Living in the DMZ

I live in the DMZ between New York and Boston sports teams. One walks a course of landmines this time of year as the baseball season winds toward the playoffs and the football season begins for real. The latter is not nearly as dangerous as the former.

About half the people in central Connecticut are NY Yankees fans and the other half would give their life’s blood for the Boston Red Sox. Oddly enough a good number of the Sox fans are also NY Giants football fans. I’ve never been able to get them to explain why, beyond something muttered about rooting for the underdog (that would be the Sox). Not sure what they have against the New England Patriots.

There are a couple of hold-outs, too. Larry has former high school classmates who are still supporting the baseball Giants because they used to be in New York, even though they moved to California in the Pleistocene epoch. And I believe there is at least one Brooklyn Dodgers fan. The team has been in Los Angeles since BPC (before personal computers), but I don’t think anyone has the heart to tell the poor guy.

The biggest difference between Sox and Yanks fans (aside from their teams’ stats) is that Sox folks get all worked about hating the Yankees. I was on a trip to watch the UConn women’s basketball team at Madison Square Garden and half the folks booed as we passed Yankee Stadium. On the other hand, Yankees fans just ignore Boston. It even shows in the quick sports wrap-ups on the radio stations. The Hartford station gives the scores for both teams. New York gives the Yankees and the Mets. Oh, yeah, I forgot about them. But only about 10 percent of folks in the area root for the “other team.” Could have something to do with their record.

But lots of folks go west when it comes to football. I did find one anomaly in recent months. The guy is a rabid Yankees fan, a rabid football Giants fan, and an equally rabid Boston Celtics fan. He couldn’t explain it either except to say that Larry Byrd is “the man.” “The man” retired more than a decade ago, but I guess that minor detail doesn’t matter. Another mystery of this fan’s obsession: He’s the only one of these die-hard people who seems to have a preference for a pro basketball team. Everyone else thinks (and I agree) that the sport is full of thugs who are best ignored.

And the final mystery is why no one seems to care about hockey. My former boss Ken Robinson (see “RIP” and “Bad Day/Sad Day,”) used to get so emotional during the playoffs that he cried. On second thought, I rescind my comment about Connecticut folks not caring about hockey. They do care, but they’ve agreed to stay angry at the Whalers for leaving Hartford, which I believe happened in the Middle Ages, which would be somewhat more recently than the Pleistocene but still far enough removed to put it in the fog of history. Connecticut’s lack of a professional sports team seems to be the excuse for everything from West Nile virus to poor scores on the No Child Left Behind requirements.

Anyway, these sports loyalties can create the same kind of climate that existed in the Civil War when brother fought brother. I know one family were Mom is a Sox fan; Dad is a fan of the Baltimore Orioles (don’t ask); and Son roots for the Yankees. Fortunately they have three TVs in their house. And they all cheer for the football Giants, so if there is to be an Appomattox it’ll happen sometime in late October or early November.

That family’s favorite watering hole has three TVs. If the Sox and the Yankees are playing someone besides each other, the games will be on screens at opposite sides of the bar, and the fans divide accordingly. I really think the DMZ for the Great Baseball Divide might run through the middle of the place. The third flat screen is reserved for important stuff like the UConn Women Huskies.

I had occasion to do a sociological experiment when I went from the Meriden Record-Journal, where all but two people in my department were Yankee fans and where the boss took the top managers to a couple of games every season, to the Hartford Courant where all but two people were Sox fans and the folks organized trips to Fenway Park.

As for me, I say I’m a Yankees fan to keep my father’s shade away from the door. (Everyone remembers Hamlet, right?) Otherwise, I’ll be ducking for cover whenever any of these combustible groups collide.

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