Let me begin by saying I don’t hate the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry. In general, I think rivalries are great for sports and their cities. Sox-Yankees, Packers-Bears, Tobacco Road, it’s all great. Rivalries endow sports with a sense of community and continuity, helping to build the idea that even though the players change, often yearly, something endures beyond. And for communities, nothing helps to define a group like an “other” to be defined against, and rivalries create that necessary “other.” Red Sox fans are as defined by their hatred of the Yankees as they are their love for the Red Sox. And I think it holds true in general; talking to a kid from L.A., a big Dodgers fan, about Anaheim confirmed my suspicions.
But I hate watching Sox-Yankees, and I thought I’d take this opportunity to explain why:
1) They run too long. This is quite honestly the biggest reason why I can’t stand to watch them. Every game takes upwards of 4 hours when your average game lasts 3-3.5 hours. There are a number of reasons why this happens. Both offenses are spectacular. They’re filled with patient hitters who grind out at-bats, foul off pitch after pitch, and force managers to go their bullpen early and often. This leads to more breaks in the action than normal games because no one is making it out of the fifth or sixth inning. Additionally, the hitters are so smart that pitchers have to be incredibly careful with their pitch selection or it leads to trouble. This leads to over-thinking, which leads to missed location pitches and walks. Walks slow the game down immensely. This continues the cycle of longer at-bats, longer innings, and longer games. I think everything would go faster if the managers were limited to a finite number of substitutions like in soccer.
2) They are racked with overblown media coverage. As much as I desire to join their ranks, it’s not lost on me how oversaturated the New York and Boston sports media markets are. There are just too many writers and reporters filling up the airwaves with their takes on the same 1 or 2 storylines. How have the Red Sox won all these games so far? Does it matter? Will Chamberlain throw at Youk again? Baseball only has so many stories to tell, and with a history as old as the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry, most of them have already been told. But that doesn’t stop the media from rehashing them over and over again. It’s not interesting: it’s mind-numbing. And when the national sports media gets involved, as they always do, it makes it even worse.
3) They are just not that big a deal. Really, they’re not. The Rays and Blue Jays are also tough divisional opponents, but when the Sox or Yankees play them the media buzz pales in comparison. In terms of the standings, they’re nearly as important, maybe as important. But the coverage for them is at a much more controlled and tolerable level. And no other divisional rivalry gets this kind of attention, but they’re just as important in the scheme of things. Dodgers-Giants, Cardinals-Cubs, and Mets-Braves are all equally important rivalries, but for some reason the Sox and Yankees get blown out of proportion.
So as my Red Sox play their games, expect me to do all that I can to avoid watching more than bits and pieces of them. Of course, in all likelihood I’ll wind up following them whether I want to or not.