Yankees PridePosted: September 30, 2011
My love of the Yankees and my enormous amount of respect for the Red Sox.
By Bryan Berlin
I remember the moment I became a Yankees fan. It was June of 1996 and my Uncle had taken me to pick strawberries at Jones’ Tree Farm in Shelton, Connecticut. My uncle is probably the biggest Yankees fan I know: his basement is filled with signed baseballs, pictures, and bats. But anyways, 1996 in Shelton, Connecticut. We started the trip listening to the Yankees game and one of the Yankees hit a home run. Suddenly I heard John Sterling’s voice booming over the radio: “it is high, it is far, it is gone!” The next batter came up to the plate and I heard the same exact phrase followed by, “back to back and belly to belly.” This is pretty fun, I thought to myself. I could like the Yankees.
Yes, John Sterling’s voice may have seduced me into liking the Yankees. Knowing that now makes me hate my 7-year-old self, because John Sterling is probably one of the worst broadcasters on radio these days, but that could just be his old age. Realistically, it was more my uncle who got me into the Yankees. My dad never had a strong baseball allegiance (he allegiance probably was with the Mets but he was too embarrassed to make his son a Mets fan) and so my uncle and I bonded over the Yankees. The Aaron Boone homerun of the 2003 ALCS landed 3 rows in front of him, and the first thing he did was call me so I could hear the absolute madness going on at the stadium. In 1996 though, he got me hooked. It didn’t hurt that the Yankees ended up wining the championship that year and four out of the next five years.
Yankees baseball became a way of life. I idolized Derek Jeter, dreaming of being a shortstop for the New York Yankees. Those dreams were quickly crushed by the fact that I couldn’t hit and every coach’s son in rec baseball wanted to play shortstop also. It didn’t deter me from being a fan. The 1999 season I wore some kind of Yankees apparel every day. I watched or listened to some part of every game. I was a crazed Yankee fan, and it was great.
The funny part about all this was that with the exception of my uncle, every other family member in my extended family was a diehard Red Sox fan. I also spent every summer at a camp in New Hampshire, where Red Sox fans outnumbered Yankees fan by a ratio of 20:1. To top it all off, I’ve spent the last four years of my life living in Boston. The fates were screaming at me to be a Red Sox fan, and I just never gave in.
The last 15 years have been incredible for baseball. The biggest rivalry in the game is between two teams who have finished towards the top of the league every year and play each other at least 18 times in a season. You could have no affiliation to either team but could get caught up in a game between the two teams in a second. The 2003 and 2004 ALCSes were multiple times more exciting than the World Series those years. Yes, they’re the two highest payrolls in baseball. Yes, they’ve made the Blue Jays and Orioles (and their fans) miserable the past few years. Still, there is no denying the rivalry is incredibly important for the game of baseball.
There are very few Red Sox fans who have something nice to say about the Yankees and very few Yankees fans who have something nice to say about the Red Sox. It’s the way sports rivalries work. For me, I love the Yankees but have an incredible amount of respect for the Red Sox. Okay, maybe their fans can be a bit rowdy, and I still won’t wear my Yankees apparel out in public here, but they are a damn good team. The 2004 ALCS was the biggest collapse I had ever seen from the Yankees. For once, the Red Sox had their number, and I finally knew what it felt like to be a Red Sox fan in the years leading up to that. But in all honesty, if the Yankees aren’t going to win it all, the Red Sox should. By winning, it only adds to the intensity of this great rivalry these two have developed. This doesn’t mean I don’t give Sox fans a hard time when their team blows it, it’s just more in the realm of a ‘hey your sister/mom is pretty cute’ type ribbing rather than a ‘fuck you Red Sox.’
This brings us to Wednesday night. I can say with absolute certainty that I have not seen a crazier night in regular season baseball- and I was only following the American League games. I was fully convinced the Yankees had that game on lockdown and the Red Sox would pull themselves together after their awful September to limp into the playoffs. Not that I wanted that scenario. As bad as the Red Sox were playing, I would not have wanted the Yankees to face them in the ALCS. Logically, you’d think it would be better to have the weak, slumping team in the playoffs, but not when that team is the Red Sox. Although I have confidence in the Yankees, you can’t help but get nervous any time they’re playing their rivals. As much as the Rays have tried to establish themselves as a third rival in the AL East, it will probably never stick, mostly because a three-team rivalry isn’t nearly as clean and the Rays can only sustain themselves for so long.
Wednesday was the first time I felt like I had seen the pre-2004 Red Sox. That team that would have it all together and then collapse in the spotlight. The Red Sox had done so well at not having that happen. Or at least when it did it wasn’t a total embarrassment. Coming back from down 3-0 in 2004 was a new chapter for the Red Sox. It was a distinct moment that had an obvious page turn in their history. Wednesday felt like the end of that chapter, but I hope not. Although this is really the only era of baseball I have been around for, it’s been exciting every step of the way, and I want that to continue. At the end of the day though, I still want the Yankees to come out on top.