I'm watching Baseball Tonight on ESPN, and one of their commentators wondered what had happened to the days when every Red Sox-Yankees series was fraught with animosity, and not just in the stands. What happened to the brawls between Fiske and Munson, or Tek and A*Rod, or even Pedro and Don Zimmer?
Parity happened. In the last 11 years, the Red Sox and Yankees both have two Championships each, and they've been relatively evenly matched. Right now, for instance, the two teams have identical records in the AL East, and they're tied for first. Only one of these teams will leave Fenway tonight with first place, and the best record in the American League.
Just seven years ago, a series like this would be overshadowed by the constant threat of beanings, brawls, and general enmity. Now? Well, I'm sure you've seen Nick Swisher showering praise on Josh Beckett, and David Ortiz unabashedly bestowing hugs upon pinstriped rivals during batting practice.
Even among fans, some of the hatred has abated. There are certainly Yankees fans that I avoid like the plague, but for the most part, I can respect their devotion and knowledge, just like I would with any other sports fan (however, anyone who chants "1918!" or utters the number "27" isn't worth the time. Let's talk about contemporary history. Kthanks).
So is this better? It's less nerve-wracking, to be sure, but the lack of open hostility makes things just a little bit less exciting. While it's good to be able to be confident that Jeter won't throw a sucker punch a Gonzo when the latter rounds the bases, the games are certainly less of an event than they once were.
That said, I would NEVER want to go back to the way things were, because the animosity was so intense because the Red Sox (and we as fans) had a monkey on their backs, and we were reminded of it every time the two teams met. Back then, we were still eighty-six-year losers, perpetually looking up at New York in the standings.
Now things are much more even, and if the price of that is that the edge comes off of the bitterness and rivalry a bit, I'll certainly take the tradeoff. I'm calling for a Sox win tonight, on the back of one Joshua Patrick Beckett - he's given us no reason to doubt him, and I don't plan to start now.