Sports

The Sports Sermon: The greatest rivalry in sports?

April 13, 2011


As I walked out of my friend’s downtown Boston apartment, I was met with a mix of excitement and alertness. I was headed to my first baseball game of the season—a special occurrence for any baseball fan. To make it better, the weather was perfect and the Yankees were playing the Red Sox.

But as I donned my white and navy blue Yankees hat, I remained attentive—I was in enemy territory. I was prepared for expletives, and maybe more, to fly my way. After all this was the Yankees vs. the Red Sox—the Curse of the Bambino, Bucky Dent, Aaron Boone, and even Don Zimmer.

I knew I’d need to defend myself and my team, so I made sure I had some comebacks ready to go. It helped that Boston had only just won their first game and were tied for last place with a 1-7 record. As we walked to the ballpark, I began to see a lot of red and immediately thought about my past journeys to Fenway.

When I went to my first game there at the ripe old age of seven, a Red Sox fan made me cry. He jokingly said something innocent like, “the Yankees stink and they are going to lose.” He felt really bad after the fact and apologized, but at such a young age, I was still scarred. That was my first taste of enemy territory. I had gone to a few more games there since, and while mature enough to take the innocent teases, I still wasn’t old enough to be verbally assaulted. That was what I was expecting on this trip.

To my surprise, none of that really happened. There were no in-your-face confrontations, no curses spewed in my direction, and no threat of any alcoholic beverages being poured on me. I walked out of the stadium unscathed.

In all honesty, I was kind of disappointed. How can you let a fan of your biggest rival walk into your home field and not give him a hard time? This was the same Fenway Park that made seven-year-old me cry, right?

This was the first time it really hit me: Red Sox fans haven’t been the same since 2004, when the team broke their 86-year World Series curse. Half of my family and a lot of my friends are Red Sox fans, and none of them have stopped having negative feelings towards the Yankees.

But I think in a lot of cases, the pure hatred that was once present has turned into mere dislike. It’s just like when the unpopular girl, who was always taunted by the most popular girl in school, shocks everyone when she is named prom queen. She doesn’t begin to like her once-superior classmate, but she has a newfound confidence and may not worry about hating her anymore.

The greatest rivalry in sports doesn’t really seem all that great right now. The two players that share the most hatred for each other are Joba Chamberlain and Kevin Youkilis. That’s a far cry from the Roger Clemens-Manny Ramirez days, and it’s miles away from the rivalry that was present in the ‘70s, when each meeting had more brawls than a hockey game.

The Yankees and the Red Sox haven’t faced off in the postseason since that 2004 series and haven’t really had any meaningful late season matchups either. Playing 15 games against each other every season only lessens the importance of each game.

The rivalry isn’t the same as it used to be, but it isn’t over by any means. It just needs fresh blood and new players to carry the intensity. There has always been a rivalry within the rivalry, and right now that is lacking. A “new” rivalry won’t happen anytime soon. The teams didn’t instantly hate each other the day Babe Ruth was sold to New York—it took some time and bad blood.

But when it does happen, I’ll know immediately. My uneasiness about walking into Fenway Park will be restored, along with a uniquely satisfying hatred. When 30,000 strangers in red are heckling me and making me feel out of place, all will be right with the world again.



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