If you wanted to torture Yankees fans, you might not be able to pick a better way to do it than to force their eyes open with toothpicks and make them watch the American League Championship Series presently being contested between the Red Sox and the Astros.
(And in that scenario, the toothpicks are actually the lesser of the disagreeable items, well behind the Houston-Boston game on the TV.)
At this moment in their history, there is honestly nothing worse. The Astros have twice beaten them in recent ALCS — once (2017) in which we are almost certain they were cheating, and once (2019) when we will forever wonder if Jose Altuve was truly being modest for not wanting his shirt ripped off after hitting a series-clinching home run, or because under his jersey he was harboring a more complicated electronic surveillance system than the Nixon White House.
And the Sox … well, what more can you say? They’re the Sox. They’re Boston. They’re New England. And after quietly assuming their subservient place in history for 86 blissful years they have risen these past 17 years to be a poisonous thorn in the Yankees’ side.
This isn’t the first time one of our fan bases has had to endure such misery, just the latest. Maybe the most notable incident came back in the ’86 World Series, when the Mets and the Red Sox squared off for the championship, and Yankees fans were forced to wander through their lives for 11 days trying to channel the words of the great Gershwin brothers:
(“Let’s call the whole thing off …”)
The No. 1 Yankees fan, George Steinbrenner, wrote a daily column for this newspaper during the Series, and every day he went back and forth between lamenting the Sox and lamenting the Mets, ultimately choosing divisional loyalty over civic concession, but you could tell he held his nose with one hand while typing his copy with the other. After the Sox won the first two games he scribed:
“And when it ended I could only think of the words of one wise man, S.T. Coleridge:
“A sadder and wiser man/He rose the morrow morn.”
“And hope that all he bookies who suckered the public with that 2-1 Mets line should find only holes in their stockings this Christmas. Because that’s all a lot of guys who gave it are liable to have left when this thing is over.”
Not too bitter, eh, Boss?
Of course, some 22 years later, Mets fans had to endure a Yankees-Phillies World Series at a time when the Phillies were their clear No. 1 rival. And to add a little extra sea salt to the wound, the Phillies handed Pedro Martinez the ball in Game 6 to try and stave off elimination (he couldn’t).
The two instances that should have been sheer torture but weren’t occurred in February 2008 and February 2012. That’s the two times the Giants and Patriots squared off in the Super Bowl, and that should have been the worst of times to be a Jets fan: their regional blood rival and their divisional arch-enemies.
It’s a testament to just how detested the Pats are, though, that there were a lot of Jets fans who unabashedly and openly rooted for the Giants both of those times. Bragging rights are one thing. But watching the hated, loathed, contemptible Patriots try to go 19-0 the first time, and simply add to the Brady/Belichick/Kraft trophy shelf the second … well, for Jets fans it wasn’t even a particularly difficult choice.
Unlike what a lot of Rangers fans were feeling last spring when they were forced to watch the Islanders play the Penguins and the Bruins in the playoffs. Rangers fans, of course, believe Sidney Crosby is a source of pure evil on this earth. And the Bruins have been an eternal source of anger. But the Islanders … well, there was no fellowship for their fellow New Yorkers. My favorite Twitter reply of the time was simple:
“Rooting for the Islanders is like rooting for slow death.”
Yep. That’s more like it. Kind of like the ALCS. Hard to find a rooting interest in a battle between pestilence and plague. Better to just sit it out.