My mother always says there’s a fine line between love and hate, because both emotions stir such deep and abiding passions in us. Since mothers are right about 99 percent of the time, I assume mine is right about the love/hate thing.
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So what I’m wondering, as I immerse myself in this latest series of contests between the Yankees and the Red Sox, is this: Is it possible that a tiny piece of my pinstriped heart beats for the Sox, even as I can’t endure the sight of Josh Beckett, not to mention Tek, Youk, Dicey-K, Nancy Drew and Big Sloppy? Can a Yankee fan actually have a love relationship with the bullies from Boston, our sworn enemies?
I realize that the question sounds not only Carrie Bradshaw-ish, but also downright sacrilegious. Me? Love the Red Sox? I’d rather stick needles in my eyes.
Still, it’s a question that must be answered, given how fixated I am on the Sox — from checking their scores daily to perusing that crazy Sons of Sam Horn Web site. Surely, it is hate, not love, that causes me to boo them mercilessly, rejoice in their every loss and adopt superstitious behavior meant to bring about their collapse. (Giambi stopped shaving his ‘stache; I stopped shaving my legs.)
On the other hand, why do I get all giddy with excitement when the Red Sox blow into town? Why do I have a little more spring in my step? Why do I drop everything and plant myself in front of the TV for four straight days if I really, truly despise those clowns?
For instance, I once begged off an invitation to a baby shower on a Saturday afternoon because the Yankees and the Red Sox were playing. The puzzled hostess asked, “Why can’t you just TiVo it?” I apologized but admitted that I could never attend a baby shower during a Yanks-Sox game, even if the baby in question was my own.
Yes, I watch because the teams have an awesome rivalry. No matter what our respective standing in the division, we somehow remain wonderful foils for each other. It is their scruffy outlaws versus our scrubbed professionals: their cocky Papelbon versus our cool-headed Mo; their durable Wakefield versus our dynamic Joba; their eccentric Manny versus our egocentric A-Rod. Even our ballparks are rivals: their peculiar Green Monster versus our pristine white facade.
The games always last for hours and are packed with high drama, whether they’re blowouts or tight pitchers duels. And let’s not forget all the bean balls and brawls. There is so, so much history between us. Dent and Boone. Schilling’s bloody sock and Dave Roberts’s steal.
Dave Bleepin’ Roberts. The very thought of what that late-season pickup did to us in ’04 makes me insane. No, of course it’s not love I feel for the Red Sox. It is hate, pure and simple.
And yet it’s twisted how much I obsess about them, about how much I get up for playing them. I want us not only to beat them but also to look fabulous doing it — from making flashy defensive plays to smashing homers over Coco Crisp’s head. It is as if the Red Sox are some swaggering bad boy who is clearly not right for me but has, nevertheless, managed to crawl under my skin — a guy I find insufferable but impossible to dump.
Oh, God. What am I feeling?
I quickly call my friend Lisa, who happens to be a Red Sox fan but is otherwise a very nice person.
“I have to ask you something,” I say. “Does any part of you love the Yankees?”
She laughs hysterically. “Uh, no.” More laughter. “I hate the Yankees, you know that. The World Series didn’t mean as much last year because we didn’t go through you to get there. You validate us and we validate you. It’s like we need each other.”
That’s it. I understand now. I don’t love the Red Sox any more than Lisa loves the Yankees. It is simply that we are addicted to each other’s team in a totally unhealthy, co-dependent way.
And — this is just a hunch — we are not the only ones.