Sports headlines around the country today are highlighting the so-called "greatest rivalry in sports" as the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees square off for a five-game series this weekend at Fenway.
The New York Post declares "Whenever They Meet, It's Apocalypse Now."
The front pages of ESPN.com, SI.com, and FoxSports.com all have the series listed as a very, very big deal. Even MSNBC jumped in on the act.
And really, can you blame them? The Yankees and Red Sox are two very fabled and very famous teams, and any self-respecting news publication owes it to themself to give their readers what they want. Revenues (and payrolls) for both teams are beyond normal figures for sports franchises, and a lot of people (this writer included) really do like watching those old fight reels on ESPN Classic.
But now, in 2006 does anyone really care anymore?
Look at the rosters of the two teams being put on the field this weekend. How many of these guys are the hardcore, hard-line, hard-nosed Yankees and Red Sox that made these games even remotely interesting to anyone outside the Eastern time zone?
Are Matt Clement or Jon Lester going to be gunning for Bobby Abreu's head?
Are Coco Crisp and Jason Giambi going to be meeting in the tunnel before, during, and after the games to beat the hell out of each other once and for all?
With Bronson Arroyo now in Cincinnati, is there any Red Sox pitcher left that Alex Rodriguez would go after for pitching inside?
"But look at the history there," some of you will say. "It goes deeper than that."
Twenty, even ten years ago I would've agreed. But come on, how many of those guys you're seeing this weekend are homegrown talent? How many bleed Yankee blue or Sawx red? In an era of ridiculous trades and even more ridiculous free agency, do rivalries really mean as much as they used to?
Look at a guy like Johnny Damon. After spending four years in Boston, he ran off to the hated Yankees because they, as the Red Sox had done after the 2001 seasons, offered the highest dollar to him. Do you think he gives a flying fuck about Fisk or Yaz or Pesky or Cal Schiraldi? And you Yankee fans can stop laughing about how you landed him, because in four years it'll be some other city laughing at how you all turned on him and he went to another team where he turned from punchline to star once more.
The two highest-paid teams in baseball, each fully-stocked with players they outbid every other team for, each dominating the press with headlines about history and angst and suffering despite having a collective World Series drought of eight years. This is the greatest rivalry in sports? Greatest for who?
As someone who's spent the better part of two decades hating a certain baseball team from the North Side of Chicago, I understand how good it feels to have a team to just absolutely despise. I understand that it means almost as much as having a team to love. And that's fine...for you.
The rest of us - the fans of the other 28 teams in the other 48 states - are tired of it. Talk to me when both of your teams spend a half-century as neighbors in the gutter.
You want a great rivalry? Go watch some soccer. Call me old-fashioned, but it seems to me that burning down the stadium is a little more intense than wearing a shirt proclaiming that Derek Jeter has AIDS.
Then again, I always did think those "Cubs Suck" shirts were pretty funny...