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Two cities still taking it outside

By GARY SHELTON, Times Columnist
Published January 27, 2008


Where the hard feelings began, nobody knows. Only that they are older than football and older than baseball, older than Broadway and older than Back Bay.

Even historians struggle to find exactly where the rivalry began between Boston and New York. Except for this:

Back in the mid 1600s, Boston founder John Winthrop thought New York's Peter Stuyvesant was a bit of a twit.

On the other hand, when the Founding Fathers got together to play cards, John Jay always said that John Adams was a blowhard.

So it has been since the beginning, New York vs. Boston, Boston vs. New York. The city that is very big on apples vs. the city that has an unsettling fondness for beans. Sigh. Those two wacky towns just cannot get along.

And speaking for the rest of the country, isn't it a hoot?

They are at it again. Can't you hear it? The Super Bowl is still a week away, but already, the noise is rising. From a distance, it sounds a lot like Denis Leary and Joe Pesci shouting at each other across Connecticut.

The easiest prediction about this game? It's going to be loud.

 

Benjamin Franklin vs. Teddy Roosevelt. Bill Russell vs. Willis Reed. Lobster vs. steak.

 

New York considers itself to be the Capital of the World. Boston calls itself the Hub of the Universe.

As cities go, these two don't mind thumping their chests a bit. And perhaps that's where the friction begins. The arrogant New Yorkers vs. the aristocratic Bostonians. To both places, the rest of America is the suburbs.

Say this: When it comes to talk about this Super Bowl, the New Yorkers are on the board first.

Take the New York Post, which continues to include an asterisk when describing the Patriots undefeated* season. Already, the Post has predicted a Super Bowl upset. When Tom Brady, the quarterback of the Patriots, was photographed carrying flowers and walking in a protective boot toward his girlfriend's house, the Post referred to Brady as a "girlie man."

Another New York news outlet, Pagesix.com, suggests that Brady might be going bald. Furthermore, the reason might be stress.

"You want to know the difference between Boston fans and New England fans?" asks New York Daily News columnist Filip Bondy. "Boston fans throw beer bottles. New York fans throw batteries. I mean, why waste beer?

"Mostly, it's that they're so small and feisty. Remember what Lou Grant said to Mary Tyler Moore? 'You've got spunk. I hate spunk.' That's what we feel about Boston. They're small and annoying like mosquitoes. You just want to stomp on them or swat them."

 

Edgar Allen Poe vs. Herman Melville. Ted Williams vs. Joe DiMaggio. Cheers vs. Seinfeld.

There was a time, back when baseball defined this rivalry, that New York treated Boston like a trophy shop. Every now and then, the Yankees would swing by to pick up another piece of hardware.

In those days, the Yankees won all the pennants and they had most of the Hall of Famers. Boston? It had the scars of Harry Frazee, a lunkhead Red Sox owner who sold the contract of Babe Ruth to New York. Some Red Sox fans are still cursing.

These days, the results are different. Professional sports in America seem to orbit around Boston. The Red Sox, Patriots and Celtics have won 52 of their last 58 games. The Celtics have won both of their games this season against the Knicks. The Red Sox have won two World Series titles since the Yankees last won one.

And the Patriots?

They have a chance to win their fourth Super Bowl title in the last seven years.

The Giants haven't won one in 17 years. The Jets haven't won one in 39 years.

It probably doesn't help the psyche of New Yorkers, either, to see Bill Belichick leading the way. Once, Belichick was the defensive coordinator for the Giants. For a few hours, he was going to be the head coach of the Jets.

Instead, he has become the modern answer for Ruth. Call him Babe Belichick. By the way, it was a New York team (the Jets) that turned Belichick in for cheating this year. Also by the way, Belichick has won 12 of his last 13 games against New York teams.

In the meantime, no one in Boston seems to feel as if the city is in anyone's shadow.

As Steve Buckle of the Boston Herald wrote this week: "Boston sports fans just don't give a damn what New Yorkers think anymore."

 

The Kennedys vs. the Rockefellers. John Cazale (Fredo Corleone) vs. Al Pacino (Michael Corleone). New England clam chowder vs. Manhattan clam chowder.

 

Some would suggest the rivalry goes back for centuries, back to when Woody Allen was funny, back to when Ben Affleck was making good movies. Yes, back to the American Revolution.

At the time, Boston had Paul Revere and Bunker Hill and the Boston Tea Party. New York was where the Tories seemed to congregate. New York was where Nathan Hale was hanged.

"That's another reason," Bondy said. "It goes back to the colonial war and how they take credit. 'We're the Tea Party and Sam Adams.' The real battles were at places like Trenton."

As the cities prospered, however, they also became codependent. New Yorkers go to Boston to go to college. Bostonians go to New York to go to work. And the familiarity seems to create friction. As they pass each other on the way, one supposes, they argue about sports.

"There they go again in Boston," Newsday columnist Johnette Howard wrote last week. "How do I say this nicely? What a bunch of freaking nut jobs.' Try the decaf tea, won't you?

"Boston must be stopped. This is cool reason talking. Think of the calm that would descend over the land."

Perhaps not. There are only 215 miles between the cities. It's a quick train ride. It's a shorter hop on a plane.

Judging from the sound of the fans' voice, it is hardly any distance at all.

 

Tom Brady vs. Eli Manning. Bill Belichick vs. Tom Coughlin. The perfect season vs. the greatest upset.