first_imgBelieve it or not, the 2006 baseball season hadn’t really begun. That is, not until last night.Spring Training? Forget about it. Opening Day? Comes close, but doesn’t quite do the trick. Even the crack of the first open can of beer doesn’t signify a new beginning, contrary to what those Budweiser ads may suggest.While April answered some questions about how this year’s season will go, May kicked off with the best part of America’s pastime.How, I ask you, did the first month of Major League Baseball contain zero Yankees-Red Sox games?This MLB party started last night, when the Red Sox defeated the Yankees 7-3 at Fenway Park. The first of eight games this month, and 19 this year, featured a 3-3 tie going into the bottom of the eighth before the Red Sox broke it open, capped by a three-run jack by the Big Papi himself, David Ortiz.Appropriately enough, the game began with Tim Wakefield on the mound facing — who else? — New York’s Johnny Damon, who for those that have been living in a cave for three years, left Beantown for the Yankees. Despite getting booed roundly (with a smattering of applause) at first by the Fenway faithful, Damon removed his helmet and raised it in a salute to the fans who adored him during his four seasons in Boston. As it happened, jeers quickly became cheers.Damon wasn’t just a great player for the Sox. He was the heart and soul of Boston baseball, particularly during the most telling seven games in Red Sox-Yankees history, the 2004 ALCS. Once again for you cave people, Damon and the Sox stormed back from three games down to pull off perhaps the greatest comeback in baseball history, stunning New York in seven — capped by Damon’s two-homer, six-RBI output in the final game.Just don’t read too much into those cheers that came from Damon’s acknowledgment of the crowd. Boston fans, as a whole, may have forgotten those great memories. At last night’s game, there were such signs that read:”Anywhere but here, Johnny!””Trader!””Johnny Damon: Looks like Jesus, acts like Judas, throws like Mary!”I even saw a kid on television — couldn’t have been much older than eight — that was shown holding a sign that proclaimed the following:”Hey, Johnny Damon! My teacher used to love you. Now all her pictures of you are in the fireplace! Go Red Sox!”Isn’t that precious?Sure, Boston and New York fans are crazy about this feud between the two squads. But what sets this rivalry apart is that the rest of the nation, like it or not, cannot help but become captivated by it. When Boston and New York collide, it’s not just a big game with potential playoff implications; it’s an event, a show, must-see-TV.Of course, it helps to have nationwide exposure. Of the 19 “events” that will feature the Red Sox and Yankees, six of them will be nationally televised, including at least one game from five out of the six series in 2006.That doesn’t even include any seven-game series the two teams may participate in during the month of October.But ESPN and FOX are, indeed, justified in their coverage of these two teams. Sure, there’s the element of hatred, what with Pedro Martinez’s takedown of Don Zimmer, Jason Varitek’s fight with Alex Rodriguez, and Gary Sheffield’s run-in with a Boston fan down the right-field line at Fenway Park.But violence aside, these teams (despite what naysayer Yankee fans say about the two teams’ histories pre-2000) are plain-out, deadlocked even. With Boston’s victory last night, the overall series between the two teams since the beginning of the 2003 season — regular season and playoff games included — stands at 37-35 in favor of the Sox. As part of that history, the teams have exchanged seven-game victories in the postseason, as New York took a Game 7 from the Red Sox in 2003 en route to the American League pennant.Talk about competitive. Over 70 games in over three years, and still nothing’s decided.Good thing there’s another 18 games — and maybe a playoff series — ahead for New York and Boston.It just wouldn’t be baseball season without it.Aaron is looking forward to a LONG vacation, some meaningful Rockies games in August, and more around-the-clock updates on the Duke lacrosse story. Uh…or not. Hit him up this summer at [email protected]last_img