Game Over

I'm staging an intervention.

Remember when the gang from Beverly Hills, 90210 lured Dylan McKay over to the Walsh house, then pounded him over the head with those “You're killing yourself and you're killing us!” stories so he would quit boozing and doing drugs? Okay, it didn't work — a whacked-out Dylan drove his Porsche off a cliff in the very same episode — but that's irrelevant. Dylan's buddies tried to knock some sense into him . . . just like I'm trying to knock some sense into Red Sox fans.

To put it simply, Sox fans need to stop obsessing about the alleged “rivalry” with the Yankees. Why? Because it doesn't exist. When one side consistently beats up on the other side — not just for years, but for decades — you eventually reach a point where the word “rivalry” no longer applies. Harvard-Yale, Bird-Magic, Ali-Frazier, Borg-McEnroe, Hulk-Andre . . . those were rivalries. The Red Sox-Yankees “rivalry” is about as competitive as a wet T-shirt contest between Britney Spears and Janet Reno.

I know you hate reading the stats as much as I — a die-hard Sox fan — hate writing them, but here they are: Since 1920, the Yankees have captured 26 world championships, while the Sox have appeared in four World Series and squandered them all. The teams have collided in two playoff situations — 1978 (a one-game playoff) and 1999 (the A.L. Championship Series) — and the Yankees prevailed both times. For that matter, the Yankees have won four championships just in the past six years.

And we're still calling this a rivalry?

By analogy, let's say two guys named Murph and Sully have been drinking at Paddy Burke's for 35 years, and, for whatever reason, they don't really get along. Every six months, they get into heated arguments that degenerate into fisticuffs — and Murph has beaten up Sully 48 out of 50 times. Over the years, Murph has KO'd Sully 15 times; broken his ribs, his nose, his jaw, and his cheekbone; and cracked 6 teeth while knocking out another 10. Conversely, Murph has suffered just three busted knuckles and two fractured hands. As an added kicker, back in 1971, Murph bought Sully's beaten-down house in Wellesley for $12,000, and renovated it into a $5 million showplace.

Now . . .

Even if Paddy Burke's patrons are evenly divided between Sully fans and Murph fans, does this constitute a rivalry? Of course not.

Here's how Webster's defines the term “rival”: one of two or more striving to reach or obtain something that only one can possess.

In the case of the Red Sox and Yankees, both sides have been striving year after year — and the Yankees keep doing the possessing. Case closed.

So why do Red Sox fans keep fanning the flames? It's okay to despise the Yankees and their abrasive fans. It's okay to root vehemently against them. It's okay to pine for that wonderful day when the tables finally are turned, the Yankees are banished to baseball hell, and the Sox finally capture the World Series. But until then, shouldn't we keep a low profile? Shouldn't we collectively agree to shelve our ubiquitous “Yankees suck!” chant unless the Yankees are actually playing at Fenway? Do we really want everyone believing that we have a complex about the Yankees, that we're pathetic and desperate, that we start “Yankees suck!” chants to make ourselves feel better about rooting for a star-crossed franchise?

Hey, I understand the whole “Yankees suck!” thing. It gives us an advantage over New York fans (the chant rolls off the tongue a lot better than “Boston sucks!”); it gives everyone in the Fenway bleachers something to do; and it provides a tremendous tension-breaker during any Yanks-Sox game. But when we're chanting it during a meaningless Red Sox-Devil Rays game in June, or even at a Red Sox-Royals game in Kansas City, aren't we carrying this thing a bit too far?

The post-Super Bowl rally for the Patriots at City Hall pushed me over the edge. We were celebrating our first local championship since 1986, the final chapter of the most memorable/improbable/unbelievable season by an area sports team since the '67 Red Sox — with the added bonus that the Patriots freaking won! Giddy fans crammed the streets of downtown Boston in 20-degree weather. We were beyond happy. Borderline Mardi Gras happy.

Then it happened. Second-string linebacker Larry Izzo couldn't think of anything interesting to say, so he started a “Yankees suck!” chant. And an estimated 1.25 million fans joined in, happily chanting “Yan-kees suck! Yan-kees suck! Yan-kees suck!”

And we looked like idiots.

Do you think Jets fans would start “Boston sucks!” chants at their Super Bowl parade? Or Yankees fans, at their World Series rally? Of course not. We're not even on their radar screen. That's why New Yorkers don't take us seriously. If we give them crap about the Yankees, they start giggling. Which dagger should they use as a retort? The Bambino? Bucky Dent? 1918? Roger Clemens? Wade Boggs? When we start with that Sox-Yankees stuff, they think it's amusing, the same way it's funny when you're watching a dog hump somebody's leg. Harmless, juvenile fun.

So when we celebrated our first Super Bowl win ever with a “Yankees suck!” chant, New York fans shook their heads. Look at those idiots in Boston. Could they BE more pathetic? Could they BE more obsessed about us? And they probably smiled to themselves, satisfied, knowing they were still winning the war.

And they were. And are.

Deep down, we know it's true, which might explain why our inferiority complex reached staggering heights during the Yankees' most recent run of success. You wouldn't believe some of the e-mails I got from frustrated readers. One guy sent me a detailed comparison between the Yankees logo and the Nazi swastika. Another wrote an essay comparing Roger Clemens to Benedict Arnold. Another sent me a 1,500-word treatise entitled “Why I Hate Paul O'Neill.” And those were the more reasonable messages.

Our deepening hatred for the Yankees has been fueled by resentment more than anything, a loser's mentality that's been brewing in Boston ever since the 1986 World Series. There's a reason Herald sportswriter Gerry Callahan deemed Boston “Loserville”: Not only were our teams losing, but we were insufferable about it. Curses, conspiracies, bad karma — we had an excuse for everything. We excelled at playing the role of the Jilted, Disillusioned, Spiteful, and Hopeless Fan. And chanting “Yankees suck!” at every opportunity played right into that. It was the mark of a loser: people trying to make themselves feel better at the expense of someone else.

But when the Patriots rolled to the Super Bowl, we remembered why we loved sports in the first place. We didn't need to measure ourselves against our past, or against the Yankees, the Lakers, the Avalanche, or anybody else. We were champions again. We were happy again. Sports was fun again. It wasn't about rooting against someone, but rooting for someone. There's a difference.

So now that we're winners again, let's keep a low profile and stop trying to revive this one-sided Red Sox-Yankees feud. Besides, we can take solace in the fact that a New York kid chooses the Yankees simply because the team is winning and he's not creative enough to buck the bandwagon. Better yet, bear in mind that the typical Yankees fan is obnoxious, condescending, and exceptionally arrogant — and those are his better qualities.

Here's your typical Yankees fan: His name is Vinny, Bobby, or Paulie; he's 5-foot-8; he has black hair and a black mustache that hasn't quite grown in yet, which makes him look like a cross between Danny Terrio and Bababooey; his girlfriend looks like Paula Jones and chews Jolly Ranchers with her mouth open; he just failed the firefighter test in his borough for the 10th time; he owns three different Yankees jerseys and makes his girlfriend wear one of them at all times; he wears sweatpants to bars; he drops f-bombs like it's his job; his greatest moment of the past 25 years was when Reggie Jackson slapped three homers in the '77 World Series; and he thinks Don Mattingly should have his own holiday. He's also getting really angry as he reads this.

You're telling me you want these fans to feel superior to you? Of course not. Just because they support a superior baseball team doesn't mean they are superior. Keep telling yourself this.

And if our Red Sox finally topple the Yankee dynasty and start rolling off world championships, maybe there will be a Royals-Yankees game in Kansas City someday, and a “Boston sucks!” chant will start up . . . for absolutely no reason whatsoever. Then we'll have a rivalry on our hands.