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The Gray Lady and the Red Sox

Okay, I'll preface this by admitting again I'm a Yankee fan. I grew up a Yankee fan in Northeastern Pennsylvania and have remained one despite being in Boston for over 30 years. (By my way of thinking, team loyalty ought to be set by puberty. If you grew up a Sox fan in Newton, went to college at NYU and ended up living and working on Long Island, would you be a Yankee fan today? I hope not.)

Anyway, with all the questions raised about a conflict at the Boston Globe because its corporate parent, The New York Times Co., has a 17 percent interest in the Red Sox, I think people are barking up the wrong tree. Maybe those questions should be asked of the New York Times, a newspaper that sure seems to shower the out-of-town Red Sox with considerably more affection than the men in pinstripes.

Back in January, New York magazine calculated that in the 2005-2006 offseason, the Times actually devoted more stories to the Sox than it did to either the hometown Yanks or Mets. Here's an excerpt:

What’s going on? Too many Harvard grads on 43rd Street? Or can the paper be reminding New Yorkers that it owns a minority stake in the Sox? Nothing of the sort, insists sports editor Tom Jolly, who says the count is skewed because of the movement of Red Sox free agents and the upheaval in their front office. “Anything [the Red Sox] do will be of great interest to Yankee fans.” Still, a search reveals that no other local paper comes close to this kind of parity.

Now take Exhibit B, the Great Gray Lady's coverage of the Red Sox and Yankees respective home openers on Tuesday. Guess what led the sports section? A big story about new Boston pitcher Josh Beckett featuring a huge photo of the pumped-and-jacked Sox hurler. Closer to home, Derek Jeter's 8th inning homer that led the Yanks to a dramatic come from behind win over Kansas City was relegated to the bottom of the page in a Harvey Araton piece that treated the exciting win like a Pyrrhic victory -- at best. Here's a killjoy sentence.

"this sellout-crowd-pleasing victory should come wrapped with a label that reads: Buyer Beware. Because the World Series winner is seldom a team that looks as unacquainted with crisp, mistake-free-baseball as the 21st-century Yankees have increasingly become."

Ah, nothing like having the team's post-season hopes dashed seven games into the new season. After a win!!!

But it gets worse for the Yankees when Murray Chass feels the need to celebrate the Yanks home opener with a column moaning because owner George Steinbrenner won't give him an interview. That didn't stop Chass, however, from:

1) digging up controversial Steinbrenner quotes that are nearly 30 years old.
2) suggesting  that at age 75, Steinbrenner is impaired in some way that he doesn't specify.
3) making it seem like there was something sinister and suspicious about the few words Steinbrenner did utter to reporters that day. Like saying he was "very pleased" with the game's outcome, that Jeter is a "super" player, and declaring that "every team [the Yankees play] is going to be tough." Wow, what inflammatory pronouncements. Call the commissioner's office.

Happy opening day, Yanks. (Just imagine if yesterday's Globe sports section had led with a big feature on "Captain Clutch" Derek Jeter, had complained that the Sox 5-3 win over Toronto exposed weaknesses that could doom the team's post-season prospects, and finished up with a Shaughnessy column mocking John Henry as an uncommunicative weirdo.)

I guess the Times thinks of itself as a national paper. But maybe that 17 percent piece of the action really has turned it into part of Red Sox Nation.

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