The Outside Looking In
Carlton Fisk, left, and Red Sox teammates mix it up with Yankees Thurman Munson.
Chances are if you’re an avid Red Sox fan, then you probably know a lot about the Yankees. The same can be said in reverse if you’re a Yankees fan. No matter which side of the fence you land on, it’s a fair assumption to say you know where the other team stands, what their weakness is, what their strengths are and what unknowns they have. You really couldn’t call yourself a Yankees fan or a Red Sox fan if you didn’t have a pretty good grasp on how the other team stacked up.
That’s one of the reasons why I laugh when I hear people outside of the Sox-Yankees box ask: “Is that rivalry still what it once was?” The simple answer to that question is, YES. It’s still very much alive, but it may be in a sort of hibernation. Not because the animosity no longer exists between the fan bases…..trust me, it does. No, the reason for that is because the Red Sox and the Yankees haven’t gone head to head in games that determine the post season fate for each other. Nor have they actually played each other in the post season for quite some time (I shouldn’t need to remind anyone when that last post season game was played between the two).
If there has been any tempering of the rivalry (and I’m not sure if this even applies to the majority), then it’s possible that the fans of each team may have developed a certain type of tolerance for one another in the past 10 years or so. Meaning that in some cases, they can actually talk to one another from time to time about baseball without getting into a fist fight. Does that sound extreme to you? It shouldn’t, because at the very far end of the “Those people are nuts!” scale, there have been reported incidents of *assault with a deadly weapon and yes, even **murder attributed to this rivalry. These are obviously extreme cases, but they underscore the levels of dislike some of these fans have for each other.
Also absent from this rivalry (and this is no small factor) is the real dislike the players once had for each other. Just say the names Munson and Fisk together and any Red Sox or Yankees fan will know exactly what you’re talking about. It hasn’t always been the case, but there certainly was from time to time real player dislike for one another. That only helped pour fuel on the fire for the fans. That kind of dislike on the field hasn’t gone on in a while. The closest you may come to it would be how Joba Chamberlain and Kevin Youkilis once felt about each other. Youkilis, now getting ready to play a season in New York…..for the Yankees…..should tell you all you need to know about how heated that hatred was (not a huge thing). But ask any Sox fan or Yankees fan if they ever thought it possible that Fisk would play in New York or if Munson would ever play in Boston. The answer you’ll get will be a resounding “NO F-IN WAY!! THOSE GUYS HATED THAT TEAM”……and they would be right.
Today while we sit in the stands prior to any Sox-Yankee game, we see players from each team cross that invisible line and go chat it up with a member of the opposing team. It’s not unusual and it’s more common place then it ever was. But if you asked any Red Sox fan: Would you rather see Dustin Pedroia walk over and shake hands with Mark Teixeira or would you rather see him punch Mark in the mouth? Take a guess what answer you would get. Turn the question around and ask it of any Yankees fan and you’ll get the same answer. “Punch him in the mouth” would win by a landslide.
It’s safe to say most of these fans would rather the players not like each other so much. In fact, I think the fans would love it if the players felt the same way about the opposing team and its players as they did.
While many people around the country may view baseball as one of the more “High Brow” sports in America, the regions around New York and Boston would probably prefer less “High Brow” and more “Let’s Get It On” when they play each other.
Why? Because this rivalry my friends is far from dead. These teams fans love to hate each other. They’re just taking a nap right now and biding their time for another Fisk-Munson or another post season match up. Trust me, when either of those things happen (and one certainly will), the people outside looking in on this thing labeled as the greatest rivalry in all sports won’t be asking if it still exists. Instead, they’ll be tuning in to watch the best baseball has to offer.
The Boston Red Sox vs The New York Yankees.
There is nothing else like it…….and that’s a good thing.