Oct. 20, 2004, was a cold, dark night in the South Bronx even before Johnny Damon started hitting home runs and changing everything. The Boston Red Sox would defeat the New York Yankees that night 10-3, marking one of the most painful losses in the long sports history of New York City.
It wasn't just to whom New York lost (the mouthy little brother up the road) and it wasn't just how they lost (in a spectacular collapse that saw them become the first baseball team to ever blow a 3-0 postseason series lead).
It was the sea change the event turned out to represent.
Boston was suddenly sporting gold, cemented as a modern-day title town. The Red Sox were now keeping up with the suddenly dynastic New England Patriots in ringing up championships. New York, the city that forever had kicked sand in the face of Bostonians, was a fading superpower struggling to find any serious success.
Since 2001, Boston's three major professional sports teams (NFL, MLB, NBA) have won five championships, with the Patriots locked in on another and the basketball Celtics a rebuilt contender again.
Meanwhile, the New York metro region, despite having more than twice the number of franchises (six), has done nothing but lose – everything from regular season games to playoff series to sexual harassment lawsuits.
Ultimately, just a couple hundred miles of mostly Connecticut speed traps away, Boston has become a cottage industry to remind New Yorkers of this reversal of fortunes.
But there is a simple way for New York to return the favor, perhaps return to the old days and certainly have something just as vicious and painful to hang over every Bostonian's head as that historic baseball comeback in the fall of 2004.
The Giants just have to ruin the Patriots' perfect season in the Super Bowl on Feb. 3.
New York is everyone's rival in virtually every way (sporting or not). Boston, its colonial neighbor in the Northeast, is no different. But there are significant ties that bind.
New York kids go to Boston for college, Boston kids go to New York for jobs (and vice versa). There are mixed marriages, family feuds and forever bragging rights over rankings ranging from designated hitters to hospitals.
There is no lack of hubris, either. New York likes to refer to itself as the "Capital of the World." Boston goes one better as "The Hub of the Universe."
In sports, with the exception of the mighty Boston Celtics, the winners have mostly resided in Gotham. At least until this decade, until, truly, that night in the Bronx the Red Sox finished off the Yankees.
Since then, the two cities haven't had a direct competition as meaningful as the upcoming Super Bowl.
A return playoff engagement between the Yankees (or the Mets) and the Red Sox has not emerged. In basketball, the Celtics are back, and the Knicks won't be as long as James Dolan runs the organization.
The Patriots did beat the New York Jets in the playoffs last year – part of a heated rivalry between New England coach Bill Belichick and his former assistant, Jets coach Eric Mangini. That battle grew even more intense when New England was caught illegally filming the Jets' sideline during an opening week game and believed the Jets snitched them out to NFL security about the crime.
But as the Jets sunk back into losing play, that rivalry has faded into the kind of relationship that for so long characterized the Yankees and Red Sox – that of hammer and nail. New England has kept churning (even completing its 16-0 regular season in a come-from-behind victory over the Giants, 38-35) and stands one victory away from the first undefeated NFL season in 35 years and the first 19-0 one ever.
Which is why this isn't just a Super Bowl clash but something bigger. Fair or not, New England's quest for perfection changes the stakes for this game. The Patriots either win and enjoy immortality or lose and suffer infamy.
This is either the crowning of arguably the greatest team in league history or the springing of arguably its greatest upset.
New England is now the old Yankees, an immoveable juggernaut that expects dominance and demands championships. The Giants are the new Red Sox, a loose franchise of why-not dreamers that needed three road victories just to reach the Super Bowl.
But the Giants, like the Red Sox when they trailed 3-0, have nothing to lose now. They're two-touchdown underdogs with a puncher's chance and a world of gumption.
For Boston, it seems history goes through New York, and for New York, glory goes through New England. Just as it always has, just as it always will.
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