Sep 14, 2007

What Rivalry?

*I wrote this April 25th about the unreal amount of vitriol being spewed by both Boston and New York fans in the midst of their first series this year. Even now, there is no real positioning battle going on, as the Yanks seem to have accepted the Wild Card spot, while conceding the division to Boston. That makes everything I say still pertinent.*

Living in New York City the past four years has left me indoctrinated in the generation spanning rivalry that is Yankees v. Red Sox. It seems that come spring, I am surrounded by navy hats, sporting either a white NY or a red B, and nothing else. To some people, these divisional games mean more than anything other event in the sporting universe. Just this weekend, I stopped into a local sports bar to say hi to a friend who was working his first shift, and as I entered the door, I was met with shouts of, “Sox or Yankees!!!”

Um, how bout neither?

Aside from my disdain for both fan bases, these series of games are simply not a rivalry, especially this time of year. I know this for three legitimate reasons. Firstly, there’s nothing tangible on the line; quite frankly, the games don’t matter. There’s no playoff spot on the line, no division title, not even a draft pick for tanking purposes. The only thing up for grabs is who gets marginally more coverage by ESPN, since they seem determined to shove the ‘rivalry’ down our collective throats. Secondly, for any battle between two parties, both have to win some of the time. BoSox fans will readily point to the recent World Series title of their team, but does that really make up for over 100 years of being owned by New York. The only reason this ‘rivalry’ exists is the inferiority complex felt by New Englanders who opt not to cheer for the Yankees. The World Series win was, in reality, just a little brother luckily besting his big brother, one time. Those 26 titles held by the Yankees tell a story of utter domination, not only of the divisional opponents, but also of the sport as a whole. Finally, there is the undeniable fact that rivalries cannot exist in professional sports, there’s too much money on the line. There can be individual rivalries between players who sometimes just don’t like each other (Jordan/Isaiah, Clemens/Pizza, etc.), but not whole organizations, not really. If that were the case, there would have been no way Johnny Damon could have left the Sox to go to the Yankees. That would be like Bobby Hurley leaving Duke in the early nineties to go play for UNC. He would have been killed on campus, and the perpetrator would have walked, the judge ruling the killing as a justifiable homicide.

Professional sports are all about money and entertainment. Building up bad blood between regional teams is a good way to keep people entertained and spending money. These people shoot Sportscenter commercials together! If you can unite to support the evil, wretched Disney Corporation, then you don’t really hate one another. But, money is thicker than blood, and this ‘feud’ is just the latest proof.

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