Tuesday's Major League Baseball All-Star Game was a monumental event for several reasons. First and foremost, it took place at Yankee Stadium, an adamantine landmark of immeasurable significance that is about to be wiped off the face off the earth so the Steinbrenners (who totally care about baseball history and all that crap) can make a few extra bucks a year from its replacement venue. The last hurrah of the House That Ruth Built was given due respect in the form of the largest collection of Major League Hall-of-Famers ever assembled on one field (a collection that was conspicuously absent of Red Sox hats, even on the head of Wade Boggs--who either forgot what uniform is on his Hall of Fame plaque or is an ass-kissing fraidy cat). As if that weren't enough, the contest itself turned out to be the longest All-Star Game in history, lasting 15 solid innings of terrible baserunning.
During the pregame ceremony, the Yankees-fan-dominated crowd booed their tiny black hearts out at each and every current member of the Boston Red Sox that was announced (and there was a lot of booing to be done, as the Red Sox were represented seven strong, more than any other team in the American League). This was neither significant nor surprising on its own...but it would prove to be integral in relation to the astonishing, most historic moment of the night--if not in the entire chronology of professional sports--which didn't take place until long after the game was underway.
In the top of the eighth inning, with the score tied 2-2 (the American League's runs having just come in the seventh courtesy of one game-tying swing by Boston's J.D. Drew), the Boston Red Sox' Jonathan Papelbon took the mound. When he surrendered a base hit to Miguel Tejada, I naturally expected cheers to emanate from my television...but the response I heard was, at best, tepid--negative, if anything. After Papelbon had struck out Dan Uggla and was facing Adrian Gonzalez, Tejada made a run for second base. Dioner Navarro's throw from the plate was laughingly off the mark, allowing Tejada to easily advance to third by the time the ball was corralled in right field. I thought for sure that the crowd would react to such an unfortunate turn of events thrust upon their most hated rivals' star closer with a cacophony of gratification...but, this time, they very clearly booed.
I couldn't believe my ears. Yes, the Yankees were represented on the American League team, but the only thing on the line was home field advantage in the World Series--a contest that the New York Yankees hadn't appeared in since 2003, won since the previous century, and were widely agreed upon to not be appearing in for many, many years into the foreseeable future. So what the hell were the Yankees fans upset about?
It wasn't until Gonzalez hit a sacrifice fly that gave the National League a 3-2 lead--an occurrence to which the crowd again responded with boos--that the revelation struck me:
The Yankees fans wanted the American League to win because they wanted the Red Sox to have home field advantage in the World Series.
As a Red Sox fan who came of age during an era when the team was a constant punchline for the New York Yankees, I was moved beyond words by this selfless display of concession by Yankees fans--made, at all times, during the last All-Star Game that will ever be played at the one true Yankee Stadium (a game that the American League eventually won, of course, on the shoulders of MVP J.D. Drew)--and I will never forget it.
A couple of decades from now, when the perennial World Series contender Boston Red Sox' chief rivals are the Tampa Bay Shade or the Los Angeles Red Sox or the Arctic Ocean Zombie Polar Bears, should I find myself in the presence of someone speaking ill of the New York Yankees--a franchise which will have long since folded--I will remind him of the 2008 All-Star Game, and suggest that he be a little bit more respectful.
And if he's a robot and tries to fight me, I will disable him with advanced anti-robot Space Karate.