The Apple of ESPN’s Eye, or The Yankees/Red Sox Rivalry

Although it probably shouldn’t be this way, I’ve pretty much decided that all forms of media are biased in some way.

The Fox News Channel is conservative, while virtually every other news channel is slanted to the left. Around here in Northwest Arkansas, some media outlets rabidly support Arkansas football coach Houston Nutt, while others are decidedly against him.

Bias is a part of media; I guess I shouldn’t expect ESPN to be any different.

Yesterday, the Atlanta Braves and the New York Mets battled each other in a classic game. Future Hall of Famers and former teammates John Smoltz and Tom Glavine pitched gems through five innings.

Atlanta got to Glavine in the 6th to take a 3-1 lead, but the Mets responded in the bottom half of the inning. New York touched Smoltz for five runs, highlighted by a José Reyes bases clearing triple and Braves manager Bobby Cox being thrown out of the game for arguing balls and strikes.

Down 6-3 and facing the Mets’ formidable bullpen, Atlanta tied it up in the 7th with an Edgar Renteria three-run home run, and then surged ahead in the 8th with another three-run shot, this one by Kelly Johnson.

The Mets threatened in the 8th and 9th but failed to score, and Atlanta held on for the victory, which gave them a half-game lead over the Mets for the NL East lead and put the rest of the league on notice that the Braves are back.

It was quite a game, but apparently, only warranted about 60 seconds of the 90 minute ESPN Sportscenter broadcast that night. Certainly, there were a lot of sports to cover yesterday with the opening of the NBA playoffs, but ESPN may have had more time to recap the Braves/Mets game if they hadn’t spent 10 minutes going over the highlights the Yankees/Red Sox game.

The New York/Boston game was significant; the Red Sox win gave Boston its first sweep of the Yankees at Fenway since the early 1990s, the BoSox hit four consecutive home runs in the game for the first time in team history (the last time any AL team did that was in 1964) and Dice-K was pitching.

It was a good game, but it didn’t merit 10 times the coverage of the Braves/Mets game.

But if you watch much ESPN, this shouldn’t be surprising. The network that is infamous for portraying the Duke Blue Devils as a contender for the NCAA basketball championship in a season when they are barely treading water in ACC play always blows the New York/Boston rivalry way out of proportion.

The Yankees and Red Sox have been playing each other for a long time, since 1903 actually, which is part of the rivalry, and New York and Boston are geographically close to each other (only 214 miles separate the two cities, almost exactly the distance between Fayetteville and Searcy), which adds to it as well.

But actually, throughout most of baseball history, the New York/Boston rivalry really hasn’t been much of a rivalry at all, especially to the Yankees, who have basically been dominating their chowder-eating counterparts for 85+ years now—since 1920, New York has won 39 pennants and 26 World Series Championships while Boston has won 5 pennants and 1 World Series Crown during that same span.

Sure, there have been a few moments of intrigue and points of contention over the years—the Babe Ruth trade and resulting “Curse,” the personal rivalry of Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams in the 1940s, the Bucky Dent home run to send the Yankees to the playoffs in 1978 and Boston’s dramatic come-from-behind ALCS victory over New York in 2004—but any two teams who had played in the same division for 100+ years would have similar episodes.

Is there a rivalry between these two teams? Absolutely, and it is one that has intensified over the last decade with the re-emergence of both teams as perennial contenders.

But it still remains the most overplayed and trumped-up rivalry in all of professional sports, more the product of myopic, overzealous northeastern sportswriters than of history.

And seriously, the rest of us are getting tired of it.


John Wright 4/24/07, 7:59 AM  

I was watching the Sunday re-run of Baseball Tonight's Saturday late-night show, and Karl Ravech was interviewing a couple of beat writers over the phone. One of them was Dave O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and Ravech effectively asked him if people were tired of the Yankees-Red Sox coverage. I was surprised by the question and somewhat impressed with O'Brien's somewhat candid answer ("yes"), but obviously it's not going to matter. After that 60-second interview, they proceeded to spend 10 minutes breaking down Dice-K's 87-pitch arsenal, but at least they acknowledged that the Sox-Yankees rivalry is a little overblown. In general, I now just root for both teams to lose (though if they're playing each other, I root for the Sox).

Luke Dockery 4/24/07, 8:32 AM  


I didn't get to catch the Ravech/O'Brien interview, but I did read something about it in his blog.

I largely feel the same way; while I appreciate the history of both teams and have always wanted to visit Fenway Park, I get oh so tired of every single series between the two being treated as if it were the World Series.

Of course, there is always a soft spot in my heart for a team that hates the Yankees.

Kenny Simpson 4/24/07, 2:21 PM  

Love seeing the lakers on tv every Sunday afternoon, although they are the 7th best team in the west.

Luke Dockery 4/24/07, 5:28 PM  


Excellent point. Media darlings can come from out west too. The Lakers and USC Trojans are excellent examples.

Hopefully the Suns will take care of business quickly and we won't have to hear anymore from Kobe and his pals for a while.

david mcmahon 4/25/07, 7:59 PM  

G'day Luke,

All the way from Down Under. I just saw your query on the Blogger Help forum and thought I'd have a look to help you.

If it's the blog title you want to increase in size, there is an easy fix.

Since you are on New Blogger, go to Layouts and choose the `Fonts and Colours' option, tick the appropriate box and you can change font (type face) and size.

If you have any blogging/ design/ tech queries, don't ever hesitate to contact me directly at http://david-mcmahon.blogspot.com/

Cheers, mate
David aka aussiejourno

Paul Murphy 4/26/07, 6:14 PM  

I can't believe this trash either. I for one love Turner South's programming, but they never play Oakland A's games its all Braves all the time. Kidding. I love TSN. It's b/c we don't bankroll the hall of fame future player association

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