The kid grew up loving the Red Sox and hating the Yankees.
That was just the way it was, back there in the Rhode Island of his childhood.
Not that there was anything very complicated about it in the late 1950s. The Red Sox were the local team, the one that was on black and white television in the living room, and these were the golden years, back when rooting for the Red Sox was like rooting for a broken heart.
And the Yankees?
They were the ones who won all the time, the ones with the pinstripes and the big stadium in the Bronx, while his team played in little Fenway Park. So one day back then, early in his fandom, back when the Yankees going to the World Series in October was just the way the season seemed to end, the kid had a certain flash of insight: how can a team that plays in a park ever beat a team that plays in a stadium?
Talk about a bad question, right?
For the Red Sox never won back then, while the Yankees always seemed to. In fact, the last time the Red Sox had won the pennant was in 1946, back when there wasn't even TV for crying out loud, and it could have been the last century for all the kid knew.
They were the gold standard.
No wonder the kid hated them.
He even hated their pinstripes, their obvious way of saying "look at us, we're better than you," to the the point that when he grew up and became an adult he would never wear a pinstriped suit. Old memories never die.
Fast forward about six decades and everything around those two teams has changed. Technology, music, baseball, the players, the world, everything. Everything, it seems, except that old rivalry. It's still the Red Sox against the Yankees.
So is it any wonder why, when the Red Sox were jumping up and down on the field in the Bronx last week, that it felt like they had won the World Series.
No matter that it was only the ALDS — the first round of the playoffs. No matter that the Red Sox have won three championships in the last 14 years. No matter that they're now tangling with Houston, what many people say is the best team in baseball.
When the Red Sox beat the Yankees in October, it's an accomplishment.
Maybe, most of all, the kid had come to realize through the years that there was a large contingent of Yankee fans in the area, and had been for many decades, back to the time of Joe DiMaggio and Yogi Berra, back to when ethnicity was one of the ties that bind the most. To the point that outside of the Red Sox, the Yankees remain the most popular team around here and no one else is even in the conversation.
That was one of the keys to the rivalry, one that cuts deep. When the Yankees won, all of their closet fans began dancing around in the public square paying homage. They are the ones who always come out when teams win, the parade people. Combine them with the many true Yankee fans here in New England, whatever their reason, and you have a solid base.
All part of the rivalry, right?
And who would want it any other way?
Not the kid, that's for sure. For he learned a long time ago that passion is what drives sports, passion is what makes people care. Take away the passion and you have a performance, not a game.
And he's also come to know through the years that there are few things better in sports around here than the Red Sox beating the Yankees in something that matters. Few things are any better than the Red Sox ending the Yankees' season, regardless of the circumstances. Few things are any better than the Red Sox sending the Yankees home for the winter, their bats and balls in storage, right there with their postseason dreams.
Even if the Red Sox season ends now, ends at the hands of the defending champions, the Red Sox fan still has that.
Can there be any better scenario?
And all the rest is frosting.