In the dining halls of J Street, on the steps outside of Funger Hall and wherever else students gather throughout the day, there is a dominant theme dictating conversation and clothing. It causes agreements and arguments between people who have never met before and creates an air of anticipation as each game draws near. It is the Red Sox and Yankees, and on GW’s campus, the rivalry is inescapable.
Since the American League Championship Series started last Wednesday, fans of both teams have brought the oldest rivalry in baseball to the forefront of student life. Classrooms have become a primary venue for fans to feud as they file in and out. And in professor Steven Roberts’ classes, even he participates.
“It’s a lot of fun. Students like to talk with their professors about stuff that doesn’t have to do with class,” Roberts said. “It’s an ongoing bit as part of my relationship with my students.”
Well known as a New York native and devout Yankees fan, Roberts will engage in friendly banter with anyone wearing Red Sox gear, which leads several students to dress accordingly. He said he sees this give and take between New Yorkers and New Englanders as just another part of the regional rivalry that is reflected on campus.
AZ”It’s a natural rivalry even without baseball,” he said. “New York is the dominant culture (at GW), and the Yankees have been the dominant team. So it’s a double whammy for New Englanders. Most of the excitement has come from the Boston fans because this is old hat for the Yankees. But this is really about regional pride and a chance for New Englanders to stick it to New Yorkers.”
After the Red Sox beat the Yankees in Game One Wednesday, New Englanders were already sticking it to junior Adam Mendelson, a Yankees fan from Barrington, R.I.
“I had two people in cars stop and yell out the window, ‘Yankees suck’ and ‘Jeter swallows,'” he said.
Mendelson and several friends gathered for Game Two at his Columbia Plaza apartment Thursday night. The group of five had split allegiances – two Yankees fans, two Red Sox fans and one disgruntled Mets fan – and many of the arguments heard around campus were repeated in his living room.
Mendelson talked about the negativity of Red Sox fans, calling them bitter and arrogant. Junior Eric Weisbrod, a Red Sox fan from Framingham, Mass., retorted that Yankees fans are the arrogant ones. Others jumped in as the argument continued, although the accusation of Boston bitterness was never disputed.
James Thomas, a junior who went to middle school with Mendelson but grew up a Red Sox fan, spoke of his admiration for the way Red Sox players have fun and enjoy the game more than Yankees players. Mendelson countered that the Red Sox do not demonstrate the professionalism of the Yankees, and another squabble ensued.
All four Red Sox and Yankees fans agreed on one thing, though. Deep down, they wanted to see this match-up, they could just never bring themselves to root for the other team to win its first-round series.
Junior Matt Parson, a Long Island, N.Y., native and the Mets fan of the bunch, said he wasn’t rooting for either team in the first round because he hates them both. Throughout Thursday’s game, Parson mocked the Red Sox’s “Cowboy Up” motto several times, referred to the Yankees in a number of unflattering ways that cannot be printed and said he wished he wasn’t even at GW right now.
“I’d rather be in New York because then I’d only have to deal with annoying Yankees fans,” he said. “Here I have to deal with annoying Yankees fans and annoying Red Sox fans.”
Numerically speaking, Parson was right. Of the 9,000-plus undergraduate students at GW who are from the U.S., New York claims 1,338 students while Massachusetts accounts for 766, according to the latest University statistics from 2002. Throw in New Jersey for the Yankees, give the rest of New England to the Red Sox and split Connecticut down the middle, and that region accounts for 43 percent of the domestic undergraduate population at GW. Of that number, people more likely to back the Yankees outnumber people more likely to back the Red Sox by a margin of almost two to one.
Despite that difference, there has been little noticeable disparity between the number of blue hats with a red “B” and the number of blue hats with a white “N.Y.” There has simply been a plethora of both.
“Yankees fans have always been visible,” said Roberts, who has been teaching at GW for 13 years. “But this year Red Sox fans have really come out of the closet. They have a real good team, and it’s not just a fantasy for them this year.”
That real possibility of a championship, which would be the Red Sox’s first since 1918, is audible around campus during games. Yelling and screaming can be heard from City Hall balconies as big plays happen throughout the game, and people from dorms such as Thurston Hall and the Hall on Virginia Avenue said cheering could be heard down virtually every hallway.
This excitement inevitably travels onto campus the day after games, as students engage in a variety of conversations that range from the intellectual – “I don’t think the Red Sox staff is deep enough to match up with Mussina, Pettitte and Clemens” – to the more basic – “The Red Sox starters suck.” Either way, it has people talking.
“I’ve definitely talked to people I never knew before because of this hat,” said Weisbrod, pointing to his Red Sox cap. “But I don’t want you to think that everyone’s fighting and it’s all a bad thing. This isn’t ripping (the campus) apart. It’s bringing everyone together.”
Whether everyone can stay together in a civil manner after Saturday’s flare-up in Game Three remains to be seen. The only sure thing is that everywhere on campus, almost everyone will be talking about it.