The New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox have the greatest rivalry in American sports. Scratch that, had the greatest rivalry in American sports.
A lot has changed since the Red Sox finally exorcized their 86-year-old demons in 2004 when they came back from down 3-0 in the ALCS, then cruise in the World Series, to finally rid themselves of the wretched Curse of the Bambino. Both teams aren’t as dominant as they once were and the Red Sox winning several rings since 2004 has taken the luster off the rivalry a bit. This young generation of Red Sox fan has more rings than their Yankee counterparts this century. They no longer have that little brother mentality, Boston feels like they can win every time they step on the field against the Yankees. It wasn't like that pre-2004. And the personalities and egos on each squad were much bigger during the height of the rivalry.
Even as a lifelong Yankee fan, I had never been to a Yankees-Red Sox game before. So when I got a chance to watch one at Fenway Park in Boston courtesy of the folks over at ‘47, I had to jump at the opportunity. ‘47 is a brand that is as Boston as it gets. Originally founded by twin brothers Arthur and Henry D’Angelo, they started out selling pennants outside of Fenway during the late ‘30s, eventually evolving into a baseball cap company, getting in early on the merch game before licensing was a thing. “The stadium was just crazy. If you were wearing Yankee garb, it was a sign saying, “I’m looking for trouble,” says David “Duff” D’Angelo, the brand's current co-owner. “There’s no $10 seats anymore for drunk people to come to a game and kill time.”
I didn’t go to the game decked out in Yankee gear from head-to-toe, I wore a simple navy blue Yankees snapback sort of expecting some shady looks and comments. I experienced none of that. My first time at Fenway was last year for a Tampa Bay Rays game and the energy in that place was incredible. Since the Bombers opened the House That George Built they’ve been very mid at best, aside from the very first year when A-Rod and Hideki Matsui carried Jeter and Co. to title No. 27. I was at Game 6 of the 2009 World Series in $500 bleacher seats when the Yanks clinched, and I’ve been trying to feel something close to that type of energy in the new stadium ever since. I’m trying to drink beers in public while hanging off traffic lights and such. The old park was on top of the field, making for a more intimate experience. Fenway is the same way. I felt like I was on the set of A League of Their Own, hangin’ at a ballgame eating Cracker Jacks and shit, keeping my eyes and ears open for some subtle racism.
I experienced nothing of the sort, maybe because Duff was right—the rivalry just isn’t the same anymore. Both teams have seen two franchise players in David Ortiz and Jeter call it quits in recent years, and while the Red Sox are trying to get their hands on more prospects, New York’s cup runneth over with young talent these days with Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez, among others, starring in the Bronx. Unfortunately for me, though, was the fact that these two teams played a marathon of baseball before the Sunday Night Baseball game I came to see. It was the second game of a doubleheader and the two teams played a 16 inning game the day before. Still Yawkey Way was jumpin’ with the type of energy I wish the new Yankees Stadium had. Aside from Mookie Betts hitting a two-run homer in the third inning and Jackie Bradley, Jr.’s insane robbery of Aaron Judge’s own two-run bid in the eighth, the game was uneventful and surprisingly short by Yankees-Red Sox on ESPN standards. However, the edibles I had in my system enhanced my senses. I sat in the shaded grandstand in Fenway’s original blue and red seats, which were hella uncomfortable, in humidity, high out of my skull. I felt the boos in every fiber of my being, making me paranoid. Since I was a couple rows up from behind the plate, the crack of the bat tickled my eardrums.
A couple things that struck me was the diversity of the crowd and the walk-up music selected by the players. Various players on both sides walked up to either reggaeton (Spanish rap) or rap music, and the crowd got amped when they heard some of their favorite songs. Which made me wonder why the MLB has such a hard time marketing to younger generations. The day baseball embraces hip-hop, social media, and deading “playing the game the right way,” they’ll flourish again. Getting the kids to care again will help when the Yankees and the Red Sox rivalry heats up again. Maybe things will heat up around August or September when both teams will be jockeying for either the division or a wild card spot. Hopefully we can get a brawl and really make things interesting. The Yanks should hire Daryl Strawberry as a coach, so he could set it off like he used to do. Major League Baseball needs this rivalry to heat back up again, the sport depends on it.