddie DiBiase, owner of Eddie D’s Famous Italian Sandwiches, threw down the gauntlet a few years ago with his own version, the Robert: turkey with stuffing and melted American cheese, served hot with cranberry and homemade gravy on the side. Why “Robert”? “Because it’s the Bobbie’s daddy!” explains DiBiase. –Ken Miller

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      UNLV vs. UNR

      I will consider myself a Rebel for life, but fashioning our school mascot after a Confederate soldier wasn’t the smartest thing we’ve ever done. I get that we were Nevada Southern and playing off our secession from the almighty northern university, but come on! We know who won the Civil War, right? It’s been years since I took HIST100, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t the folks below the Mason-Dixon line.

      Questionable historical throwbacks aside, UNLV can hold its own against cousin UNR. The Wolf Pack like to joke that UNLV stands for “You Never Leave Vegas,” but if leaving Las Vegas means living in Reno, why bother? The only good thing to come out of the biggest lame city in the world is Reno 911! Las Vegas has better television shows, not to mention more diversity and better options for working students. And it also has its own wolf pack, aka Zach Galifianakis, Bradley Cooper & Co. in The Hangover. Imagine how lame a Hangover: Reno would have been.

      Of course, a university cannot rest its superiority solely on its surrounding city, but if you look at important matters like academic standings, funding and tier rankings, you will only be depressed (and need mental health services no longer available to the public at large). Let’s face it: Both schools are riding in the same leaky rowboat. It’s called Nevada.

      So why not focus on the trivial? Sport teams, official colors and the merits of my mustached mascot. These things helped teach me about loyalty and pride on a scale not so overwhelming as country nor so physical as family. Are scarlet and grey really better colors than blue and silver? Not really, but yes, yes they are. These colors don’t run! No, wait. Yes, run! Run with the Rebels of UNLV. U! N! L! V! Go, fight, win! –April Corbin

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      Cox Cable flag football team vs. Everybody else in the media league

      It started with a loss—two, in fact. For its first two years competing in media league coed flag football, Cox Cable made it to the championship game and fell short. Then, things got real. For the past three seasons, Cox has dominated its media colleagues (myself included) and taken it to the end zone for three straight titles. Frustratingly humble Cox QB Joe Greene credits team chemistry with the win streak, but I know the truth: They’re all disgraced Patriots trying to stay in shape in the off-season. –Sarah Feldberg

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      Burlesque vs. Burlesque

      A very public split between two organizers of the annual Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend (an international competition and event held in Las Vegas) led to the formation of the Dixie Evans Burlesque Show ... held the very same weekend ... also in Las Vegas. The local and national press couldn’t get enough of the showdown. And while most fans stuck with the Burlesque Hall of Fame events, we feel that when it comes to pasties, the more the better. –Kristen Peterson

    • Culinary vs. Station Casinos

      It used to be just a cold war. The fight between Culinary Union Local 226 and Station Casinos rolled along for more than a decade as the union tried unsuccessfully to organize Station workers. They were like two great powers locked in an intense but mostly peaceful struggle of wills. It featured proxy skirmishes, propaganda salvos and political face-offs without rising to the level of a shooting war.

      And then it broke out into the open, and it’s gotten ugly.

      Culinary, which represents more than 50,000 bartenders, cocktail servers and room attendants on the Las Vegas Strip, has always been the underdog in this fight. Labor law makes organizing a union difficult if the employer is committed to stopping it, and the Fertitta brothers don’t want a union.

      To overcome this weakness, the union has historically acted like a hunter looking to exploit weak prey. When Station went into a complex and contentious bankruptcy in 2009, the workers’ organizing campaign went public.

      The union quickly accused company management of unfair labor practices, including surveillance of workers and firing and disciplining workers involved in the union drive.

      The union has also attacked the Ultimate Fighting Championship, which is owned by the Fertittas. They’ve attacked the banks that now own a significant chunk of Station. They’ve even gone so far as to attack other companies for putting up guests at a Station resort.

      Now, Station, out of bankruptcy and in a position of new financial strength, is hitting back hard. You might have seen the brutal TV ads and billboards, which blame “union bosses” for hurting the Southern Nevada hospitality business.

      It’s tough to guess at the union’s end game. The Fertittas are dug in, and to return to the martial metaphor, this is trench warfare. It’s hard to imagine it ending well for anyone. –J. Patrick Coolican

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      Bishop Gorman vs. Palo Verde Football

      Las Vegas isn’t like towns in the middle of Texas or Ohio, where high school football is king and Friday nights are reserved for cheering on the closest school. But for the past five years, we’ve been treated to a late-November rivalry game that mirrors the fever in those small-town communities. The annual contest between Summerlin foes Bishop Gorman and Palo Verde is the most cared-about game every season, generating a buzz uncommon for Southern Nevada prep football, along with sold-out crowds of 5,000, traffic jams and coverage from all the Las Vegas news stations.

      And, as with all good rivalries, the two schools can’t stand one another.

      The rivalry peaked in 2007, when Gorman moved from central Las Vegas to South Summerlin, relocating to a multimillion-dollar campus 10 minutes from Palo Verde. It’s public vs. private. One school wears Nike gear; the other Under Armour. And here’s how evenly matched they are: Palo Verde has lost just two games, total, over the past two years—both to Gorman.

      “They are pretty much across the street; just drive down [the road] and there they are,” Gorman senior lineman Ron Scroggins said in November. “They don’t like us, and we kind of feel the same.”

      Because the schools are in different leagues, the matchup isn’t guaranteed to happen each year. But both schools are football powers, so they’ve met deep in the playoffs five years in a row. Gorman, which has won four of the past five state titles, holds a 4-1 advantage against Palo Verde.

      “They have such a great community following,” Gorman coach Tony Sanchez said of Palo Verde in November. “That side of town, they bleed black. Our side bleeds orange and blue. It’s two communities that get extremely excited and will show up to create a frenzied atmosphere.” –Ray Brewer

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      Gambler’s General Store vs. Spinettis Gaming Supplies

      This isn’t a cute rivalry; this one’s cutthroat. Two gaming supplies stores that 1. share a parking lot and 2. can’t stand each other.

      When I phoned the Gambler’s General Store to ask whether they were located close to Spinettis Gaming Supplies—they’re 20 or 30 yards apart—the woman on the phone said, “Never heard of ’em.” And when I walked into the Gambler’s General Store to ask about what they sold at Spinettis, the lady standing behind the dice-filled counter said, “Don’t know. Never been.”

      “And how long have you worked here?”


      Twelve seconds later at Spinettis, I asked the guy behind the counter how the store differed from its neighbor.

      “We’re nicer,” he said. “Seriously, though, they’re for tourists; we’re for home gamers. A lot of people come to Spinettis first, and then they walk over to the Gambler’s General Store … and then they come back after they realize our prices are cheaper.”

      The truth is, both stores are fantastic. I’ve bought playing cards from the Gambler’s General Store and old slot tokens from Spinettis, and I plan to continue shopping at both. But I don’t think that will win me points with either store so much as it will piss them both off. –Rick Lax


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