These are my favourite two teams in their respective sports so this situation has me in a state of flux, a position that I just don’t know what to do or how to feel. I generally keep an eye on a number of other teams within a certain sport, but these are the two teams from the respective sports that I hold dear. I support many a team, Manchester United, Boston Red Sox, Green Bay Packers, New England Patriots, Boston Bruins, Detroit Red Wings, Orlando Magic, Boston Celtics, the list goes on, but these are the big hitters. People can call me a “glory hunter” for liking more than one team but to be honest I don’t care, I think it is this gift of seeing across a whole sport without bias or favouritism that helps me in my late-in-life aspiration to be a decent-level and respected journalist… Or at the least, Mark Chapman, I like his moxy, humour yet clearly a guy that knows his stuff, I never knew he was on BBC Radio 1 before moving to BBC Sport, crazy times. So what happens when your two sporting loves seem to have what they say in the ‘big wig leagues of jargon’ a “conflict of interest”?
First of all we’ll start with Manchester United, now this is the team I had so much flack with growing up in Greater London. I can’t help that I was geographically robbed as a child, I think all this “support where you live” is a crock, if you like a style of play or an adventure or merely a single player, you HAVE to support your local team? That’s not fair. So because my mum and dad grew up in Middlesex, I have to support Hampton & Richmond, Brentford, Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham, Queens Park Rangers or Ashford Town (Middx) (I know there’s more, but lets not ey?), that’s not right! On a wimsy I could have been in Scotland or Wales, then what? I admire Brentford and Hampton & Richmond but I wouldn’t call myself a fan, not by any stretch of the imagination. I’m a stato as it is, so I’m a fan of football generally, but for me to be called a fan of a certain club, I’d say I’d be able to name a team from 1-11, to be able to sit through a whole match, to know more info on that certain team than any other I care to pick up on.
As a youngster, I had it all, Manchester United annuals, posters, pictures, little statues, the need to complete the Manchester United team in the Merlin Annual Premier League Sticker Albums, you name it, I still have some of that bric-n-brac around, what’s the term… “merchandise”. I think the real mark of a fan is when the going goes bad and this is a true story, Chelsea won the FA Cup in 1997 and one certain classmate turned from a Manchester United fan to a Chelsea fan… miraculously. The following year Manchester United finished second to Arsenal in the Premier League, Arsenal even went as far as to win the FA Cup as well, “The Double” if you will. A number of my classmates went on to switch allegiances to said Arsenal and I’d made my bed, and stuck with it, at 12 years old and I knew that. I knew at a young age that Manchester United were going to be a force, I think I was 7 years old when I heard what Alan Hansen had to say about Manchester United, the now infamous “You’ll never win anything with kids” comment. So with being a fan for nigh on 15 years now, I think I’ve heard it all about being a glory hunter and I seriously couldn’t care, it’s the fact of life that people seem to have forgotten, “it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks, it’s how you feel about yourself as you do it”, clearly this goes with the added staples of “within reason” and “without causing public and personal harm”, ‘reputation’ shouldn’t count as “personal harm”, but tell Cheryl Cole and other tabloid readers in that bracket that. All the same I feel I’ve got to the age I can’t be bothered or even feel like I need to justify myself to people, I’m a Man Utd fan, deal with it. So yes, 15 years of loving Manchester United, top players like Andrei Kanchelskis, Andy Cole, Eric Cantona, and Bryan Robson, to… err… other players like Keith Gillespie, Paul Parker, Gary Walsh, David May, Jordi Cryuff, Clayton Blackmore. Highs AND the lows, that’s a fan. When your team loses you take it on the chin, you say well done to the winner and you look towards the next match, it may not be often, but it happens.
My love for the Boston Red Sox, now this is one is easy. I used to watch Cheers religiously, arguably the most enthralling and interesting sitcom on television ever, and it was set in Boston. Two Guys, a Girl, and a Pizza Place, I used to love that show, the sitcom that introduced the world to Ryan Reynolds and Nathan Fillion, two of my favourite actors with that mixture of humour and when they need to emotion, we’re not talking Oscar emotion, but believable emotion, that programme was set in Boston. I stayed up late on night and did the standard surf of the television channels, on tv were the Boston Red Sox and soon to be my favourite baseball player, David ‘Big Papi’ Ortiz. Now don’t get me wrong I could easily have fallen in love with the organisation for any other number of reasons, the Big Green Monster, Pesky’s Pole, the history and heritage, the rivalry, but what grabbed me was Ortiz on the mound and the nickname, it was just amazing. I was waiting on his swing and it was instantly a home-run, I don’t think I’d ever seen that happen so quickly… discover sport, find out best player on team, laugh at nickname, hit home-run, sit and shut up and swear to follow a team to Hades and back! Years later, nearly 10 years now, I’m still a Red Sox fan, and unlike other sports no team has come close to contesting my love and appreciation. I became a fan of Johnny Damon, Curt Schilling, Josh Beckett, Nomar Garciaparra (was in an episode or 3 of ‘Two Guys and a Girl’), Kevin Millar, but the most important thing to me is David Ortiz is still there, and you have to keep in mind unlike any European sport the turnover rate is very high, only rivalled by the managerial turnover in English football I suppose.
It’s well documented I love a lot of sports, these being top of the table, and with “love” comes “hate”, I don’t know if I did it willingly or it was a subconscious decision but these teams are part of two of the biggest rivalries in world (yes WORLD!) sport. Manchester United vs. Liverpool and Boston Red Sox vs. New York Yankees, I don’t think there’s a bigger more storied rivalry than either of these. This is where people that support Arsenal and Tottenham say their rivalry is bigger, West Ham and Millwall fans say their rivalry is bigger (hell there’s even a film about it, Green Street, or Green Street Hooligans, depends if you’re European or American), Aston Villa and Birmingham fans will say their rivalry. I’m by no means putting the Liverpool vs. Manchester United rivalry on a pedestal or saying “all the other rivalries are rubbish”, they’re not, it’s just the heat that goes in the Manchester United vs. Liverpool is something else, the rivalry has it’s own website! In that rivalry there is always some type of “episode”, from Steven Gerrard kissing camera’s to Gary Neville kissing his Manchester United badge deliberately in the direction of Liverpool fans, just there’s always something. The chief reason for this rivalry has to be the fact Manchester United are only one league trophy win away from officially and unconditionally being the most successful English football team, sure Liverpool will then say “we won more European trophies” but pride starts at home… right? To be fair Liverpool dominated the 70’s and 80’s, Manchester United dominated the 90’s, I’d like to say the 00’s, but Arsenal, and Chelsea fans would like to disagree.
The Red Sox vs. Yankees rivalry is a storied one, I think it may just be the biggest rivalry in North American sport, let alone baseball. The Red Sox won five World Championships (1903, 1912, 1915, 1916, 1918) and the Yankees hadn’t won any, but in the offseason of 1919-20, the Red Sox sold Babe Ruth (Yes THAT Babe Ruth, the Babe Ruth that even a door post knows as the most iconic baseball player EVER) to the Yankees, the Red Sox didn’t win any for the next 86 years and every time the Red Sox got to the World Series, “something” would happen. A routine “pick up and out” ground ball procedure is a very straight forward thing for any major league baseball player to do, it seemed “other-worldly” that Bill Buckner couldn’t, the ball rolled through his legs, the Mets won Game 5 in the 1986, and went on to win Game’s 6 and 7 and therefore the World Series, yes from 3-2 up in the series, a ground out away from beating “The Curse of the Bambino” and it just couldn’t happen. The Yankees after acquiring Babe Ruth went on to win 27 World Series titles, 4 with Babe Ruth (compared to the 3 World Series titles Babe Ruth won with the Red Sox), people say it was just a coincidence, others called it a curse hence ‘The Curse of the Bambino‘ was born, and to make this rivalry worse, if the Red Sox were ever to win the World Series, they almost perennially have to face the New York Yankees in the Divisional or Championship round of the post-season, to compound issues, they share the same division so have to face each other upwards of 6 series a season, including what seemed fated to be in the post-season match-up, you could blame these teams of loathing the sight of each other.
Ok, so you’re all now up to speed. So… Manchester United vs. Liverpool history and rivalry, Red Sox history and rivalry, what links them? Well Boston Red Sox owner John W. Henry of course! His consortium group ‘New England Sports Ventures’ are in the middle of trying to buyout Liverpool Football Club, so without sounding to be too self-centred, where does this leave me? Quandary and a half for I love Man Utd, I love the Red Sox, loathe Liverpool, I know this to me is pantomine, I don’t ever really hate a team, the people that get tattoos and are pretty much hooligans, I worry for them, I really do, it’s almost like “got ANYTHING ELSE to be passionate about?”. My personal problem is “What do I do when Liverpool lose?”, that means Mr. Henry will want to put more money into the team to make them better, I mean the Red Sox did win two World Series titles under Mr. Henry’s watch, he installed Theo Epstein, the General Manager, and if the duo can sprinkle the same kind of magic spread on a Red Sox team that hadn’t won a World Series in 86 years, Liverpool can smile.
I know this is where my impartiality should come into it, and I should just see what happens, write what happens, comment, report, but you can’t help but I’ll still feel that rivalry. When two worlds collide indeed. What for a lad to do?