For now, a bond between Boston and NYC
April, 17, 2013
By Doug Williams | Special to ESPN.com
At the end of a long, emotional day Monday, Paul Shorthose was watching television coverage of the bombing at the Boston Marathon when he saw a scene from New York that he will long remember.
Projected onto the side of the Brooklyn Academy of Music was a giant, blue image of “NY [hearts] B,” using the logos of the Yankees and Red Sox.
“It kind of chokes you up a little bit,” says Shorthose, a longtime Red Sox fan and president of the team’s booster group, the BoSox Club, who lives in Needham, Mass. “That sort of thing puts things in perspective.
“Back after 9/11 it was a similar thing. … Boston reached out to New York. These things bring people together. Sports become a part of the healing process instead of a rivalry.”
All across New York this week, fans who often can be bitter, abusive or profane in their attitudes toward New England’s teams cast away those feelings and embraced their Boston counterparts.
At Tuesday night’s Yankees-Diamondbacks game, New York fans sang the Red Sox anthem “Sweet Caroline” as the two teams’ logos appeared together on the video screen surrounded with messages of “New York stands with Boston” and “Pray for Boston.”
On a Red Sox message board this week, Yankees fans in big numbers weighed in with notes of support.
AP Photo/Kathy WillensNew Yorkers, fans and players, have all opened their hearts to the city of Boston.
“Yankees fan here,” wrote one. “We all stand with Boston today!!!” Wrote another: “My heart goes out to all of Boston tonight. God bless.”
Just as fans from Boston immediately reached out in support after the Sept. 11 attacks and Hurricane Sandy last year, New Yorkers are opening their hearts to Boston. The “Red Sox suck” and “Belichick sucks” T-shirts go into the closet for a while.
Sean Deegan, a 47-year-old Long Island resident who founded the Jetsinsider.com website 14 years ago, also follows the Mets, Rangers and Knicks and roots against anything Boston. But not this week.
“When the teams play each other,” he says of any Boston-New York matchup, “there’s a healthy rivalry and there’s a lot of, sometimes, animosity. But obviously when you have a tragedy that strikes and you have two cities that are so close to each other and very passionate people in both areas, you know, I think New Yorkers in general and people in Boston are sympathetic and you put that rivalry aside.”
He’s seen it on his site’s message board, where usually contentious Jets and Patriots fans are instead “being very nice.”
It was the same way after 9/11, he says, though it didn’t last forever.
“Probably until the Jets played the Patriots again, you know?” he says.
Ben Kabak, a Yankees fan and attorney in New York City, saw the light display in Brooklyn and the “United we stand” message that was posted on the exterior of Yankee Stadium Tuesday.
All across New York since Monday, he’s heard about Yankees fans “who are not often quick to embrace Boston” do just that.
“It shows over and over again, unfortunately, that people who care very passionately about these issues will put them aside and come to help,” he said. “You see people offering to help and willing to help no matter what their thoughts are when the two teams are playing against each other.”
In a strange way, says Shorthose, the intensity of the New York-Boston rivalry is exactly the glue that binds fans in the cities.
Whether it’s Yankees-Red Sox, Jets-Patriots, Giants-Patriots, Knicks-Celtics or Rangers-Bruins, it’s having that dislike of a traditional, close geographical rival that can help fuel a fan’s passion for his or her own team. And the shared experiences over the years actually join Bostonians and New Yorkers.
The names Big Papi, Aaron Boone or Pedro Martinez all mean something to every Yankees or Red Sox fan -- though those meanings are different.
AP Photo/Tony DejakThe bitterness and animosity between two cities inextricably connected by their proximity took a back seat.
“The rivalry between New York and the Red Sox, it connects you to the Northeast,” says Shorthose. “It’s something that you can always look to each year, even if the teams aren’t doing well. You can say, ‘Hey, we’re going to play the Yankees; we’re going to play the Jets, sometimes the Mets, the Giants.’ I think those things, even when the [home] team’s not doing well, there’s always something to say, ‘Hey, I can’t wait for that Yankees game.’”
It’s a special rivalry between fans of the two regions, says Deegan, because of the closeness of the cities, the transplants from Boston in New York and vice versa and the decades of shared history.
It is, says Deegan, the best “city-to-city rivalry ever.”
And, a great rival elevates the status of your own team, says Mary Wittenberg, the CEO of the New York Road Runners Club. That’s certainly been true in New England and New York, where the Red Sox, Yankees, Patriots, Giants, Celtics and Bruins all have won championships in the past decade.
“I think the core of many rivalries is in fact a great deal of respect,” she says. “I think that’s true of Boston and New York fans for sure.”
So, when tragedy struck the marathon Monday, rivalries “go out the window” she says, and people unite.
Sports during normal times can divide. During a crisis they can heal.
And in the running community -- where the bombing at Boston’s revered marathon was a personal blow -- men and women in both cities already share a strong bond.
Wittenberg said about 700 New York runners were competing at Boston Monday, and 15 New York Road Runners staff. Since Monday, Wittenberg said the constant refrain she’s heard from runners is, “What can we do?”
As a first step, Wittenberg says the club is transforming an already-scheduled 4-mile run Sunday in New York, the City Parks Foundation Run for the Parks, into a way to help.
“We’re going to begin with race bibs that everybody can wear that say ‘I run for Boston,’ and then we’re working on shirts that we’ll donate that people can buy,” with money going toward a fund for victims set up by the Boston Athletic Association, the group that manages the Boston Marathon.
“We won’t wait. We’ll do something this Sunday of significance in addition, of course, to a moment of silence and a real desire for people to be out together,” she says. After this weekend, the NYRR will come up with other projects to help the BAA and those affected in Boston.
“We’ll pause and say, ‘What does Boston need most?” she says, noting that the BAA and New England runners have supported the NYRR and New York in the aftermath of Sandy and 9/11.
Patriots and Jets fans may have long dueled, but runners from both cities have a long history of working together and running in each other’s races.
“During the hurricane, certainly Tom Grilk [BAA executive director] was among those saying, ‘What can we do to help?’” says Wittenberg. “We’ve always felt great support in our times of need from the BAA.”
Wittenberg said she expects New Yorkers to show their feelings for the plight of the people in Boston in Sunday’s race.
“You’re going to see an outpouring from what we do Sunday,” she says.
In his years as a Jets fan, Deegan often has gone to Jets-Patriots games in Foxboro. Dressed in Jets gear, he knows what to expect.
“It’s usually very contentious, very confrontational,” he says. “Usually you get your chops busted quite a bit. Most people who are smart usually don’t go in colors, but it you go in colors … it can be very rough. The same thing goes for if they [Patriots fans] come to the Meadowlands.”
AP Photo/Kathy WillensIt was a powerful, passionate moment when Yankees fans showed the ultimate respect to Boston with a rendition of "Sweet Caroline."
Kabak has experienced the same thing at Fenway Park, where he’s seen Red Sox supporters vocally harass visiting fans, and at Yankee Stadium where he and his friends have booed Bostonians.
For a while, though, both say those animosities -- for the most part more playful than menacing -- are on hold.
For now, it’s a special time when Yankees fans are singing Neil Diamond’s Red Sox anthem in the Bronx and a Bostonian such as Shorthose can see the sentiment in it.
“I did a lot of business with New Yorkers over the years and people say they’re tough,” says Shorthose. “But in the end they’re absolutely a really passionate group of people. In the end, they’re easy to do business with because when they say something they mean it. There’s not a lot of shallowness to New Yorkers. I think they’re direct -- they might have an opinion -- but they’re direct and you get a sense that they’re honest.
“So I think that rivalry is a respect as well as a rivalry. That came out in the fact they sang ‘Sweet Caroline.’”