I’ve bled with the rest of you when it comes to the Red Sox vs. the Yankees. Bucky Dent’s home run in 1978, Grady Little leaving Pedro Martinez in the 2003 seventh game as he was getting bludgeoned. And I rejoiced with the rest of you, too — the Red Sox coming back from a near-certain sweep to beat the Yankees and go on to win the World Series in 2004. So it pains and amazes me to admit this, but when the Red Sox visit New York this weekend, I’ll be rooting for the Yankees.
How did this happen? Did I go to sleep one night and get taken over by the “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” pod people? If so it must be a timed-release takeover as this has been coming on for years, maybe decades.
So why am I glad when the Yankees win and remain unfazed when the Red Sox lose? Why did it bother me more when Mariano Rivera was lost, perhaps for the season, than when the Red Sox lost their closer – Whatsisname. Ditto Alex Rodriguez.
The Red Sox are the easier part of the puzzle. We can go on and on about how they blew their enormous lead last year, but basically I just don’t like these guys. The fried chicken hawks of the pitching staff who are still anti-heroes. Adrian Gonzalez blaming God instead of himself for last year’s failure to make the playoffs. Carl Crawford and the big-money chokes; I can’t even say I missed him most of this year despite the no-name offense.
Then there are the Yankees and their graceful swagger. Derek Jeter and Rivera – class personified. Alex Rodriguez – a joy to watch at the plate even if his best years are behind him. In fact, the whole lineup is fun to watch at the plate – Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, Mark Texeira, Ichiro Suzuki. And when the game is on the line, they’re even better.
At this point, the Yankees also represent a certain stability, a certain gold standard. If you enjoy great athletes performing at the top of their abilities and under clutch circumstances, you have to love the Yankees. To quote Chad Harbach in last year’s highly praised “The Art of Fielding”: “You loved [baseball] because you considered it an art [which] somehow seemed to communicate something true or even crucial about The Human Condition. The Human Condition being, basically, that we’re alive and have access to beauty, can even create it …” You could say that about at least 10 Yankees. I don’t think any of the Sox players qualify — except Dustin Pedroia.
It has always been thus, of course – Ruth, Gehrig, Mantle, Maris, Mattingly, Murcer, Bernie Williams, Reggie, and, of course, Marilyn Monroe’s ex. And I don’t mean Arthur Miller. “Where have you gone, Ted Williams” doesn’t scan in more ways than one, does it?
Yes, I know, there’s the late George Steinbrenner and the legacy of conspicuous consumption, but we ended up applauding the Red Sox for playing the same game, just not as well. And Steinbrenner had the smarts to hire (and fire) better managers, at least pre-Francona. Would Billy Martin have dumped Bernie Carbo in the middle of a pennant race because he was supposedly a troublemaker? That idiotic move by Don Zimmer cost the Red Sox the 1978 pennant. Would Joe Torre have kept Martinez in the 2003 game, costing them another trip to the World Series?
Unlike a lot of fellow Bostonians, I also love New York as a city. A cultural mecca – Sinatra, Bernstein, Albee, Dylan’s golden years. People honestly speaking their minds. (OK, not always a pleasure.) A place that actually makes causing gridlock a punishable offense.
But this has to do with the Yankees and Red Sox. It’s time to root for a real team. Go Yankees.