Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Rivalry Hot As Ever (Unless You're Eric Wilbur)

We're in an unprecedented time right now. The Yankees, having won World Series before, and having seen the Red Sox win World Series since, are trying to regain the spotlight. First time in history. That fact alone means that the rivalry between the two teams is at an all-time high.

Not good enough? How about the fact that over the last ten seasons, no team from the AL East has made the playoffs other than the Red Sox and Yankees? Put any two teams in that situation, and they'll become rivals if they weren't already.

Still don't believe? Try spending any amount of time in the northeast. No, outside your house.

What the hell am I talking about? Eric Wilbur has written a piece saying that the rivalry isn't as intense as it was three years ago, and that he doesn't see it ever could be again.

Saying the rivalry is dead is like saying the curse is alive. Which, by the Yankee fans will always believe, no matter what happens. When you're at that level, your team is involved in...a rivalry.

The Yankees haven't won in over seven years. They've seen us win twice. They're desperate to win one again. And it's got everything to do with the Red Sox. To think it's not extra difficult for them knowing that not only are they failing, but the team they never thought would win have won, twice, including the biggest comeback of all time against them...well, Eric, that type of stuff resonates. And they're the side that supposedly "doesn't care."

For me, as you all know, the rivalry started at a level of 100 when I was born and has never dipped below that. I think it's that way for plenty of fans on both sides. But even looking at it from an outsider's point of view: look at all my evidence above, look at how we're two of the top teams in the game with the two highest payrolls, and add to that Hank Steinbrenner fueling the fire--my lord, the anticipation of this season is almost unparalleled! Plus, we're going in as World Champs. They're out to beat us and we're out to beat them. What more do you need, man? (And again, I really don't care who it is--if it was us and Toronto in this situation, I'd be just as psyched--but it's the team that we're already rivals with! Making it even more crazy! What is Wilbur smoking??)

And in his article, he calls the new Red Sox Nation ad "embarrassing." I fucking loved it! Okay, the tank at the end--a little dumb, but I see it in an "at war with the Yanks" thing, not as some kind of pro-war-in-general rhetoric. That's why the flag on top of it is a Red Sox flag, not an American flag. We're just defending our side in this baseball feud.

Of course the media has tried to cash in on this rivalry. But that doesn't mean they invented it, or that it wouldn't be there without them. It would. Eric also brings up the "oh, they play each other too often" excuse. Guess what? In 1949, a pennant race with a book written about it, the Red Sox played the Yankees 22 times. In 1978, a pennant race with a library written about it, we played each other 16 times. Was the rivalry watered down then? What does this guy want, a year where we play the Yanks, say, four times? Great. Then we could play the Blue Jays 32 times to make up for it. (?)

Again, I'm not in the "let's make sure the rivalry stays hot" business. I don't need to be. It's been the most natural thing in the world for about 100 years. Step outside your basement and go to the next Red Sox-Yankees game, or just walk around the streets of the entire northeast, and you'll see it. (Yes, when media people blog, we get to make fun of them for being in "their parents' basement.")

I was thinking about the media and people, and how that's a similar rivalry to Sox-Yanks. The people used to be able to communicate with each other about what's going on, and that's how news would spread. Then the "media" was invented, and they told everyone, "this is how it is." Then, the "internet" was invented, and the people started to take back the power. In this analogy, the media are the Yankees, and we the people are the Red Sox. Now that we're on top, the former empire is pissed, so all they can do, while still making fun of us, is realize our way is better and imitate us in a desperate attempt to swing the power back.

This piece was written for you free of charge by a lowly blogger and "fanboy."

I agree with Wilbur a bit more, because his piece resonates more with things I've said in the past. The rivalry does feel a bit stale, no matter what Hank says or how Werner and Lucchino try to profit from the hype. Obviously they're rivals on the field, but the non-stop barrage of media telling us its THE GREATEST RIVALRY IN SPORTS! (which it may or may not be)is exhausting and does take away from the organic rivalry on the field. That said, I think the 2004 season was way way more anticipated than this one. Calling the first spring training game "Game 8," all that stuff w/ A-Rod, etc. There's never been a season where anticipation has been that unparalleled. At least to me.

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