Sox, Yankees fans fight it out in New Haven

Broadway in October looks more like Boston’s Yawkey Way or 161st Street in the Bronx than a busy college shopping district. One student walks by wearing a shirt that reads, “Babe, Bucky, Buckner, Boone. ‘Nuff said.” Another student embraces Boston’s perpetual losers, sporting a T-shirt with the name of his team’s former shortstop: “NOMAH,” it says, with a big red-and-blue “5″ underneath.

An online away message of one student says simply, “1918.” Unadorned with exclamation points or gimmicky fonts, it serves as a very harsh reminder that the Yankees have won the World Series 26 times since the Red Sox’s last title in 1918. Clinging to an ever-diminishing sliver of hope with the tenacity common to all in Red Sox Nation, one Boston fan began the series with an away message that said “Red Sox in four.” He has adjusted it with each Yankee victory, and as of Sunday it read, “Red Sox in seven.” Despite Boston’s 12th-inning victory last night to avoid a sweep, it may soon say “Red Sox in ’05.” No team in playoff history has ever come back after losing the first three games of a series.

So it goes, every fall, as high Red Sox hopes are crushed by Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and an ever-changing cast of million-dollar mercenaries in pinstripes. New Haven is very much a part of this autumnal New England phenomenon. On the southern end of what Sports Illustrated columnist Steve Rushin once called, “A baseball Mason-Dixon Line — a kind of Munson-Nixon Line, below which you love Thurman, above which you love Trot,” New Haven is mostly Yankee country. Here, the alternative to Yankee lovers is often not Red Sox lovers, but Yankee haters.

“The Yankees make baseball boring,” Lexy Benaim ’06, a Mets fan from Manhattan, said. “They win every time. It’s not exciting for the league if one team has all these great players.”

As a Mets fan, Benaim has the luxury of evaluating the competition from the outside.

“I understand Red Sox fans hating the Yankees,” Benaim said. “But hating the Red Sox is like hating the physically disabled. It’s one thing not to root for the underdog, but what’s the point of hating?”

Sitting in the Trumbull dining hall with fellow Mets fan Jeremy Kessler ’06, Benaim invited anyone who hates — instead of pities — the Red Sox to e-mail him to explain why.

In a discussion more fitting for a seminar than a dinner-time baseball dialogue, the two non-partisan Mets fans questioned the moral compass of a society whose winners feel the need to hate their losers.

But try telling that to a Yankees or Red Sox fan with Pedro facing A-Rod in the late innings.

During this year’s American League Championship Series, passionate fans from both sides of the rivalry have gathered to watch the games. Judging from the expletives reverberating from the walls of all 12 residential colleges, this year’s series may be more heated and divisive than the presidential debates.

Kessler put his feelings about the Bronx Bombers in no uncertain terms.

“I strongly question the morality of anyone who’s a Yankees fan,” said the Queens-native Kessler.

Not all Yalies see the Yankees as the Evil Empire, however.

A navy blue “New York Yankees” T-shirt hanging down to her knees, Valentine Pagan ’08 of Staten Island said Red Sox fans are just jealous of the Yankees.

“They’re really bitter,” Pagan said. “This whole ‘Evil Empire’ thing is ridiculous. They’re just pissed about not having good players. I feel bad for the Red Sox.”

Ned Hirschfeld ’08, who sees the Red Sox as a foil to his mighty Yankees, does not have much pity for Boston.

“I think it was a blessing in disguise for the Yankees that the Red Sox were favored before the series,” Hirschfeld said in the wake of the Yankees’ wild Game 3 win Saturday night. “It was sort of the equivalent of a big Boston inning, almost ensuring a Yankee response.”

But for Boston fans suspended indefinitely in the throes of disappointment, hatred of New York becomes something of a religious doctrine, their contempt mounting with Curt Schilling’s swollen ankle and Hideki Matsui’s hot bat.

Talia DiPanfilo ’08, from Penbroke, Mass., the heart of Red Sox Nation, struggled to find printable words to describe the Yankees.

“They’re obviously doing something right,” DiPanfilo said. “They win all the time. But the true Red Sox fan hates them. It’s fun to hate them. They also have the biggest payroll known to God — but I won’t get into that. But you always gotta believe [as a] Red Sox fan, that’s what it’s about.”

The Yankees-Red Sox rivalry remains strong in New Haven, with fans from both sides showing their colors with shirts and hats.
Beth Ramenofsky
The Yankees-Red Sox rivalry remains strong in New Haven, with fans from both sides showing their colors with shirts and hats.

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