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It all goes back to the Bambino. Once Babe Ruth moved to New York from Boston, the die was cast for the greatest baseball rivalry of them all.
The two franchises have battled venomously ever since, and only in the last decade have the Red Sox (this season and last excepted) managed to get the better of the Yankees consistently. The two teams will play tonight on the ESPN Sunday Night Baseball broadcast for the umpteenth time. The networks cannot resist a Yanks-Sox matchup. The games draw big ratings from across the continent, and they are seen by the legions of fans of both teams as a metaphor for the great struggles of humankind.
Frankly, I’m sick of it.
I have endured half a century of condescending crap from Yankees and Red Sox fans, who arrogantly think they’re the most knowledgeable, most passionate and most entitled fans in the game.
I can’t argue with the incredible success the Yankees have had over the years, and I respect the deep allegiance Yankees fans have for their team and for the game of baseball. I salute the passion and devotion the members of Red Sox Nation have for their team.
But to read Boston and New York media accounts and to scan the astounding number of books written about the rivalry, you’d think it was on a par with the Crusades, both world wars and the conquest of space.
Don’t get me wrong — I think it’s a great and important rivalry . But let’s keep things in perspective. Twenty-eight other teams play the game, and they have impassioned fans who live and die with them.
But that doesn’t seem to penetrate the networks, most of which are based in New York, where the Yankees get saturation coverage in the local media.
ESPN is in Bristol, Conn., more or less equidistant to Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park. If an ESPN exec turns on the car radio for a ball game, he or she will get the Yanks or the Sox or maybe the Mets, who really don’t count.
So even if they grew up fans of the Braves or the Reds or the White Sox, the media decision-makers think first of the Yankees and Red Sox. Sorry, Rays and Pirates. We’ll try to fit you in sometime.
The New York-Boston media axis is even more infuriating to baseball fans living in the West. The scores from games out here come in too late for many eastern newspaper deadlines and the highlights are broadcast too late for many fans in the East who go to sleep while the lights are just starting to take effect in West Coast stadiums.
There’s no level playing field in baseball broadcasts. The Yankees and Red Sox carry much more weight than nearly all the other franchises combined, particularly in the American League.
It’s a bitter reality for those of us who follow other teams, and Babe Ruth is instructive here, too. Everyone knows his early career was as a pitcher for Boston, followed by years of slugging stardom in New York.
But how many fans know the Babe grew up in Baltimore?