Sunday, December 20, 2009

The ugly side of the Rivalry

I have thoroughly enjoyed the Rivalry between the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox. In my first job out of college, I worked closely alongside several Red Sox fans and remember all the fun we had with our daily tweaking and taunting. Of course, this was in the days when the Saux hadn't won the World Series since 1918. Things have evened out in the last decade with both teams possessing two championship titles.

But every so often we are confronted head-on with the ugly side of the Rivalry, whether it is fighting in the stands or tossing condiments at each other. Yes, I was once accidently hit by packets of ketchup that stained my new Michael Kors jeans during a Yankee-Red Sox game at the old stadium last year. The tosser was a fellow Yankees fan who was aiming at the Red Sox fans who dared to show up and were sitting right next to me.

But all that pales in comparison to a story in Nashua, New Hampshire of a woman on trial for second-degree murder. The woman, a fan with a Yankees decal on her car, claimed she did not intentionally try to run over the victim, a Red Sox fan, and merely feared for her life after a group of Boston fans started banging on her car.

We may never know what actually happened that day, but we know one thing for sure: that a man lost his life for something that started as a baseball dispute. And this is the sad truth and the ugliest part of the Rivalry. What can't we stick to baseball-related insults? Why does it have to disintegrate into violence and hatred? Why can't we enjoy the natural teasing and taunting and then part with a handshake, regardless of the winner?
The intensity of the Rivalry has been partly driven in recent years by ownership. Not the players, who not only do not hate each other, but actually have become friendly, much to the annoyance of Yankee fans (i.e. Derek Jeter and Dustin Pedroia in the World Baseball Classic). From Red Sox President Larry Lucchino's "Evil Empire" nickname in 2002 to Hank Steinbrenner mocking the very existence of Red Sox Nation, the head honchos themselves have upped the hostility.
We have allowed this Rivalry to get out of control and the time has come to rein it in. Let's resist whatever urge compels people to throw punches or objects at each other just because they root for a team we consider our mortal enemy. I would implore all Yankee fans who feel the need to remind Red Sox fans of the latest World Series victory to follow that with a friendly pat on the back or shoulder, understanding that our devotion to our Yankees is just as strong as their devotion to their team.

Thanks to the Silent Wind of Doom via en.Wikipedia for the photo.

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