And now, my friends, it's time to talk about the Yankees.
That they suck is as obvious as a bumper sticker on a Boston frat boy's battered VW Jetta. But while it also seems obvious that the Beantown belligerence toward the Bronx Bombers is nothing more than sour grapes, there's more to our derision of the dreaded pinstripes than simple envy.
Of course, I'll be the first to admit, the envy is there. That the Yanks have brought 26 championships home since we handed over Babe Ruth to finance (at best) a mediocre musical, each new trophy for the Evil Empire has refreshed the sting of watching the same troupe of arrogant bat-swingers and the same Vile Overlord holding their considerable (dare I say unfair?) purse strings ruthlessly wrench from the desperate hands of a hapless opponent (usually us) the coveted pennant, and then the World Series title. Time after time, the Red Sox have led the league in this or that all season--you know, odds and ends, like batting records and won games. And sooner or later the Boys from the Hood show up and tear out our hearts with cold and surgical--dare I say, evil?--precision.
If only we were in the National League. If only Long Island didn't sit, placidly grinning, just three hundred miles to our south.
In Boston, we know a lot of "if only's."
And yet if the Yankees winning were truly as inevitable as it sometimes seems, there'd be no games played. Someone, somewhere, gives us a chance every single stinkin' season, and every season Boston gets a headful of the Dream. And then little by little, it drains away, most of its energy flowing--you guessed it--into the modern-day Death Star of Yankee Stadium. There must be some way, we think, each and every April as the bus leaves for Florida, to get this thing done. Some chance in hell. Otherwise, why play?
But every late summer, we kiss the glory goodbye.
The anger has built for 85 years. If there's envy in Boston, it's not of the snubbed-prom-queen type--rather, it's of the epic, Biblical, Jacob-and-Esau type. The Old-Testament, vengeful type. And if just one team seems largely responsible for it, and then most of the ire and angst is aimed at that team, far be it from anyone to judge us.
But as I said before I got sidetracked hating the Yankees outright, there's another, more pressing reason why we dislike the Goliath of the major leagues--their horrible, smug, arrogant, hateful nonchalance as the winnings continue to rack up. Plain and simple, what they have in trophies, we have in heart, and for what it's worth, it simply isn't right--epically, Biblically, prodigal-son Not-Right--that they continue to receive the gifts they so obviously ceased to appreciate long ago.
Take, for example, the ALDS series they played against the Twins. They smiled and winked at the crew from Minnesota, giggled under their breath, perhaps, at the wholesome blonde crowd from the Twin Cities venturing timidly into their pugnacious Bronx. When the Twins took the first game of their series, the Yankees raised their eyebrows in patronizing amusement, donned a smile most often seen elsewhere on the face of the Great White Shark, and then they ate those farm boys whole.
But while other teams scream and cheer and celebrate, mobbing the mound or home plate when such a victory is accomplished, the Yankees merely slapped one another bland high-fives and moved on to pillage the next ragtag hometown on their schedule. You see, it would be one thing if they simply didn't care whose hopes they dashed--such is the ideal mentality of the competitor. But the salt in our wounds is that they don't seem to care, either, when they win...again. The World Series little more than a hiccup, anymore, in their team history. And It's Not Right. Someone needs to plant a nice big fastball in their smirking kisser. Anyone who says otherwise--in other words, anyone professing to be a fan of the Yankees--likes bullies. Plain and simple.
And let's face it, Boston, through location and the whimsy of the fates, is the David to that Goliath. Other teams lay down and die when Steinbrenner's boys hit town. The Sox may lose, but they never, ever succumb. It takes a special kind of team, and a special kind of hometown crowd, to stand up to that brute strength with dignity. A heroic kind, actually, and one that certainly deserves a little victory of its own.
When the ball bounds over the wall in Boston, there's a sound you don't hear anywhere else. It may not be as raucous as that emitted by the punch-drunk lunatics in New York, but it's something finer, something purer, something that makes you understand that sports in their highest-minded incarnation are more than just games, just as Shakespeare's works are more than plays. Like Shakespeare, an evenly-matched athletic contest strikes at the root of our human condition. Without the suspense, though, like any plot, the magic fades. The lopsided record of the Yankees threatens to remove the poetry from baseball. The Sox keep it alive when the fans stand and cheer on Yawkey way.
The sound--you heard it last night, and Sunday--is the sound of gut-deep, primal victory, the sound of unfettered, sublime joy. The sound is somewhere between a roar of approval and a fierce battle cry, and its nearest approximation in writing is "YAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH."
It's the sound the umpire makes when he throws a batter out, as he did on the final pitch from Derek Lowe last night, twisting deftly toward the dugout, his fist shearing the air toward home plate. It's the sound of the crowd packed into bars on Lansdowne street, as for the first time the gathered throngs are wearing more beer than they've been ingesting. It's the sound my father made, the moment Lowe struck out the final Oakland batter, pumping his fist in unconscious imitation of the umpire's pose.
It's the sound of hope and grit and truth. The sound of struggle. The sound of meaningful victory.
So bring on those Yankees. Yaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhh.