Less than 24 hours after the Boston Red Sox won the World Series in October— the celebratory bubbly having barely dried on David Ortiz’s protective swim goggles— a merry new meme appeared: The Red Sox are the new Yankees!
Yes, those same Red Sox who only four years ago were the most mythically sad-sack sports franchise in the world—cursed and clumsy, hapless and perpetually heartbroken—have replaced the Yankees as baseball’s “new juggernaut,” (Sports Illustrated), establishing themselves as “an empire of their own” (Fox Sports) and “the team to beat for years to come” (the Times). In other words, they’ve become the new Yankees. This is, of course, the best news that Yankees fans could hope for, because it clears the way for the Yankees to become the new Red Sox.
Wait—hear me out. Do the Yankees really want to be the Yankees anymore? I’m not talking about the scrappy Yankees of Paul O’Neill and Tino Martinez, who rallied back from a 12-1 thrashing to beat the Atlanta Braves for the championship in 1996. I’m talking about the bloated, bumbling, underperforming, and frankly unlovable Yankees—the post-2000 World Series–or–Bust version of the team.
For starters, this Evil Empire approach hasn’t worked out too well on the field. The Yanks’ ability to stockpile superstars has just meant more blame to spread around after each playoff collapse. (And that’s how life is for the Yankees—no playoff failure is just a “loss”; it’s a collapse, a debacle, a cold rebuke by God.) When the Sox outspent us for Japanese pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka, we threw our money at Roger Clemens, the Ghost of Glories Past. Then we watched him hobble from the mound in his final playoff start, a subtle reminder that he’s 45 frickin’ years old.
Second, there are signs that the voodoo that dogged the Sox may be alighting on our hometown team, that the Curse of the Bambino (they sell us Babe Ruth and don’t win a World Series for 86 years) is now the Curse of the Giambino (the Yanks signed Jason Giambi and haven’t won the Series since). Oh, and speaking of Giambi, several Yankee heroes, including Clemens and Andy Pettitte, were fingered in last week’s damning Mitchell Report on steroid use. It may be too early to call the Yankees cursed—at least A-Rod came back like a boomerang—but what else should we think when, in Cleveland, our rookie-phenom pitcher, Joba Chamberlain, is suddenly undone by a biblical swarm of midges?
But that’s the whole point. Don’t sweat the hex. Embrace it. And admit that cheering for Goliath all these years hasn’t been so fun after all. Because once everyone started assuming the Yankees would win every single season, being a fan meant you no longer felt that pendular swing between thrill and agony; instead, you were offered a lousy choice between grim disappointment and grim relief. Look at football’s New England Patriots, who, in six years, have mutated from an admirably selfless bunch of overachievers to a churlish gang of entitled automatons. Sound familiar, Yankees fans?
So let the Red Sox be the juggernaut for a while. Let Red Sox Nation assume they’ll win the Series every year, and cuss the gods every time they do not. Meanwhile, we’ll be over here cheering our throats hoarse for an unfamiliar but lovable new animal: the Yankees as underdog.