October 23, 2013 by NowhereButPop
It was a summer afternoon in 1997 when, from seemingly out of nowhere, I asked him “Dad, who are the Yankees archenemy?”. It was a question steeped in comic book mythology and Saturday morning cartoons. His response was “The Boston Red Sox. We hate them! The Yankees-Red Sox rivalry is the mother of all rivalries”. Right then and there not only was my question answered, but it was put into context as well. Not only did we have an archenemy, but also that there was no greater rivalry, no strife as bitter, no hatred as intense as the one shared between the Yankees and the Red Sox.
Pressing a little further I asked him how many championships the Yankees had won, “23” he responded. Then when I asked about the Red Sox all my dad said was “They haven’t won since 1918”. That blew my mind, and filled my heart with maniacal glee, that the enemy, an enemy that I only found out about 5 minutes before, was so inferior to the might of the Yankees. As a six year old the only thing that mattered in baseball to me was that the Yankees had the most championships, and the Red Sox hadn’t won in almost 100 years. I basked in learning the former, and took the latter to be a universal constant, something that would never change. The Red Sox would simply go the rest of my life without winning another World Series, and they would continue to be the inferior ones in the rivalry.
Having grown up in the 60s and 70s my dad was around to witness the first real escalation of the rivalry that transformed it from one sided domination to a mutual shared hatred between the teams and fans. He was there when Carlton Fisk steamrolled over Thurman Munson, and when Graig Nettles literally destroyed Spaceman Lee’s pitching arm. During the 80s and 90s, the feud died down because the two teams weren’t good during the same time. The Yankees started the decade off well, but fell to last place by 1989. Likewise the Red Sox had a good year in 1986, but slumped by the decade’s end to lead a pathetically weak division. After lying dormant for over a decade, the rivalry began anew in 1999 with the first postseason meeting between the two teams, but it wasn’t until 2003 where the series escalated to new highs, and for us Yankee fans new lows.
Within the paradigm of this most sacred feud, the Red Sox have been the upstarts, the usurpers trying to(and failing) to win a World Series. That’s their thing; not winning was what made the Red Sox distinct and special. The Yankees, by contrast, are the superior, the ones who win. The fact that they win, and do it more often than anyone else is what makes them special. But, besides winning, the second most important responsibility that the Yankees have, is to make sure that the Red Sox continue to lose, to remind them of who the top dog is. We successfully reminded them of their place in 1949, 1976, 1978, 1999, and 2003 wherein we escaped by the skin of our teeth. Then came 2004.
Now, prior to 2003 I had no real and tangible reason to hate the Red Sox. The amount of hatred I had for them was the amount of hatred I would reserve for the arch rival of the Yankees regardless of who it was. There was nothing that made it personal for me to actively hate the Red Sox beyond the role that they occupied in relation to my Yankees. That began to change in 2003 when I started to realize how much I loathed Pedro Martinez, Manny Ramirez, and Jason Varitek as human beings. They in particular seemed to have this extreme hatred for anything Yankees, going so far as to hit batters in the head, beat up Don Zimmer, and call out no-names on the Yankees like Karim Garcia. Even though they probably felt oppressed and smothered by the hegemony of the Yankees, I still attest that their hatred for us is what escalated the rivalry and turned it into a war. We hate the Red Sox, because they’re our rivals. They hate us because somehow the Yankees have come to embody everything that’s gone wrong in their lives. In Boston the thought is “my wife left me…blame the Yankees”, the bank foreclosed my house…blame the Yankees”, “the Patriots lost to the Ravens in the playoffs…blame the Yankees”. It’s something that is obsessive and paltry when played outside confines of baseball.
By 2004 the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry had come to be as all encompassing and mesmerizing as the Lakers-Celtics rivalry was in the 1980s. From the perspective of a 13 year old trying to find his way in junior high, the rivalry seemed to parallel the divide between jock vs. goth, tradition vs. usurpation, and maturity vs. childishness. Because of the 2004 ALCS, where the Red Sox did the impossible and came back from a 3-0 games deficit, I am to this day both completely uncomfortable and skeptical of a sweep. That shouldn’t happen; no one should have a feeling of dread when entering the ninth inning of game four with a lead, while your team is up 3-0 in the series. The Red Sox robbed me and every other Yankee fan of that security for the rest of our lives.
Even throughout their entire history (which isn’t as glamour as ESPN would lead you to believe) the Red Sox have been cockroaches. You just can’t kill the little pricks. In 1967, after falling behind 3-1 games in the World Series, they force a game seven. In 1986, after falling behind 3-1 to the Angels in the ALCS, they come back and win it all in seven games to go to the World Series. In 2003 they take the Yankees to seven games and almost eliminate us, had it not been for Aaron Boone. In 2004, they win the ALCS after losing the first three games in convincing fashion. In 2007 after losing three of the first four games in the ALCS, they come back and win the ALCS in seven games, then sweep the World Series. The following year they almost do it again, but the Rays wind up out-underdogging the Red Sox. The Red Sox are worse than Aerosmith, because you can never quite get rid of them.
Besides hating the makeup of the team (Martinez, Varitek, Pedroia, Ortiz, Ramirez, Millar…etc), the fact that they’re harder to keep down than Ron Paul the biggest reason that I hate the Red Sox in 2013 is because of what they’ve become. In short, they’ve become hypocrites. The truth is that the Red Sox have become the Yankees, free-spending, high dealing motherfuckers that do their damndest to win a World Series year in and year out. That’s what they are. Look at the team, and tell me there’s not a stud at most positions. But, what people still believe them to be are the scrappy underdogs struggling against the hegemony of the Yankees. People see the beards, and the grit, and the loose feel of the ball club and think that they’re these scrappy blue collar guys fighting for their moment in the sun. Not true! Since 2000 they are tied with the most World Series wins in that time span; if they win this year, they’ll have the most. You can’t be the underdog, and the big dog at the same time; it’s inherently diametric. What they are, is a championship caliber team; what people think they are is the little engine that could. They might have been that in 2004, but 2004 is a long ways away.
Despite whatever stereotype they play to, the fact remains that the Red Sox have become the Yankees in terms of winning and fielding a championship caliber team year in and year out. They also still play up the Boston underdog thing, that every Boston team does despite winning every major championship within the past ten years. But even with their star-studded team, the Red Sox don’t falter like the Yankees do. They still do their enigmatic come from behind wins, they still grind out every at bat, and they still make you uncomfortable even if your team is up by 10 with no one on and two outs in the bottom of the 9th. It’s very frustrating to see them have the best of both worlds, because as much as their not the lovable underdog that American thought them to be from 2003-2008, they’re more like the Yankees now, then ever before.
When (if) I have a son, I won’t be able to say to him “the Red Sox, our arch enemy haven’t won the World Series since 1918”. I’ll never be able to pass on the knowledge that the mother of all rivalries is a completely one-sided after, that people like to exaggerate as being more even than it actually is. He’ll never know what it felt like for his innate rivals to be the most futile franchise in the MLB for at least a part of his life. Worst of all, I’ll never see the smile cross his face when he realizes that our natural enemies have been unsuccessful for longer than his father or grandfather have been alive for. For this I blame David fucking Ortiz.
 Which at that point in time pretty much summed up my entire existence.
 The Yankees-Red Sox rivalry was arguable at its most intense from 1973-1978. It eclipsed the Cold War, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the Battle of the Networks in grandeur, ferocity, and impending fear of mutually assured destruction.
 Remember Yankee fans, Aaron Boone is not nearly as venerable as we treat him. He was worse than useless in the World Series and is the exact reason why he have been saddled with A-Rod for the past 10 years. HOLY FUCK! I can’t believe it’s been 10 years.
 Maybe it’s a Boston thing.