|YOU THINK THE YANKEES SUCK? THEN YOU'RE THE LOSER, FOOL.|
|By R.A. Miller||
Let me describe for you utopia: It's a warm late-spring Saturday. You're basking in the 70-degree sunshine with your drink of choice, surrounded by your posse and a pack of beautiful 20-somethings, with at least 42 hours before you'll be herded back into your cubicle for another 5 days of drudgery. You're at a baseball game -- a Red Sox baseball game -- in the college town no one wants to leave: Boston, Massachusetts.
You may not have been to Friendly Fenway Park lately. Maybe you've never been at all. Let me tell ya, it's got a little something for everyone. You want history? Pack yourself into a narrow wooden seat in a ballpark that opened in 1912 and hasn't really changed since a fire 70 years ago. You want ambience? Locals have nicknamed Fenway the "Biggest Bar in Boston," and thanks to a new concession policy, you can throw back nearly any brand of beer as you down legendary Fenway Franks by the fistful. You want scenery? You'll find more model-caliber honeys hanging out in the stands near home plate than you'll find at any other Boston-area haunt -- guaranteed -- and if the Sox are winning, they might even be happy enough to stop and give you a chat.
This should be an afternoon of heaven, the pinnacle of time well spent. As a man who has lived 13 years as an inhabitant of the Hub, this should be the cornerstone of a perfect weekend.
Well, it's not.
I hate the Red Sox. Hate 'em with a passion, and the law of averages says you probably should too. Allow me to expound:
It's somewhere around the middle of the sixth. That 70-degree day is still in full effect. You've just returned to your seat with another Sam Adams, and the scoreboard shows the teams knotted at one run each. Manny Ramirez takes a base on balls, and on the very next pitch Shea Hillenbrand knocks a line-drive home run over the right field wall to give the Sox the go-ahead. The stands go wild. People spill beer. Nobody minds. Then it starts
From somewhere in the upper deck, the rhythmic chant begins its cascade toward the field, picking up steam and widening in concentric circles.
This would be a low-brow display under the best of circumstances, but here's the real kicker: the Yankees aren't even in the ballpark. Hell, they aren't even in the same state. The Red Sox instead are contending with a non-descript Central Division opponent like the Twins as nearly 32,000 fans drone their tired epithet like a religious mantra.
Red Sox fans are the baseball world's psycho ex-girlfriend. The one that demands you stop calling her, then calls to cry because you haven't phoned. They have a fixation -- an oral fixation embodied in a three-syllable slur -- that should prove to the world they deserve neither a championship nor the sympathy for their perennial denial.
Red Sox Nation must let the Yankees go. There is no rivalry hasn't really been one since 1978 when Ron Guidry and the Pin Stripers squeaked out a one-run will-breaking playoff win over the best Red Sox team in modern history. A harsher critic may say there has been no rivalry since 1918 -- when the Sox could last claim the world title. Boston Magazine's Bill Simmons said it better than any other sportswriter last year when he wrote, "The Red Sox-Yankees 'rivalry' is about as competitive as a wet T-shirt contest between Britney Spears and Janet Reno." And Simmons actually likes the Sox.
Until the Fenway Faithful drop it, baseball fans elsewhere must forget about the Red Sox. Don't support them. Don't sympathize. And certainly don't adopt them. By my count, there are 10.5 million people who -- unfortunately for them -- should be Red Sox fans. That is the good population of New England. (Connecticut is excluded now that it's just a suburb of Gotham.) The remaining 270 million Americans should hop on someone else's bandwagon.
The hotties strolling the Fenway concourse sporting their Nomar jerseys and ponytails threaded through the backs of throwback caps? The all-American boys in the bleachers wearing Green Monster tee shirts? Half the time they're from New Jersey. They love the Red Sox because of old "Cheers" reruns and the fact that they ended up at Northeastern University instead of NYU.
Someone must put an end to it. Adopting an underdog is as American as apple pie, but not when that dog is a shih tzu that perpetually bites the hindquarters of a rottweiler every time you go for a walk (and by adopting the Red Sox team, you're supporting the group that supports it). Bud Selig should implement a policy that requires each purchaser of official Red Sox gear to present their high school diploma in tandem with their Visa card. If it doesn't read "Boston Latin," or "B.C. High" or the name of some one-room rural-route joint in New Hampshire straight to an identity counselor. (Of course, if the diploma checks out, the next stop should be grief counseling. Preparation is a virtue.)
However, Selig is unlikely to change baseball policy, so it's up to the rest of us to lead by example. Don't encourage the Red Sox; don't encourage their fans, and if you happen to be in a ballpark (or a shopping mall, or anywhere on I-95 between Portland, ME and Richmond, VA) when you hear those pitiful three syllables rising from a blue-blood throat -- for Christ's sake don't say a word. Well, maybe mutter something about 1918 very subtly under your breath.
Then write a letter to the commissioner. Maybe he'll show up at Fenway to catch a game or two this season and witness the travesty of sportsmanship firsthand. If it's a "rivalry" match-up, there's the chance he may halt it in a tie and leave 32,000 fans with a shred of dignity. God knows they can't find it on their own.
Last night, the Yankees and Red Sox wrapped up their first head-to-head series of the 2003 season. (The Yanks took two of three in the hostile Hub, and they meet on home turf in five days.) It would be nice if they could win in a sweep and nip the rivalry chatter in the bud before the season gets into full swing -- but the odds say they won't. In May and June, the Red Sox and Yankees historically are close. However, by September (when it counts) the wheels will fall off the Boston bus, leaving 10.5 million bitter baseball fans to vent their frustrations verbally. It's the only outlet they've had for 85 years.
And it seems even older and more tired than that.
R A Miller is the Managing Editor of Arriviste Press, a digital book store and publishing company found at www.arrivistepress.com. Go throw your D batteries at him, okay.
Ed Note: Just so you know, I *still* think the Yankees suck. --E