Saturday, March 1, 2008

Restoring the Universe to Order: Top 10 Reasons

I went to the Prudential Center in Newark last night, and saw the Devils stink up the joint against the Washington Capitals. Martin Brodeur made a sensational stop on a breakaway shot by Alexander Ovechkin, who really is better than Sidney Crosby of Pittsburgh. But it was all downhill from there, 4-0.

I get home from that horrible display, and I find out that Johan Santana got rocked by St. Louis in his first Met appearance.

Way too soon to say "I called it" or "I told you so." Except the homer he gave up was by Juan "Steroids? No Habla Ingles" Gonzalez, who hasn't played in three years.

Not a good sign for the Flushing Faithful, but they had one advantage that the Devils (and the Knicks, who also looked horrible last night) didn't have: It doesn't actually count for anything. Too soon to say, "You gotta wonder... " rather than "You gotta believe!"


Not that this year's Yankees have proven anything yet, either, but it was good to see Hank Steinbrenner stick it to the Red Sox, calling the concept of "Red Sox Nation" what it is:

"'Red Sox Nation?' What a bunch of (crap) that is," he said in an interview with The New York Times' Sunday sports magazine Play. "That was a creation of the Red Sox and ESPN, which is filled with Red Sox fans. Go anywhere in America, and you won't see Red Sox hats and jackets, you'll see Yankee hats and jackets. This is a Yankee country. We're going to put the Yankees back on top, and restore the universe to order."

Not "restore order to the universe," the way that saying usually goes. "Restore the universe to order."

You tell 'em, Hank. Two Red Sox World Championships in four years, two since the last Yankee Title, after 86 years of frustration? That, as they would say on Star Trek, is a spatial anomaly.


Here's the Top 10 Reasons Yankee Fans Are Superior to Red Sox Fans, and why we need to restore the universe to order:

10. The corruption of Drew Barrymore. Yes, I know, Fever Pitch was only a movie. But I love Drew (one of the few blonde women I've ever had it bad for), so this one hurts. Because it didn't happen in real life, I can only put this one at Number 10.

9. "Sweet Caroline." You morons, Neil Diamond is a New Yorker! It's still a better song than "Dirty Water," though.

8. Fuzzy math. Two titles in four years doesn't top 26 in 87. Nor does it make up for none in 86. Nor does it erase the total, 26 to 7 -- or 26 to 8 if you count the fact that the New York Giants refused to play the Sox and the 1904 World Series was cancelled, yet never officially declared a forfeit. Not to mention the elevation of the 1967 and 1975 Red Sox ahead of the teams that beat them, the St. Louis Cardinals and Cincinnati Reds, respectively.

7. Whining about the Yankees' payroll. And their lack of "homegrown" talent. Take a look at your own team, Sox fans: Most of the contributors to the 2004 and '07 titles were obtained elsewhere, and got paid big dough. Only the Yankees have a higher payroll. If patriotism, as the old saying goes, is the last refuge of a scoundrel, "Yankee payroll" is the last refuge of a whiner. So often, you become what you hate the most. Red Sox fans, in this respect, your team has become the Yankees.

6. The way they treated Bill Buckner. For 18 years after committing the most famous error in baseball history, turning the already tied Game 6 of the 1986 World Series into the completion of a mammoth Red Sox loss, they forgave Buckner after the 2004 World Series.

XQZMe? What did Buckner do that had to be "forgiven"? The game was already tied, you stupid Chowdaheads! McNamara blew it! Schiraldi blew it! Stanley blew it! Buckner was a freakin' victim, you morons! Blaming Buckner for that loss is like blaming a speedbump's jostle of an ambulance for a gunshot victim dying! Honestly...

5. The silly, hypocritical claims of being good fans, as opposed to the way Yankee Fans act. They say a Yankee Fan threw a battery at Jim Rice at Yankee Stadium in 1981. A Sox fan threw a pocket-knife, blade extended, at Chris Chambliss at Fenway Park. This was in 1974, when Chambliss was new to the team, the Yankees hadn't won a Pennant in 10 years, and there hadn't been a Yanks-Sox race that came down to September since 1951! So they started it.

And Yankee Fans haven't embarrassed themselves the way Sox fans did in Game 4 of the 1999 American League Championship Series at Fenway. Yes, there was questionable officiating. But the game was 9-2 Yanks; blame your own team for screwing up, don't throw garbage onto the field.

Every time you hear Boston described as "The Athens of America," think about that scene, and ask, "What would Socrates do?"

4. The Martyr Complex. Or should that be "Mahtuh Cawmplex"?

* Oh, if only Tony Conigliaro hadn't been beaned in 1967, they would have won the World Series. Oh really? How do you know Bob Gibson wouldn't have shut him down like he did the other Sox?

* Oh, if only we hadn't been screwed on that interference call in Game 3 of the '75 Series. How about if you'd only hung on to a 3-0 lead at home in Game 7?

* Oh, if only the umps hadn't made so many bad calls in the '99 ALCS. How about if your team hadn't made 10 errors in five games and, except for Pedro, forgotten how to pitch?

It's New England against the world. Or, more accurately, the world against New England. News flash, guys: The world isn't out to get you. Then again, with how ridiculous you are, maybe it should be.

3. The Clemens hatred. As that noted Bostonian, Major Charles Emerson Winchester III of M*A*S*H, would have put it, Clemens' personality makes him obnoxious, but it doesn't make him the Judas Iscariot of baseball. Or the Alger Hiss, or the Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader.

(Then again, in that same dialogue, Winchester was threatened with prison if he didn't cooperate, and was told, "No more Boston, no more Symphony Hall, no more Red Sox," and he said, "Who cares about the Red Sox?" This episode was set in 1953.)

But Red Sox fans hated Clemens the way Brooklyn Dodger fans hated Leo Durocher after he was fired, and then hired by the arch-rival New York Giants across town. And fans of Leo's new team didn't have to read about how much he was hated on the Internet or see that hatred expressed on ESPN. Red Sox fans hate Clemens the way the Republicans hate Bill Clinton. Auburn fans hate the University of Alabama? Ohio State fans hate Michigan? Not like this. Not this much.

People, Clemens may have gone to Toronto (and then to New York) because of the Willie Sutton excuse: That's where the money was. Fine, we can all accept that.

But why did he leave? It wasn't up to him: The Sox didn't want him. "Twilight of his career." Whatever wrong Clemens has done, it wasn't his fault that he left Boston. At a time when you people still loved him -- even adored him! -- your team's management told him to get lost.

And it wasn't like it was in 1919 with Harry Frazee, who either had to get rid of Babe Ruth or cave in to his demands and lose all authority with the team: Dan Duquette and John Harrington had a choice, and keeping Clemens wouldn't have been a horrible decision.

And finally, with the new team of John Henry, Larry Lucchino and Theo Epstein now having shown you what a championship team looks like, maybe you should direct your ire at Duquette and Harrington. They blew it with Clemens. Once they did, Clemens' obligation to stay loyal to the Red Sox, and his obligation to stay loyal to you, was over. Live with that.

2. "Red Sox Nation." Hank's right, this is a joke. You know how many people are in New England? Massachusetts: 6.35 million. Connecticut, in the Counties that are Boston-oriented rather than New York-oriented (Hartford, Litchfield, Middlesex, New London, Tolland and Windham): 1.7 million. Maine: 1.27 million. New Hampshire: 1.24 million. Rhode Island: 1.05 million. Vermont: 600,000. Total: 12.2 million.

The New York Tri-State Area? New York City: 8.2 million, or 2/3rds as big as all of New England by itself. Long Island: 7.5 million. The Lower Hudson Valley: 2.1 million. The 2 New York-oriented Connecticut Counties (Fairfield and New Haven): 1.7 million. North and Central Jersey (everything from Interstate 195 on up): 5.2 million. Total: 24.7 million. Who's got the bigger "nation"?

To be fair, the NYTSA has 2 teams. So, just to humor the Flushing Heathen, let's presume it's an even split, and it's 12.35 million to 12.2 million. Still, advantage, New York. And we all know the Mets don't have as many fans as the Yankees.

But it goes beyond that: By seemingly always appearing in the World Series, in the Hollywood newsreels in the 1930s and 1940s, and on national TV in the 1950s and early 1960s, the Yankees were baseball to millions of people who didn't have a local team in the majors.

Red Sox fans claim that they get spread everywhere by people coming to New England to go to college, and then going back home as Red Sox converts. So I guess such institutions of higher learning as NYU, Columbia, Rutgers, Princeton, Seton Hall, Marist, Hofstra, and Yale -- which, by being in New Haven, is kind of like a Romulan Neutral Zone, if you'll indulge another Star Trek reference -- don't count? Sure, they do. (Yes, I know, Princeton is slightly closer to Philly than to New York, but it has direct bus service only to New York, and with the New Jersey Transit-to-SEPTA transfer at Trenton, the rail trip to New York is shorter.)

More than that, New Yorkers work for companies headquartered there, and end up transferred to other places, in ways that New England, not nearly the corporate giant that New York is, simply can't match.

You may see more Red Sox caps around the country now than Yankee caps, but, A, that's mostly kids, and grownups may not necessarily wear their team's cap all da time; and 2, it's purely a result of recent wins. Recall, it wasn't that long ago, people wearing Laker jerseys, and before that Bulls jerseys. Even in baseball, Braves caps outside the former Confederate States. You don't see too many of those anymore, except in videos by Atlanta-based rap acts.

The Yankees have the bigger reach. And the more fans. Sad to say, the best way to prove it is to win the whole thing again and make the fair-weather fans switch caps.

This is why the Yankees developed those "YANKEES UNIVERSE" T-shirts. Top that, "Athens of America."

And if there is a "Red Sox Nation," isn't it time we, in New York and New Jersey and that corner of Connecticut, started deporting people back to New England?

1. Being sorer "winners" than they ever were as losers. If losing made them special, winning made them, to use my mother's term, "especially special." If losing builds character, where is it now? Not in Boston, nor anywhere else in New England.

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