Last year, when Red Sox fans greeted Johnny Damon with a chorus of resounding boos upon his debut at Fenway Park as a member of the New York Yankees, Joe Torre talked smack about Sox fans. ”I guess we should feel proud. Evidently, wearing a Yankee uniform overrides winning a World Series and busting your tail for four years. Without Johnny here, they may have been working on 89 or 90 years,” he said.
Torre’s misguided view about Sox fans remains. For some reason, he thought that a rivalry that has been intense for more than a century would mellow in 2004 after the Sox made the greatest comeback in sports history by turning a 3-0 ALCS deficit against the Yankees into an AL pennant and a subsequent World Series title. Before the Sox edged the Yankees, 7-5, in Ft. Myers on Monday, Torre said, “I thought some of the anger would subside. Sometimes you have to remind Red Sox fans they did win the World Series, but they still maintain that personality. I mean I love Boston, don’t get me wrong, but the anger that has been built up there over the years, it’s still the same. There is still a lot of resentment toward the Yankees and that’s what fuels the whole rivalry.”
In one respect, I shake my head and say that Torre just doesn’t get it. He has managed the Yankees long enough to know that the Red Sox and Yankees have been bitter rivals long before he even arrived in the big leagues as a player. He mistakes anger with passion. Why would Red Sox fans lose their distaste for the Yankees, and their desire to win even a spring training game against the Bombers, just because they won a World Series? Don’t tell me that Yankees fans don’t feel the same fanaticism about defeating the Red Sox, otherwise blogs like this would not exist, and the rivalry would not be so fierce. A rivalry at its very definition requires devout interest from two sides. Yankees fans care as much about what is happening in Red Sox Nation as Sox fans do about the daily happenings of the Evil Empire.
In another respect, Torre’s comments do not surprise me. From the players who wear the Pinstripes, to the fans that support them, the New York Yankees are a franchise that evokes a pompous sense of entitlement. Their place in history as one of baseball’s most storied franchises is well deserved. They have won 26 World Series rings. That, you cannot take away. Yet Yankees fans do not understand why all of baseball outside of Yankeeland applauds each loss and each post-season failure.
For most Americans, arrogance is a trait that is highly detested. There is no reason to root for the Yankees if you are not a Yankees fan. The Red Sox are certainly not the underdogs against most teams, but baseball fans consider Boston as David and the Yankees as Goliath when the two teams meet. Very few people cheer for Goliath. Evidently, Torre was blind to the Yankees fans who for years carried “1918″ signs and taunted the Sox with that chant. And apparently he wears earplugs when the Sox and Yankees clash at Yankee Stadium.
So, Joe, remember this before you speak again without thinking. Red Sox fans are not angry at the Yankees, nor do they resent the Yankees. The Yankees are our biggest foe, and the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry is more storied than any other in all of sports. Of course Sox fans want to beat the Yankees and cherish every failure the Bombers’ taste. Last October, we remained Sox fans, but we became temporary supporters of the Detroit Tigers, just as Yankees fans became quick fans of the St. Louis Cardinals in the 2004 World Series.
And, by the way, Sox fans do not dishonor Damon by showering him with boos. When you say that you will never play for the Yankees and then less than a year later wear their uniform, you demonstrate a lack of integrity. It’s your choice to take the money and run, and it’s our prerogative to let you know our displeasure about you not keeping your word. But that is a topic for another column.