FENWAY PARK, BOSTONThe ball exploded off of Bill Mueller’s bat on a line drive towards me in the right-field bleachers. The Fenway Park crowd, already on its feet, immediately raised its arms in the air and started yelling wildly.
The Yankees’ right fielder gave the ball some chase, but it was in vain. The ball landed in the Red Sox bullpen for a game-winning two-run home run in the bottom of the ninth inning, capping a last-minute comeback and sending the crowd into an extended roar.
As Mueller (pronounced “MIL-lah” and not to be confused with teammate Kevin Millar pronounced “mil-LAH”), rounded the bases, the crowd’s roar for the first time all game rose louder than it had been in the third inning when Boston catcher Jason Varitek socked Yankees’ pretty-boy millionaire Alex Rodriguez in the face.
By the time Mueller reached home, the bleachers (where I bought $20 tickets for $60) returned to their standard chant for the evening: “YANKEES SUCK! YANKEES SUCK!”
A light-hitting infielder had just hit a dramatic walk-off homerun off of baseball’s dominant relief pitcher, and the Sox fans, instead of celebrating their hero, instinctively, for the tenth or fifteenth time that afternoon, expressed their real passion: hatred of the Yankees.
Outside of the stadium, tee shirts sold out explaining, in lewd terms, just how Yankees’ captain Derek Jeter expresses his fondness for his teammate Rodriguez, whose nickname is A-Rod.
This was a fitting prelude for John Kerry’s nomination. Boston’s fans are so jaded from 86 years of disappointment and frustration–seemingly always at the hands of the Yankees–that they find it more natural to hate the Yankees than to love the Sox. In this regard, the delegates who are filling this city this week should feel at home among the Beantowners.
I don’t want to take the analogy too far. The Yankees (whom I cannot stand, either, truth be told) are not the GOP (although fans of the Sox, with the second-highest payroll in baseball, have Democrat-like delusions about being working-class underdogs), but there is a real aptness in the comparison.
It’s the Yankees who have made the Bostonians as full of bile as they are. Despite their claims of being oppressed, Sox fans’ anger stems less from any injustices suffered than from the simple fact that the Yankees–time after time–deliver in the clutch when the Red Sox do not.
In short, the Yankees have driven Boston to insanity, to the point where the fans have trouble really loving their team because their hatred of their foe eclipses any good feelings.
Similarly, George W. Bush has succeeded in driving the Democrats into such a tizzy that Kerry’s party and campaign brass struggle to focus on their candidate and to convey a positive message.
Bush has made the Democrats foam at the mouth by beating them in 2000 in the most frustrating way possible, and then by beating them again in 2002. Bush still refuses to apologize for his record, still says “nucular,” and still smirks.
If the convention this week resembles the bleachers in Fenway Park, the Democratic party is in trouble. The challenge the Kerry team faces is somehow coming across positive when what the crowd wants to hear is Bush bashing.
John Kerry will try to be John Kennedy in front of a hall waiting for Michael Moore.
–Tim Carney is a reporter for the Evans-Novak Political Report.