I have had more time this fall to work on Balletfocus.com given that the New York Yankees bowed out to the Boston Red Sox in the American League Divisional Series. I despised the Yankees growing up in Kansas, cheering on the Kansas City Royals; my allegiance changed since moving to the New York area in the early 1990s, and I’ve been a big Yankee fan since.
I tuned out baseball after the Yankees exited, given that I hate the Red Sox. The Red Sox enjoyed a perfect season and had a lot of fun in the postseason. Fans filled the fall air with their decades long Yankees Suck! cheer: at the first game of the Yankees/Sox series in Boston (sportswriter Peter Gammons was not amused); before game three at a Boston Bruins hockey game at TD Garden against the Ottawa Senators; in the first game of the World Series against the Los Angeles Dodges at Fenway Park; after securing the final out winning the World Series in Los Angeles; and at a Boston College football game last week. Even the adults were involved in the merriment, not just drunk fans engaging in juvenile behavior: as a variant of Yankees Suck! at the Red Sox championship parade, Red Sox manager Alex Cora said “We scored 16 at Yankee Stadium…Suck on it!” and the Bruins hockey coach said “I agree with that chant by the way. I’m all for it.” Added to the fun was Frank Sinatra’s classic New York, New York in the Red Sox World Series and ALDS clubhouse celebrations after Aaron Judge added fuel to the fire by blaring the song at Fenway Park after the only Yankee’s victory in the series.
Yankees Suck! transcends sports; the chant reflects the insecurities of fans of a city long surpassed by New York as the most important city in the U.S. and the world.
Obnoxious chants from opposing fans are common as in Yankees fans yelling 1918! in reference to the long World Series title drought for the Red Sox, until they won in 2004. But Yankees Suck! in the World Series against the Dodgers? On the final out starting the celebration of a championship? A Bruins hockey game? A Boston College football game? Really? Clearly, the Yankees are in the heads of Boston fans given all of the taunts. Why?
The chant has been around for decades, a result of futility against the Yankees since the Red Sox sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees in 1919. Red Sox fans endured a World Series drought of 86 years while the Yankees continually won titles. The only recourse for Red Sox fans against the juggernaut was Yankees Suck! which broke out at New England birthday parties, high school graduations, bar mitzvahs, and even funerals, according to the amusing ESPN 30 for 30 podcast on the chant.
The Red Sox broke the drought in 2004, with three other World Series titles since then. Even with the Red Sox outpacing the Yankees in World Series titles recently, the chant lives on for another reason; it reflects the insecurities of residents of a city long surpassed by New York as the most important city in the U.S. and the world. New Yorkers rarely think about Boston, except for taking summer vacations to quaint New England towns and visiting or attending one of the many quality universities there. Boston, as a large college town, is way down on the list of global cities ranked by Globalization and World Cities Research Network, lumped in with Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam and Caracas, Venezuela while New York and London are at the top. The Onion pokes fun at the notion of Boston as an important big city in its parody Pretty Cute Watching Boston Residents Play Daily Game of ‘Big City’. With the great success of Boston teams in the new millennium, sports are a way of gaining an upper hand on their much bigger brother, whose sports teams, excluding the Yankees, actually do suck. But chanting Knicks Suck! or Jets Suck! is not provocative or fun because what’s the point of kicking a pathetic team.
Moving to New York, I was surprised to find many Red Sox fans, including the past two mayors. But it makes sense, given New York’s massive economy that attracts the tired, poor, huddled masses, many from New England yearning to make six figures plus in investment banking. Given the new Amazon headquarters in Long Island City, NY, there will likely be a large number of Boston educated residents migrating to New York, who will regale disinterested co-workers with Boston sports lore. One of many downsides of the tax break deal that unites the editorial pages of the conservative Wall Street Journal and liberal New York Times in disapproval.
You would think Boston fans would be secure based on their teams’ success and retire Yankees Suck! as The Ringer’s Bill Simmons, a lifelong Boston fan suggests. I’m all for retiring the stupid and pointless statement. That will be difficult as it is an integral part of New England culture, reflecting Boston’s little brother status. “Hating the Yankees is part of our heritage. It has brought generations of Bostonians together,”says a Boston fan in the 30 for 30 podcast.
Above photo by Jerem43 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=32052460