I hate the New York Yankees.
To a veteran Red Sox fan — an emotional experience undefinable in spoken language — my display of grudges is hardly a declaration of my baseball allegiance. Nor is it a political speech trying to discredit the Yankees and their ever-present baseball specter. Rather, it is a prayer that has endured hundreds of years of animosity — one that has seeped into the seats of Fenway Park and into the aquifers of the greater Boston area.
My religious commitment to hate the Yankees exists with a force that would be totally unacceptable in any other area of my life. I hate math, hot tea and people criss-crossing a narrow sidewalk. But to equate my feelings for the Yankees with them, I would say that I hope all math textbooks get heated to 451 degrees Fahrenheit, tea temperature is tightly controlled by Congress, and people who tri-cross narrow sidewalks in each and every life ambition they may have fails spectacularly. That may sound pretty strict. It is.
Ironically, my own life was full of failures in the face of the blue and white pinstripes. Doesn’t matter. It is a well-accepted truth in Boston that the Yankees are given a certain portion of their available negative energy at all times. It’s a unique psychological experience that can only be compared in sport. Hate may be the wrong word for sporting rivalry, but English lacks the term for such reserved and concentrated malice. It’s a deliberately non-violent impulse that manifests itself solely in wishing the Yankees failure and their fans fear. If the Yankees play a baseball game, I want them to lose. All other results are secondary, and against whom or in what way, in what situation and even in what sport they lose is irrelevant. If the Yankees decided that baseball was a thing of the past and went full-time to a cricket club, my desire for their failure would remain.
To my chagrin, however, the Yankees haven’t given up baseball just yet, so the 2022 American League Championship Series occurred with the Yankees and the second horseman of the apocalypse: the Houston Astros. Unlike the Yankees, I instinctively recall numerous key moments where the Astros directly spelled the end of the Red Sox’s season. The last time the Yankees did that I was 8 months old. So the scientific method dictates that I should hate the Astros more than I hate the Yankees. But sports fanaticism is illogical, formed out of spiritual understanding, not actual, stimulating experience.
When the Yankees didn’t win a single game and were swept away by the Astros like pathetic dust bunnies, I knew they were in my heart, I was celebrating. The Red Sox and I, the fan, somehow made it through, both of us being totally uninvolved. That’s the paradox of sports fandom psychology: commitment is irrelevant to success. Sport brings its full emotional overload – and psychologists have shown that fans feel their team’s successes and failures as their own ‘personal’. Effort. Multiple studies have shown that watching your team win has almost identical hormonal responses to actually playing in the game itself. For Red Sox fans, hatred of the Yankees exists in our collective body chemistry.
The peaceable among us, however naïve, would no doubt propose reconciliation. Hate isn’t a positive emotion, it’s no secret to psychologists or anyone who’s held a grudge for too long. In Boston, we may hold the longest grudge in American history, but somehow we’re no closer to forgiving the Yankees for their transgression of existence. Maybe hate is speaking here and we should all be less emotional. Or maybe the point of the sport is to be emotional anyway. It can pollute our minds – and probably the Charles River – with our worst emotions. But I love this dirty water, so we can make an exception for this one time.