When I saw the front page of today’s Post, I had to check the date: was it December 25? I was wondering because today’s screaming headline about “CURSES!” in the new Yankee Stadium made me as giddy as little kid on Christmas morning. Media hype about curses and rituals is my specialty, and man is this a prime example.
According to the Post‘s exclusive report, a Sox-loving construction worker buried a Red Sox T-shirt under what will be the visiting clubhouse of the new stadium. The shirt was poured into a slab of concrete that is probably one of the floors. The thorny part is that no one knows exactly where it’s buried. Two anonymous construction workers came forward to the Post because, as one says, “I don’t want to be responsible for sinking the franchise.”
Why is this so hilarious? Well, beyond the fact that the entire stunt is pretty clever (admit it Yankee fans, if you were working construction on a new Fenway, you’d do the same thing and don’t give the “We’re classier” argument), it marks an important turn in the Yankee mythology of the past two decades or so: if the Yanks are concerned about curses, it’s probably because they’re losing.
Here it comes, give me the ol’ “26 rings” remark. Have you ever heard of a winning team worried about curses? Don’t worry, Yankee Universe (because it had to be bigger than Red Sox Nation), it’s totally normal. Teams need a “curse” so that the usual reason, “they just weren’t good enough” has more meaning.
Plus, they’re total media constructions (I’m looking at you, Post.) The “Curse of the Bambino?” You won’t really find much mention of it anywhere until Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy wrote a book with that title in the early 1990s. Curses sell papers and they add a mythic element to what, when you come down to it, some will say is “just a game.”
Reading this article, you see that there’s an entire cottage industry that thrives on these fabled rivalries and bambinos, billy goats and black cats. We have quotes from the author of Haunted Baseball, a book about all these crazy curses. Peter Nash, who wrote Boston’s Royal Rooters, argues that the current curse with the Yankees is “the curse of A-Rod.” The best part of that bit is that Peter Nash might be better known to 1980s hip-hop fans as Prime Minister Pete Nice of the rap group 3rd Bass.
We’ll have to see which team has its mojo working the best this weekend when the Yanks face the Sox at Fenway. It’s the first meeting of the 2008 season for the two clubs, and the sports sections of both papers cover it pretty well. My one suggestion for the Post would be that this image of Sox catcher Jason Varitek and Alex Rodriguez be the one to symbolize the rivalry.
So, keep squawking about your 26 rings. With this new “curse,” you’re just like the rest of us.
Oh, and what’s the only team to win two World Series in the 21st century? Yeah, that’s what I thought.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 11, 2008