This weekend, Derek Jeter ended a 20-year-career with the New York Yankees at Boston’s Fenway Park. It was particularly fitting due to the bitter rivalry the two have shared for a century—and one that reached a boiling point during the peak of Jeter’s career during two Rocky-esque series between the two which both ended in heartbreak for both teams in consecutive series. I needed to head back to Yawkey Way to see what I thought would surely be some of the most ruthless shit talking Boston sports fans ever spit while getting ignorant and tipping cars over while fighting each other for whatever reason they do that.
With salty Atlantic waters and keg beer coarsing in their veins, Boston fans will forever laugh and slur in the face of reason. So I became surprised when I heard that the drunken children of the Green Monster had actually bid tearful farewells to their enemy’s captain. I was even more surprised to hear people who cannot pronounce their “R’s” refer to a guy as “classy” over and over again when I asked for their opinion on him. Sure, he never had the easily hatable rodent face of Jorge Posada, the arrogant vibe of Paulie O’Neil, nor did he inspire the herculean hatred Red Sox fans have for A-Rod, (who has bucked the trend of New York drug users being cool), but I still couldn’t believe Boston Strong was bending over backwards for a Yankee.
Of course, not everyone there was willing to lay down for Jeter. “Fuck that guy. People are all nostalgic about his place in the game. Sure, he deserves a place. It’s on the back side of the second edition YANKEES SUCK shirt—JETER SWALLOWS—and he always will,” former Fenway Vendor Jesse Gustafon, 36, told me in a beet red rage. Other ex-Fenway vendors wanted nothing to do with the spectacle. They were sad because they no longer had a divine nemesis, a man so “perfect” he became the ultimate Aryan on the Nazis (Sox fans note that the NY logo tilted is a Swazi), who play at The Toilet, which is what their stadium looks like. “I did choke up a bit—who the fuck am I going to ever hate this much?” said one vendor, who wished to remain anonymous for admitting crying because in Boston tears make you a “fahkin’ pussy.”
But comments like these were few during Jeter’s final at bat in Fenway. He was greeted with a standing ovation by the supposedly Fenway faithful. You know it’s a bad season when Sullys (generic term for your average Boston meatball) are chanting “JETER” and not “BOSTON STRONG.”
But the love fest in Fenway was not exactly reciprocated in New York. Many Yankee fans felt that Jeter should have hung up his hat after his final game in Yankee Stadium. One of the most prominent New Yorkers to fire off parting barbs at Boston was Mets fan Jerry Seinfeld who this morning was reported as saying “He should NOT have played in Boston. You don’t owe anybody ANYTHING!” At the beginning of his career, Jeter of course had a memorable cameo on Seinfeld’s show, which will always be the only nostalgic clip of a Yankee I’ll ever really need.
Jeter of course was a rarity in sports for having a long and prosperous career earning him millions and models and even five World Series titles but never being ejected from a game or making for controversial press like his teammates. Perhaps he was still able to win over Boston this weekend due to saying he owed it to the fans, even if they were unkind to him for his whole career—to finish up the season—unlike Red Sox great Ted Williams who finished up his career in Boston in 1960 and didn’t bother going to their final series in The Bronx. But then again Williams didn’t even tip his hat or acknowledge the crowd as he rounded the bases in Boston the last time. That seminal moment in Boston stubbornness did not go un noticed in the city, as he was given the gift of a shitty traffic clogged tunnel named after him and winding up cryogenically frozen.
Thankfully more of that old Fenway charm was still lightly lingering on an unseasonably warm 80 degree day as the Sox limped off in last place for the season. A man bummed a light off of me and then asked “What the fahk ah you doin’ here?” I suddenly felt like I was in a prolonged version of the diner scene in Easy Rider, if Ben Affleck had directed it. But those brief encounters were rare moments from a golden era as it became apparent dejected Sox fans had given way to the swelling crowds of Yankee fans celebrating all over Kenmore Square. It almost seemed like I was standing in the center of a Nation being invaded, under occupation really, as I witnessed a sea of people in Jeter jerseys chanting “RED SOX SUCK” at the de facto Red Sox bar Cask N Flagon while the last few Boston fans fizzled out. Yankee fans who had traveled up in support of a Jeter could even be seen lining up to take their picture with Ted Williams statue.
“Honestly, everyone in Boston has been cool to us. We’re definitely not afraid to wear Yankee shirts here,” a Yankee who had come up with his friends from Long Island told me. When I asked if he was worried chanting Red Sox suck, he replied “Fuck no! This is Jeter’s Day!” as he showed me his Red Sox suck shirt. After the Yankees had secured the game by the 7th inning, any raucous Boston spirit left stirring in Kenmore had drifted away where it will live on sports radio signals in the voices of grown men calling on their parents landline in their underwear. I really was left in awe thinking of this generation of Sox fans who have now gone from worst to first and back to worst.
For a legendarily delusional and stubborn people, it seemed Bostonians were not only admitting they sucked this year, but that Jeter was worthy of their worship on their turf. This was not the Red Sox nation of 2003 who stormed the streets of Kenmore chanting “YANKEES SUCK!” as New York handed them a stinging defeat on their Jeter led path to yet another title. No one else had embodied the spirit of Boston quite like Sox fans in their ability to care more about someone sucking than actually accomplishing anything on their own. It is just a wonder that Derek Jeter’s last game after 20 years of driving Boston insane could actually change that around, at least briefly. But I guess that is the magic of Fenway baseball. Nowhere else can you get a bunch of racist homophobes together to cheer on Dominican guys while singing Queen songs.