Are fans still as passionate about Boston sports rivalries? originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
From Celtics-Lakers to Red Sox-Yankees, Boston has been part of some of the greatest rivalries in professional sports history.
At the peak of those rivalries, fans would circle every matchup on the schedule. They were appointment television. There was genuine disdain between both teams, and the energy was palpable in the stadiums and arenas.
Those rivalries may not be dead, but they're certainly dormant. It takes a Red Sox-Yankees playoff game to match the energy of a June 2004 showdown between the two clubs. Celtics-Lakers is fun, but how could today's games ever have the same juice as the Larry Bird-Magic Johnson days? And don't even get us started with Patriots-Jets...
So how have these rivalries changed over the years? Are fans still passionate about Boston sports rivalries? Our insiders Tom E. Curran, John Tomase, Chris Forsberg, and Phil Perry discussed the topic in part three of our "State of the Fan" series.
Patriots insider Tom E. Curran: "You know there used to be a bumper sticker that said, "I'm a Red Sox fan and also a fan of whoever's playing the Yankees," or something like that. I think sports rivalries have changed a little bit in this town and the passion that existed between Patriots fans and Jets fans, Sox-Yankees, maybe even Philadelphia 76ers and the Celtics fans, they've changed."
Red Sox insider John Tomase: "I'll start with the obvious one: Red Sox-Yankees. That was the biggest rivalry in the history of professional sports and it was completely one-sided, then the Red Sox flipped the script on it. But what we've seen in the last 20 years is the Red Sox and Yankees never really aligning their contention windows at the same time outside of 2018 they met in the playoffs. But I would challenge people to give me one memory from that whole series. I don't think there's a lot there. Maybe Ryan Brasier waving, 'Get the bleep back in the box,' but that was about it.
"And so, when you lose that, Red Sox-Yankees games now are just another game on the schedule. Even though ESPN and whoever will play them up like they're armageddon, we all know that they're not, and you lose something when you don't have that anymore."
Celtics insider Chris Forsberg: "The games you circle now are superstars. So, 'OK, Luka (Doncic) is coming to town.' Or when Marcus Smart returns. Those will be sort of the rivalry, bigger games. Obviously, if the Celtics and Lakers -- and they'll meet on Christmas this year and that'll be a big deal. But until it's in the Finals -- it's not another game because they do matter and because you only get it twice a year, you probably appreciate it a little more than the 17 times it feels like the Red Sox and Yankees play. But yeah, I keep waiting for that.
"Usually it has to develop over someone you have to conquer. So maybe Philly feels like Boston is their roadblock. Maybe the Celtics should feel like Miami is more of a rival based on what Jimmy Butler keeps doing to them. ... We find the villains. ... It's not just New York that sucks anymore, it's the specific player. It comes back to information. We know too much about these people now and so we can create our own rivalries. And rivalries are fluid now instead of sort of being defined. ... There's just different games you circle. You're not defaulting to the two Lakers games."
Patriots insider Phil Perry: "If you had told me when I was 10 years old that I was going to have the opportunity to tweet at Mo Vaughn and maybe get a response, I would've been a puddle. I might've cried. Now, there's a very real possibility that could happen if you say the right thing or you say the wrong thing. That guy or girl or whoever it is might shoot back at you, whether it's good or bad. So it's just interesting there was such a barrier between fans and athletes. ... Now, the opportunities are endless."
For the full discussion, you can watch the YouTube video below: