Rivalry Weekend Lacking Its Usual Buzz

Gap in standings, busy Boston sports weekend lessen the buildup

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    When the Yankees and Red Sox meet up, it tends to overshadow just about everything else on the sports landscape for the duration of the series. It's strange, then, to see how little anticipation there seems to be for this weekend's renewal of the rivalry.

    Part of that can be blamed on the Celtics and Bruins. Each of them are playing conference semifinals on Friday night at exactly the same moment that Phil Hughes and Josh Beckett will be squaring off at Fenway Park. The Bruins can close out the Flyers in a sweep, an exciting and unexpected result for a team that finished sixth in the Eastern Conference during the regular season.

    That game is in Philly, a remove that places it behind the basketball showdown that will be the biggest thing going on in Boston on Friday night. King James and the Cavaliers are in town, licking their wounds after getting pasted by the Celtics in Game Two and facing an aging champion looking to seize control of the series on their home turf. Sox-Yanks is big, but we're less than a quarter into the baseball season and the theory of relativity places it in the unusual third position on the spectrum.

    As an aside, anyone else remember when New York had weekends like this? The magical nights at the Garden following glorious days on the diamond with a big golf tournament or the Belmont mixed in for good measure? Sweet memories of faded youth, courtesy of the Dolan family. 

    The fact that Boston has bigger fish to fry this weekend is only part of the answer to the subdued buildup to this series. The five game gap in the standings can't be ignored. Even after sweeping the surprisingly noncompetitive Angels at Fenway, the Sox are just a game over .500 and haven't yet found the footing that you'd expect from a veteran contender. The explanations -- injuries, David Ortiz's continuing decline, major offseason turnover -- all have validity but they don't matter nearly as much as the actual difference in the standings and the perceived difference between the teams.

    Those differences probably cause more concern for television networks than fans who have seen massive swings in the fortunes of these teams over the course of an 162-game season. but there's no doubting that the fanfare is a little less pronounced this time around. That could change as quickly as Hughes getting bombed or Jonathan Papelbon blowing a save, of course, and we'll be singing a much different tune if the weekend ends with a sweep in either direction but short of that this figures to be a minor entry in the massive book someone is compiling about this rivalry.  

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City and is a contributor to FanHouse.com and ProFootballTalk.com in addition to his duties for NBCNewYork.com. You can follow him on Twitter.