Those people won't much like a column from Steve Buckley in the Boston Herald. Buckley doesn't just suggest that the Patriots and Jets are on the same level as their civic neighbors on the diamond, he outright claims that the football teams have a better and more heated rivalry.
His argument has strong underpinnings. Starting with Bill Parcells's leap from Pats to Jets, the teams have traded coaches and players back and forth like preschoolers passing colds to one another. There's been palace intrigue thanks to the Spygate scandal and Rex Ryan's appearance on the scene seems to have created the kind of actual dislike between teams that is rarely seen in professional sports these days. And, much like Babe Ruth in the baseball rivalry, the thoughts of what might have been if Bill Belichick remained in New York loom over the entire thing.
Still, is it Yankees-Red Sox level? The history is much shorter and there haven't been classic games that created legends like Bucky Dent and Aaron Boone, to say nothing of the 2004 American League Championship Series. But that series is actually one of the things that has served to cool things off on the diamond.
Once the Red Sox vanquished the Yankees, a good deal of the mystique of their rivalry was vanquished as well. It's funny how sports rivalries can work sometimes, but once things become equal it really does deflate a lot of what builds things up in the first place. The Patriots' dominance over the last decade while the Jets have fluctuated wildly makes things seem unequal, but is it really any different than the way the Yankees and Red Sox interacted for 80-plus years?
On that same token, if the Jets were suddenly to become as smart and efficiently run as the Pats it would make things a little less scrappy. That's what has happened with the Red Sox and Yankees since Theo Epstein took over. The Sox stopped making insanely stupid personnel decisions and started spending money like the Yankees. Now the two teams are nearly indistinguishable peas in the same pod, while the Rays represent the truly different way of doing business in the American League East.
The structure of baseball and football also work against the old guard. No matter how hard WFAN, ESPN or the Post try to make it seem otherwise, 18 games of a 162-game season just don't feel like a significant amount. Not anymore significant than the games against the Blue Jays or Orioles at any rate. Two games out of 16, with all the attendant attention paid by the weekly nature of the NFL season, winds up feeling like it matters a lot more. Throw in this playoff meeting, their second in the last five years, and things have hit a fevered pitch.
Taking all of that into account, it's hard to disagree with Buckley's opinion. Right now, Pats-Jets feels a lot more vibrant than Sox-Yanks. That can change, of course. If this year's ALCS pits the old friends against one another, things will feel very different. That's an if, though, and we have an actual game to worry about this weekend.
That makes football the king of our present civic antagonism.