There is no offseason in the century-long battle between the Yankees and the Red Sox, the best rivalry in all of sports (if you can put aside the Yankees' slight 26-0 edge in championships since 1918).

Less than two months after the New Yorkers eliminated Pedro & Co. -- with a Little help from their friends -- they are at it again. The BoSox sign Schilling, the Yankees raise them a Sheffield. Now, relief pitchers everywhere -- not to mention Andy Pettitte and Bartolo Colon -- are smiling. Today, the Writers' Bloc takes a look at a war without casualties (if you can put aside all those suicidal New Englanders).

Spoken like a true New Yorker | From Robert Lipsyte
Weep for Curt Schilling, suckered by the first general manager who praised the speed and control of his turkey carving. Once Schilling dons the Red Sox uniform, baseball's equivalent of the martyr's hair shirt, he becomes a loser, a victim, another sacrifice to the fiction that there is a rivalry with the Yankees.

Curt Schilling & Theo Epstein
Poor Curt Schilling is now doomed to spend the rest of his career as a loser.
How could that be? A rivalry implies a certain equality, the possibility that either side might win; think Ali-Frazier, Army-Navy, Letterman-Leno.

New York-Boston is more like the Cold War rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union, a psycho-political construct that gave both countries a reason to impose economic and social controls on its people. As it turned out, the Reds were the Red Sox, dogma without bite. Someday, a betrayed people will tear down the Green Monster.

Boston is a boutique city, racist, class-whipped, whose primary legacy is the invention of arrogance, at Harvard. The Red Sox have been favored with gifted literary fans who can cream over Ted Williams' contempt for them and find in losing an almost sensual agony that lasts longer than mere winning.

The Red Sox lose because, if they didn't, their fans could never live with their own mediocrity. If a team does not satisfy the need of its fans, it will not survive. The lesson of the standings is this: It's OK to be not-quite.

When minor Yankees excel (Dent, Boone, etc.), it is not because the gods are whimsical, but because the players were briefly ennobled by pinstripes. When heroic Red Sox falter (Buckner, Little, etc.) it is not because they failed their team, but because they were over-burdened with their team's failure.

Poor Schilling, another Babe in Boston. Had the Bambino stayed, the curse would have been worse -- we would never have heard of him.

Come into the 21st century | From Eric Adelson
Josh Beckett
I'm confused: Does Josh Beckett pitch for the Yanks or the Sox?
I'm just curious: Who won the World Series this year? Wasn't either of these two vastly overhyped teams. It was, gasp, the best team in baseball. And when was the last time either the Sox or the aging Yanks won the Series?

Congrats to my man Theo for getting Schilling, but I'll take the Marlins' rotation of Beckett, Penny, Burnett (healthy), Willis and Pavano over a combination of the best five Sox and Yanks starters. In fact, I'll take the Cubs' Prior/Wood duo over Pedro and Curt or Andy and, uh, help me out here, Moose? Let's give the obligatory nod to the rich past, but sadly the Sox vs. Yanks battle is much like the Britney vs. Xtina affair: Interesting, annoyingly overfunded, and no longer relevant.

Ah, a real romantic | From David Schoenfield
Eric, the World Series is not about deciding the best team in baseball. It's about which team wins a best-of-seven series. Likewise, the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry is not about 26 to 1918. It's about fans who obsess about their team and their rival 24-7-365. It's about players who know which games are worth that extra half-step of hustle. It's about a 72-year-old coach with a metal plate in his skull charging the enemy. It's about a manager crying on the field after his team just won one of the most amazing baseball games ever played. It's about evil empires, Bucky Bleepin' Dent, Fisk-Munson, .401 vs. 56 and even literary whiners wallowing in another what-if ...

And, someday, the Red Sox will pull out their slingshot and slay the arrogant beast Goliath, and those writers will really have a story to tell ...

Now showing on ESPN Classic ... | From Gerri Hirshey
Babe Ruth
Believe it or not, there were rivalries before the Babe came along.
Of course, Eric's right. It's debatable whether the Sox-Yanks rivalry is indeed "classic," but I think the illusion is worth preserving, if only for its underused value as an educational tool. Our children are so woefully ignorant of the classics these days, it would be swell to recast the puny major-league drama as a clash between ancient Athens and Sparta -- no less than the Peloponnesian War.

You remember the sides: wimpy, aesthete-ridden Athens (read: Boston). And the bloody-minded warrior state Sparta (Noo Yawk). Now the Peloponnesian War raged only from 431 to 404 BC, but it had chilling parallels: At one point, the proceedings were overseen by some dudes called "The Thirty Tyrants." (Does that sound like major-league owners to you?) Another dip into the history books says that Spartan mothers would say to their sons, "Either come back with your shield or on it." Doesn't that sound like a Steinbrenner maxim? On the other hand, Athenians -- like so many of those Boston Brahmin intellectuals, couched military defeat with apologias like this one: "We hold contests and offer sacrifices year round, and the elegance of our private establishments ... helps to drive away sorrow."


I'm still looking for an apt Hellenic version of The Curse of the Bambino. But for now we'll made do with a description of Spartan Broth, which consisted of "pork, blood, salt and vinegar."

In short, a Yankee Stadium Sabrett dawg.

Please, no one wake me! | From Steve Wulf
I know Curt Schilling is a blowhard. I know that the Red Sox also need a second baseman who can actually field and a clubhouse large enough to accommodate several outsized egos. And I know, just know, that I'll probably get fooled again.

But this could put us over the top. By us, I mean the legion of Red Sox fans. I am one by marriage, but I have the zealotry of the converted and don't even try to maintain journalistic objectivity. I also live behind enemy lines, deep in Yankee country, and that just adds to the romantic attachment. I am Bogie, living in Paris during the occupation. And the fact that the GM's grandfather wrote "Casablanca" makes it even better.

Pedro Martinez
Just four weeks of therapy managed to erase this scene from Steve Wulf's memory.
The Yankees best or better the Red Sox every year, but last season was different. But for Grady's brain fart, we'd be celebrating the first Boston title since 1918. (You think Josh Beckett could have thrown those fastballs by Manny and Ortiz?) The Lucchino/Epstein team did a brilliant job of putting the 2003 Sox together, and more significantly, they obviously delighted in aggravating Steinbrenner and his lackeys. This time, they took a page out of George's book and got themselves a superstar pitcher, who happens to give them The Biggest Three in the game. (Sorry, Eric: the Marlins' rotation is reminiscent of the '85 Royals rotation that crashed and burned.) Add Keith Foulke to the bullpen, roll out the same offense, hit Todd Walker a million groundballs, and voila -- they rename it Epstein Way.

Doesn't matter if the Yankees sign Sheffield, Vasquez, Colon and Gordon. The Red Sox already have the jump on the Yanks. And George has to play catch-up.

I'm singing the Marseillaise right now.

And I'm from California! | From Eric Neel
Apologies to Red Sox fans, but ... Rivalry? We don't need no stinkin' rivalry. We need a lopsided tilt. We need tantalizing. We need gritty and gutty and spurred-on by disappointment. We need a perpetual underdog in a forever fight. We need the twisted, operatic anguish that comes with curses and near misses. We need the clear line of demarcation between Red Sox good and Yankee evil. We need intricate explanatory theses and long-winded rationalizations.

We need generations bound by suffering and instant friendships born of loss. We need to know a guy with a red B on his cap, wherever you find him, is a guy who could use a drink and a hug. We need that Bucky-to-Boone sting that lets you know you're alive. We need to know the simple truths -- sun up in the East, Sox lose to the Yanks -- are solid and enduring. You know we don't need? Theo Epstein coming along with his sabermetric savvy and bulldog tenacity, and Curt Schilling coming along with his heavy fastball and fearlessness. These guys ... they're gonna make a game of this thing. They're gonna muck things up.

Never a dull moment | From Dan Shanoff
No other current rivalry in sports is such a free-spending, hate-the-other-guy tete-a-tete that it demands "Baseball Tonight" sign George Kennan to sit alongside Peter Gammons, analyzing Cold War-like strategies of arms (and bats) proliferation.

Here's hoping they take it to the next level: If the two teams started making midseason moves based on their rival's upcoming schedule: The Yankees have K.C. next week? Let's temporarily trade our lineup to the Royals during our day off ... Boston is playing Milwaukee? Mariano Rivera can be available to the Brewers on loaner.

And now representing Middle America ... | From Tom Friend
Sorry, it's a regional thing. Let Ben Affleck and Billy Crystal debate it. At the moment, I'm more interested in Bengals-Ravens.

Hey, lay off Ben Affleck | From Patrick Hruby
Ben Affleck, Jennifer Lopez
Now, people, there's no need to attack a master thespian like Ben Affleck.
Enough is enough. Call off the dogs. It's one thing to kick the second-place Sox and their sad-sack fans, since they're already prone and thus an easier target. But it's another thing entirely to blast Ben Affleck. Tell me, who else has the rougish charm, quiet intensity and brooding, Sexiest-Man-Alive good looks needed to fill "Daredevil's" codpiece? Paul Walker? Freddie Prinze Jr.? Dan Cortese? Nope, uh-uh and no chance.

I, for one, eagerly await the pending release of "Paycheck," a fasten-your-seat-belt action extravaganza that is sure to be the the most explosive holiday thrill ride since "Reindeer Games."

Look, I understand that not everyone in sportswriting can win an Oscar, date Jennifer Lopez and make it through rehab. Especially not the last part. But still, that's no reason to be so catty. If and when a giant meteor threatens to blow up the Earth, I know who I want riding the intercept rocket. And it ain't Matt Damon.

True revisionist history | From Jim Caple
With as much time as the East Coast media devotes to this rivalry, I'm surprised that they forgot to report these moments from the past year ...

Jan. 21: Unbeknownst to Red Sox fans, George Steinbrenner secretly trademarks the phrase "Yankees Suck." Steinbrenner will use the royalties from T-shirt and bumper sticker sales to offset his entire payroll.

May 19: Mimicking the bleacher fans at Yankee Stadium, Red Sox fans hold a roll call before the season's first New York-Boston game at Fenway Park. Manny Ramirez is marked absent.

May 20: As Roger Clemens goes for his 300th career victory, the Red Sox object to the patch on his glove that reads, "300 Wins -- 102 and counting since you losers let me go."

May 26: Prior to a game in the Bronx, Boston closer Byung-Hyun Kim gives Yankees fans the bird. Reliever Jeff Nelson, outfielder Karim Garcia and bench coach Don Zimmer beat him up.

July 4: A sellout crowd fills Yankee Stadium to see the Red Sox-Yankees game and watch the annual postgame fireworks shot into the Boston team bus.

July 5: The Yankees counter the Kevin Millar "Born in the USA" karaoke rally video with one of their own. This one shows clips from the Bucky Dent game. while Steinbrenner hums "Ride of the Valkyries."

Aug. 29: Prior to the final regular season Sox-Yankees series at Fenway, Yankees infielder Enrique Wilson slips a tranquilizer powerful enough to knock out two horses into Manny Ramirez's drink. No one notices a difference in Manny's effort when the two teams play a couple hours later.

Don Zimmer
This scene was too bizarre for even our Jim Caple to make up.
Aug. 30: Manny misses the Yankees-Red Sox game so he can sit in the owners box with Steinbrenner and Rudy Giuliani.

Aug. 31: Manny misses the final game of the series at Fenway so he can sit in the Yankees dugout.

Sept. 6: Karim Garcia misses the Yankees-Red Sox game while going to the dentist to have Bill James' teeth removed from his fist.

Oct. 7: On the off-day before the American League championship series, Derek Jeter asks Nomar Garciaparra if he has any naked photos of Mia Hamm. When Garciaparra replies no, Jeter offers to sell him some.

Oct. 11: Jeff Nelson and Karim Garcia jump into the stands and beat up Bobby Doerr and Johnny Pesky, enraging Boston fans.

Oct. 12: Nelson and Garcia jump into the stands and beat up Jimmy Fund patients, enraging Boston fans.

Oct. 13: Nelson and Garcia jump into the stands and beat up Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, delighting Boston fans.

Oct. 14: Don Zimmer is suspended for the rest of the playoffs after testing positive for THG.

Oct. 15: When Phil Rizzuto approaches Pedro Martinez to shake his hand behind the batting cage before Game 6, Pedro kicks away his cane and knocks him to the ground, then points to P.A. announcer Bob Sheppard and warns, "You're next, old man."

Oct. 16: Grady Little is late for Game 7 of the series when he stays on the 4 train too long and doesn't get off until he's all the way to Woodlawn.

Nov. 2: After Manny says he would rather play for the Yankees, the Red Sox leave him on the doorstep of a local orphanage. The orphanage refuses to take him in.

Nov. 28: Theo Epstein spends Thanksgiving dinner with Curt Schilling and, after long and occasionally angry negotiations, convinces the pitcher to pass the cranberry sauce.

Dec. 1: The Yankees counter Boston's trade for Schilling by signing the entire Red Sox team.


Writer's Bloc: Baseball vs. NFL

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Writer's Bloc: Conspiracy Theory 101

Writer's Bloc: Most Overrated NFL player

Writer's Bloc: A-Rod's MVP

Writer's Bloc: Muscle up

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