When the G-Men and the Pats take the gridiron on February 5th, a lot will be at stake. Sure, the Giants will try to cap off a thrilling, improbable playoff run, and true, New England will be adamantly seeking vengeance from their upset loss in Super Bowl XLII, but this year's title game exceeds the hype of its football storylines. Super Bowl XLVI will be another chapter in perhaps the most storied rivalry in professional sports—New York vs. Boston.
Two cities with compelling history, rich cultural tradition, and a strong hatred for each other will clash next weekend with everything on the line. Beantown and the Big Apple have developed an antagonism that has helped shape the sporting world for decades. In anticipation of the big game, here's a look back at some of the most exciting moments in New York/Boston history.
Being two of the "Original Six" members of the NHL, the Boston Bruins and the New York Rangers clashed early and often in their history.
In the first ever Stanley Cup Final to feature two American teams, the B's took a best-of-three series with two straight definitive victories.
Bruins goalie Cecil "Tiny" Thompson shut out the opposing Rangers until the final period of game two, and Boston featured four different scorers in 2-0 and 2-1 wins, notching their first of what would be six professional titles.
With consecutive matchups against their bitter rivals to conclude the 1949 regular season, the Bo Sox marched into Yankee Stadium with a one-game lead in the American League. The Bronx Bombers faced a formidable foe in Boston ace Mel Parnell, and after trailing 4-0 to begin the first game, it seemed as if the Sox were all but destined to clinch the pennant.
New York then engineered a miraculous comeback, and Johnny Lindell's go-ahead home run in the eighth sealed a 5-4 come-from-behind victory. The Yanks wound up taking the second game as well, stealing the American League title from their heated competitors and further embittering an already fierce rivalry.
By the 1960s, the Red Sox/Yankees rivalry was full swing, each team attacking each other with unbridled animosity and physicality. In a regular season duel in 1967, New York pitcher Thad Tillotson retaliated to Boston slugger Joe Foy, who hit a grand slam in a previous inning, with a fastball to the helmet. When Sox righty Jim Lonborg proceeded to bean Tillotson on the shoulder, a benches-clearing scuffle ensued.
The Red Sox had experienced dwindling local support throughout much of the decade, but this brawl has been cited as a source of rejuvenation for the Beantown faithful. Furthermore, the fight added a fiercely physical element to the already storied rivalry.
As the Yankees and the Red Sox rivalry ignited, it subsequently fueled other New York/Boston rivalries as well. Thus, when the Knicks and the Celtics squared off in the 1973 Eastern Conference Finals, there was a great deal of resentment on both ends.
In a dramatic series that took seven games to determine, the Knicks emerged victorious, en route to their second (and most recent) NBA championship in franchise history.
New York took a commanding 3-1 lead over the C's after a controversial double-overtime victory in game four. However, Boston rallied to tie the series, with consecutive wins at home and then in Madison Square Garden. Ultimately, the Knicks took game seven, ending the top-seeded Celtics' dominant season.
That very same year, a fight for the ages occurred at the exalted Fenway Park. While the Sox were a dominant force in Major League Baseball, it was the Yankees, following a sale of the team, that were surprisingly struggling with mediocrity.
In the ninth inning of a seemingly-meaningless August game, New York catcher Thurmon Munson was the Bombers' go-ahead runner on third base. Manager Ralph Houk called for a suicide squeeze, and Munson charged full-force towards home plate, colliding with Sox rookie Carlton Fisk. Fisk tagged out his contemporary with quite a bit of force, resulting in benches being cleared and punches being thrown.
It was far from the first fight these two teams had been a part of, and it would surely not be the last.
Surprisingly, one of the most iconic moments in the New York vs. Boston rivalry—and all of professional baseball, for that matter—involved New York's other team, the Mets.
The Red Sox, who at the time were amidst a 68-year World Series drought, emerged as the clear-cut favorites in the 1986 World Series. Lead by Roger Clemens, Jim Rice, and a multitude of other stars, Boston seemed to have the MLB championship secured with a 3-2 series lead and a 5-3, tenth inning lead in game six, just one out away from popping the celebratory champagne.
Then the unthinkable happened.
Boston collapsed, and Bill Buckner's famous error at first base allowed Ray Knight to score the winning run, sealing the deal for the resurgent Mets. New York would go on to win game seven, leaving Sox fans heartbroken as another chapter in the two cities' history was scripted.
In one of the most unpredictable, passionate playoff series in recent memory, the Yanks and the Sox took their historic feud to a new level in 2003. The two teams dueled for seven games, with the Yankees ultimately punching their ticket to the World Series with a dramatic 11-inning victory in the final matchup. However, what fans will remember most from this series was the fight between Boston pitcher Pedro Martinez and Yankees' coach Don Zimmer.
With tensions flying at full speed in game three, Sox slugger Manny Ramirez charged the mound in reaction to a high and inside Roger Clemens fastball. The result was a full-on, unprecedented brawl, and Martinez, Clemens' counterpart, threw 72-year old Yankees' bench coach Don Zimmer to the ground in the middle of the scuffle.
Perhaps nothing in this rivalry incited more hatred from both sides than this physical game three.
Only Boston and New York can outdo Boston and New York.
2003's ALCS was hailed as perhaps the most thrilling postseason series the MLB had ever seen, yet when the bitter enemies faced off again in the 2004 ALCS, there was even more suspense for fans to enjoy. A true testament to the excellence of this rivalry, the '04 ALCS featured a comeback many still can't fully believe.
Down three games to one, it was all but over for the scrappy Red Sox, and it seemed as if the Bronx Bombers were on their way to a second consecutive World Series appearance. But Boston's offense was relentless for the next three games, and behind multiple game-winning hits from DH David Ortiz, Curt Schilling's infamous "bloody sock" performance in game six, and a bit of October luck, Beantown engineered one of the most stunning come-from-behind series victories of all time.
Boston won it's first title in 86 years, prompting the Sox faithful to tag their New York rivals as choke-artists. More fuel was added to the already scorching fire.
A flurry of storylines encompassed Super Bowl XLII, a duel between the then undefeated Patriots and the NFL's most unlikely playoff heroes, the New York Giants.
Every Super Bowl receives copious media hype, but the anticipation for this game superseded the ordinary. The Patriots, an astounding 12-point favorite, were just one game away from becoming the first team to go 19-0 in league history. The Giants hadn't even won their division, and were lead by a quarterback marred with inconsistency.
But the impossible somehow managed to become reality—the Giants pulled off the upset. Big Blue's pass rush was ferocious, holding New England's record-setting offense to just 14 points. Meanwhile, Eli Manning took the first step towards establishing his legacy as a top signal-caller, escaping three Pats defenders en route to a storied 32-yard completion to WR David Tyree late in the fourth quarter. Just four plays later, Manning would toss the game-winner to Plaxico Burress.
Although never considered a rivalry, the Giants and the Patriots have only added to the malevolence that Boston and New York feel for one another. Pats fans have had a tough time accepting the loss, and conversely, New Yorkers have had a tough time staying silent about it.
Just four years later, New York and New England meet again on center stage. While it may not be a full-fledged rivalry yet, the Giants and Patriots are developing an undeniable tension towards each other that will only augment the New York and Boston antagonism.
True, this matchup isn't quite as hyped, and the Patriots are not nearly as big of a favorite in 2012, but February 5th still marks the latest chapter in this legendary rivalry between two of America's biggest cities. Regardless of the outcome, this game will only add more history to what has become one of the most compelling clashes in the entire world of sports.