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Keeping Friends Close, Enemies Closer: Why Red Sox and Yankees Fans Aren't Alike

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Keeping Friends Close, Enemies Closer: Why Red Sox and Yankees Fans Aren't Alike
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As a Red Sox fan, almost nothing raises my ire like Yankees fans mouthing off about their team. The history of the Boston-New York rivalry is long, torturous, and—viewed from a long-term perspective—mostly a minefield of bad memories for us followers of the big red B. Life isn't always fair.

But even watching the Yankees celebrate another trophy wouldn't be the worst thing that could happen. You see, the reason I said "almost nothing raises my ire" instead of "absolutely nothing" is because there's one thing that's even worse than a smack-talking New Yorker: fans of other teams claiming that Sox and Yankees fans are basically the same.

Trust me, I get it. We both follow famous teams in big-market, East Coast cities, both of which boast storied histories in all sports but whose affinity for baseball outweighs all others. We both mispronounce basic words like "wicked hahd" and "fughedaboudit." We lace our everyday speech with enough profanity to make a Navy sailor sound like your grandmother by comparison. We—along with our perceived enabler, ESPN—manage to act as if we don't realize the rest of the league exists.

And last, but definitely not least, there are the payrolls. At $207M and $161M payrolls, respectively, New York and Boston will spend more collectively on players this year than the bottom eight teams combined.

So yes, I understand the derision. But while I accept the inevitable griping about unfair advantages and bloated budgets, I cannot in good conscience allow my team to suffer the greatest indignity of all: a place alongside the New York Yankees as one of the most hated teams in sports.

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Please remember that it was the Yankees, not the Red Sox, who scooped up four World Series trophies in five years in the late '90s. And that the most legendary owner in American sports, known for his tyrannical rule that spanned decades, was George Steinbrenner of the Yankees. While he was hiring and firing Billy Martin five times and dubbing his own players "Mr. May," the Sox were stumbling through front office regimes that culminated in people like Dan Duquette signing Jose Offerman for $6M per year. (Remember this? I wish I didn't.)

The Yankees have been there for countless moments of Red Sox tragedy even recently, from Grady Little leaving Pedro Martinez on the mound in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS, to Mike Mussina getting within one strike of hurling a perfect game against Boston in 2001, to the formerly beloved Roger Clemens signing with New York just in time for their dynastic run in the late '90s.

The list goes on and on. But with one notable exception—Boston's unprecedented four-game comeback in the 2004 ALCS that ultimately propelled us to our first World Series trophy in 86 years—it has been a mostly one-sided affair. In fact, that series remains so legendary in the minds of countless Sox fans precisely because it represented such a deviation from the norm. For years, the Yankees won in the playoffs, and the Red Sox didn't (if they even made it that far). When the formula changed, no one was more surprised than we were.

And so, coming off a season in which the Sox finished in third place in the AL East, and after a decade in which playoff success has shown little correlation to team payrolls or the size of their TV markets, I humbly request that those of you who follow teams other than the Boston Red Sox or the New York Yankees reevaluate your comparison of those two teams.

Sox and Yankees fans are different than each other, very different. Yes, we are both passionate about our teams' success, and perhaps this excitement comes off as entitled at times. But one could say the same of Cardinals-Cubs or any number of other regional rivalries as well. That doesn't make the fans of these teams alike.

Finally, keep in mind one fundamental distinction. As nearly any baseball fan (especially those who follow long-suffering teams) can appreciate, we Red Sox fans never expect to win anything. We just really, really want to.

As for the Yankees, suffice it to say that rooting for New York is like pulling for Darth Vader in Star Wars. It's like hoping that the team that emerges from the cornfields in Field of Dreams turns out to have the talent of the 2010 Pittsburgh Pirates. You wouldn't wish for that, would you? You don't have to root for Boston, but for the love of God, at least we're not anything like the Yankees.

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