The Day I Rooted for the Red Sox
By Danielle Dreilinger
Because he did everything right. He took me to my first Yankees game at age 6. From then on, once a year, we drove in to the Bronx; he bought the scorecard and explained how to score a fielder's choice. We threw peanut shells on the ground as he said, "This is one of the only public places where it's OK to throw your peanut shells on the ground." My 10th birthday present was my first night game. When a foul ball came flying in our direction, I ducked and Dad scrambled to get it.
Even when I left New York in 1999, I never thought my allegiance would shift. The family's baseball loyalties had only changed once, under duress, and my great-aunt went to her grave a Brooklyn Dodgers fan.
But I also came to Boston not knowing a thing about Red Sox Nation. The JETER SUCKS T-shirts, the curse, the Babe and the piano in the lake, the vitriol directed New York-wards: a complete surprise. From the catbird Yankees seat, all American League East teams were equal rivals, to be respected (if generally disliked) as fellow historic teams with great ballparks. All my vitriol went to the Atlanta Braves.
At first, it was far more fun to be a New Yorker in Boston than in New York. Allies appeared in unexpected places. An elderly woman approached me at Thornton's, in the shadow of Fenway Park, as I watched the game. I braced myself for a blow from her cane. She leaned over and whispered, "Go Yankees!"
However, by 2001 or so, I was getting uneasy. Rather than tell the story about how I slipped into a random Upper West Side corner bar to see the Yanks win the '96 Series, I talked about how utterly terrible the team was throughout my childhood: We didn't have a decent pitcher between Ron Guidry and Jimmy Key. I took my Yankees cap and altered it with iron-on letters to say: I SUCK.
"I kind of don't care if the Yankees win this year," I said on the phone with my New York therapist, a Harvard parent. "They've won enough. It would be nice if the Sox finally won."
"Yes," she said, "I've heard the same turncoat feelings expressed by my daughter."
The desire didn't seem like betrayal, though. It seemed like justice.
The playoffs arrived. No problem, right? No matter who wins, I'll be glad, I reasoned. No tension. And yet the tension, it ratcheted.
Game seven. Caught between loyalties, I debated whether or not even to watch the game. But somehow I was standing in the Inman Sq. Bukowski's with a pack of red-clad strangers as Grady walked away, leaving Pedro on the mound. Yankee Stadium cheered. A guy turned to me and said, "When the opposing team's fans cheer your manager's decision, you know it's a really bad idea." The bar screamed. Was that me screaming along? Hats were clutched, pulled off, slammed down.
Over the television, the music played: I want to be a part of it / New York, New York.
I walked out of the door in a haze. I had rooted for the Red Sox. Not just that: I had cheered for them 100 percent. I had despised, hated, abhorred, cursed my childhood team. I felt only complete despair at our — our? — loss.
The morning of October 17 felt like waking up inside someone else's body.
If you think the adjustment was strange for me, just think of my father. Poor Dad. His team won the Series but he lost his daughter to Red Sox Nation.
He tried to laugh it off. Even when I loaned my altered Yankees cap to a friend for a satiric Halloween costume. It stopped being a joke in 2004, of course. Maybe my then-boyfriend shouldn't have left that particular message on my family's answering machine. After I gave my sister my Johnny Damon Sox shirt as a Chanukah present, we tacitly established an Iron Curtain: no contact during a Red Sox/Yankees series, détente called only for such events as a post-season faceoff scheduled inconveniently on my dad's birthday weekend. My dad sighed and sighed again.
But a winter takes the sting out of even the worst collapse, and several winters the worst baseball betrayal. In 2010 I watched an inconveniently scheduled Yankees playoff game with them, on my parents' couch; I didn't cheer for Anyone but the Yankees and they made no reference to the Sox' disappointing season, their final game a loss to — ouch — New York. With the '80s Yankee Stadium gone, a green park bustling with Bronx runners and kids in its place, I can even allow the occasional moment of nostalgia: the Manhattan windshields painted with the number of Sammy Sosa's homers; the guy who heckled José Canseco so loudly — Hey José! When my kid's grown up I want him to be just like you: FAT and STOOPID! — that the hated Angel, waiting at first, turned around and glared. All I have to do is look at the 1988 roster to hear the announcer's voice echo: MIKE – PAG-LI-A-RUUU-LO.
And as for my dad, he is perhaps approaching the acceptance that follows denial, anger and despair. We were on the phone last July. "Your team's looking good," he said, almost casually.
WGBH: FENWAY AT 100
About Fenway at 100WGBH News brings you local stories and historic moments from Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox, as it marks a century in baseball history. (Fenway photo courtesy of the Boston Red Sox.)
Danielle Dreilinger is an author and news producer for WGBH.org.
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