Once again tonight will begin yet another series between the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees. That can mean only one thing, a bunch of baseball articles and talk about how this rivalry has “lost it’s luster.” Every time these two teams get together for the last decade or so, the fans have been inundated with sports writers opining about the current state of the rivalry and how it’s not as good as it once was. The players don’t hate each another any more. The teams aren’t as good. Some of the more fun players in the rivalry have moved on. The unbalanced scheduled has over-saturated the amount of games. Lots of reasons why you shouldn’t watch this weekend. Well, fortunately for the fans, all those reasons are nonsense. This is the greatest rivalry in sports, and if you are a baseball fan you owe it to yourself to tune in this weekend.
The demise of the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry reminds me of another important pop culture icon that has been around forever, and has forever been told it was no longer relevant, Saturday Night Live. The similarities between the rivalry and SNL run parallel and far beyond Billy Crystal, who was both an SNL cast member and Yankees’ spring training player. Nearly since it’s inception over 30 years ago, critics have been saying that SNL has “jumped the shark” or was “Dead” or no longer funny or relevant. Nearly no one said the show was funny in the 70s…or the 90s…or the 2000s…or now, yet now everything thinks the show was better in 70s…or the 90s…or the 2000s. Likewise the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry was better in the 70s… or 90s…or the 2000s, but certainly not now.
Stars on SNL have come and gone, same as the rivalry. In the 70s, there was Thurman Munson, Reggie Jackson, Bucky Dent and Graig Nettles, going against Jim Rice, Carl Yastrzemski, and Carlton Fisk. SNL had Dan Aykroyd, Chevy Chase and Bill Murray at that time. In the 90s, SNL had Adam Sandler, Chris Farley, David Spade and Norm MacDonald. The rivalry had Roger Clemens, David Cone, David Wells, Nomar Garciaparra, and Jason Varitek. In the 2000s, the rivalry had Pedro Martinez and Don Zimmer to g0 along with Aaron Boone, Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, David Ortiz and Josh Beckett. SNL had Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, and Jimmy Fallon. The faces of the game changem but the essence of the matter does not. The cast of SNL changes as often as a major league roster, but the show remains the same.
Each person has their favorite SNL skits, and favorite cast members, and no matter how talented and funny the current show is, it will simply never compare to that person’s favorite. There is no wrong answer here. If you are partial to Steve Martin’s “wild and crazy guys” or Sandler’s “Opera Man” or Ferrell’s cheerleader skit doesn’t make someone else’s opinion wrong. There is room for everyone’s favorite. Same goes for the rivalry. You may think the rivalry peaked with Nettles body-slamming Bill Lee or Pedro tossing the late Don Zimmer to the ground, or either the Dent or Boone homers, it doesn’t matter. They were all great moments.
I am not trying to say every episode or skit of SNL is comedic gold. Far from it, there is plenty of unfunny drivel that has been amassed over the decades. Same as there have been decidedly noncompetitive and unexciting Yankees’ games over the years. But we watch anyway, because we simply don’t know what will happen next. Every Saturday night, we could see the next “Lazy Saturday” or “Matt Foley Motivational Speaker” appear, or we could see another unfunny skit that we will forget almost as soon as it ends. Every game between Boston and New York is the same way.
The Yankees are still the Yankees. The Red Sox are still the Red Sox. The two clubs are both in the top five in payroll, and feature some of the best players in the game. Any game between these two is capable of being something that can be remembered over the course of a lifetime. The famous Jeter Dive was against the Red Sox. Alex Rodriguez‘s famously knocking off Bronson Arroyo‘s glove was also against the Red Sox. There have been fights, game-winning home runs, slugfests and pitching duels. You never know what will happen. That’s why whenever these two teams meet, eyes from across the baseball universe will pause and observe, for the possibility of greatness is always higher during a game between these two storied franchises.