Editorial: Rivalry gives us the Finest and Bravest

Walk into any bar in any neighborhood where New York City cops and firefighters gather in great numbers and you’ll hear the arguments.

Who’s the toughest? Who’s the smartest? Who’s the most valuable in an emergency? Who has the hardest job?

Sometimes the banter stays light. Sometimes it stings.

And then there are days like Sunday.

Early in the afternoon, NYPD and FDNY teams faced off in a charity hockey game at the Nassau Coliseum. But somewhere in the second period, thoughts of charity seemed to vanish as players plunged into an absurd brawl that instantly went viral on the Internet.

Not the Finest or Bravest moment for anyone.

Meanwhile — at almost the same time roughly 35 miles away in Coney Island — another drama unfolded that made the scuffle on skates look silly and surreal.

The FDNY and NYPD were struggling — together — to keep residents safe, extinguish a fire on the 13th floor of Unity Tower and simultaneously save the lives of two brave NYPD officers who had been overcome by smoke.

Officers Rosa Rodriguez, 36, and Dennis Guerra, 38, had raced to the tower to help residents evacuate the instant they got the 911 call. They beat the fire department to the scene and took an elevator to the 13th floor, where the smoke overwhelmed them.

Firefighters found them unconscious on the floor. Both were in critical condition Monday.

So who’s best — the NYPD or FDNY?

Actually, neither agency can be at the top of its game without help from the other. They do different things — but frequently while working together. They have much in common: Members of both agencies routinely risk their lives to keep 8.4 million New Yorkers safe.

The city’s survival depends on them. And both groups need a strong and motivated workforce. But while a spirited rivalry can keep a police force or a fire department sharp, it shouldn’t get out of hand. As the actions of Rodriguez and Guerra — and the firefighters who rescued them — remind us, we’re all in this together.