Lately I’ve been thinking about the way that we relate to one another, and all of the things that either help or hinder how well or poorly we do. From that couple that loves each other but just keeps misfiring to the town of Jena to Red Sox and Yankees fans…why is it that we can have so much in common, but all we see is the chasm of our differences? Why is our trigger on a hair pull for so many things in this day and age?
I’ve been in relationships where it took one look…one word…and all hell could break loose. We would walk on egg shells and avoid antagonizing one another until something would fall the wrong way and then…BOOM! Somehow, living in that state made enough sense to us to stay in it, and it wasn’t until I’d broken free that I realized just how insane it really, truly was that it lasted as long as it did. Why, I wondered, didn’t I ever see it for what it was? How was it that I managed to find some odd sort center in all of that insanity?
And, almost as important as the fact that you never say “this is wrong” is…how did it become this way to begin with? At what point did I say “this is OK?”
Kid Brother had a cat, Pookie, (swear to God) that was just this side of wild. You couldn’t touch it. You couldn’t moveit off of your chair without risking serious injury. The damn thing once brought down a sea gull for Christ sakes, and it lived in his house. They would eye each other across the room when he was putting food in its bowl, and it was always like watching Clint Eastwood eyeball Lee Van Cleef. So I asked him, why the hell do you keep that thing?
“What do you mean?”
Well, kiddo, you can’t pet it, right?
You don’t play with it, and it doesn’t really do anything for you except eat and sleep here, right? And on top of that, she’s been known to scratch the shit out of you, too.”
So why keep it?
“Pookie’s just as scared of me as I am of her, although I don’t know why. Even though it sucks sometimes, she belongs here”.
I have no idea how that statement popped in to my head while all of this was dancing around in there, but it did. I loved that he knew, for whatever reason, that damned hellcat was just as afraid of him, and that somehow that intertwined their lives. Fear is a powerful thing, really. It separates, and it binds.
Ditto for the Sox and Yankees fans. Two of my readers got in to a bit of a back and forth on this site only to realize that neither of them are really “that” fan. “That fan” being the one who accuses the others of being (insertoffensivetermhere) just because you’ve got a Red Sox/Yankees/Cowboys whatever hat on. It got me thinking about the Sox and the Yankees…which was never really a rivalry until 2003 and then in 2004 with the “comeback”. I’ve often said that the most vulgar things I’d ever heard (or seen on T shirts and bumperstickers) came from Sox fans. And honestly, rarely did I hear the same things back from Yankees fans. I’ve seen “Jeter Swallows” and “ARod Has AIDS” shirts in Fenway…but I’d never seen anything remotely close to that level of hate from Yankees fans…
And lord knows it ain’t cuz New Yorkers are polite.
But Sox fans would deny up and down that this was true, even when shown the shirts and signs and such at games and not being able to point to any such hatred marketing in NY. (There has never been a Rich Gedman likes little boys shirt, for example.) These people, who were not homophobic, would suddenly be condoning the aforementioned slogans and shirts…why?
I never really got it until 2004…the comeback. Down 0-3, the Sox pulled off not the improbable, but the seemingly impossible, and won 4 straight to go to the World Series. The shock was unimaginable. And the most direct result was that now, it was a rivalry…and what defines a rivalry more than anything else? For a rivalry to have real teeth, it needs one thing;
If I’m not afraid of you beating us, you’re not my rival. For 80+ years, the Sox weren’t the Yankees rivals, they were another AL East team they played. Granted the intensity was much higher than against, say, the Orioles. But the Yankees were going to win and the Sox were going to lose and everyone knew it. You could go so far as to make the argument that before 2004, the Yankees didn’t have any rivals in fact, because we as fans always expected them to win. And in that time, that fear, that knowing that the Yankees were going to ultimately crush your dreams and hopes as a Sox fan is what lead to “Jeter Swallows” and “ARod Has AIDS” and “Yankees Suck” cheers at everything from weddings to football parties. It’s what leads me to say with great certainty that before 2004, you were far, far safer as a Sox fan in Yankee Stadium than a Yankees fan in Fenway. That rage simmered to a white hot heat over damn near a century could bubble over at one mention of the Babe, Rocket, Boggs, Dent, 26 Trophies…it took damn near nothing.
Believe me, I know.
Today, that’s not the case. A Sox fan can bring out the hatred in a Yankees fan in the blink of an eye. The Comeback followed up by hard fought years since, coupled with the levels of vitriol we’ve dealt with for years has lead to a remarkable, if not predictable, turn about in the way Yankees fans treat Sox fans. They aren’t the angry little brothers anymore. They are now capable of throwing a punch. It’s allll different now. Beating the Sox used to be…well, eh, no big deal. Now, it’s a very big deal. A very, very big deal.
I can’t help but wonder about fear in the world today because I see it everywhere. We’re scared of people that don’t look or speak as we do and we don’t want them to be too close to us. We’re scared to expose too much of ourselves in dating because what if we get hurt? We’re scared that we are losing and they are gaining and that parity means we don’t get control…and without control, we aren’t always going to be able to dictate that we always get to feel good.
I don’t mean to get too in to the obvious here, but all of this makes me think about eveything from Jena, LA to Columbia Heights, DC (where I make my home). And since I don’t mean to hit you over the head, I will say this in summation;
Since the Rivalry really, truly became a rivalry instead of a one sided beat down that lasted a century, the game of baseball has never been so beautiful to me. I cherish my wins more and respect my losses. I am more emotionally vested than ever, but I don’t let it cheapen me into saying things I don’t believe or wouldn’t otherwise say. I don’t hate the Red Sox, as you shouldn’t hate anyone and I know that if I could play for the Sox I’d do so in a New York minute.
What I hate is LOSING to the Red Sox. And now, more than ever, because they are something to fear. But that fear has got to be tempered with the following phrase;
No matter how much you love it, it is just a game.
There is NO reason that two fans of opposite teams can’t sit at a bar together, have a beer, and watch a game. Good natured ribbing and rooting for your team and against theirs shouldnot lead to violence.
Fear MUST be managed. It must be controlled and seen for what it is without allowing it to overtake you. You’ve got to find the commonality and let that be the focus, and not the chasm of your differences. There’s always more in common than we seem to remember. We choose not to see it. And in that choice we throw away everything that is great about not just baseball, but about life.
Do you hear me, Boston and New York?
Do you hear me, Jena, LA?