Friday, August 18, 2006

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Where's the raggedy edge of Red Sox Nation?

In anticipation of this weekend's five-game series between the Red Sox and Yankees, John Branch has an entertaining article in the New York Times on trying to find the dividing line between Red Sox Nation and Yankee Country in my home state of Connecticut:

The idea for this exercise was simple in design but complicated in application: Plot the length of the border between Red Sox Nation and Yankees Country, a sort of Mason-Dixon Line separating baseball’s fiercest rivals, who will play five games in the next four days in Boston.

The midpoint between Fenway Park and Yankee Stadium is approximately Rocky Hill, Conn., a few miles south of Hartford and east of New Britain. Some adventurers have dared to guess where allegiances are perfectly balanced, usually pointing to a place near Route 91, anywhere from north of Hartford to New Haven in the south.

But few have set out on an expedition — Lewis and Clark meet Rand McNally — to draw baseball’s bitterest border, to learn where it makes landfall along Long Island Sound to where it peters out in complacency in upstate New York, a serpentine span of nearly 200 miles.

“The border’s probably as wide as Connecticut,” Tom Brown, a volunteer firefighter in Old Lyme, Conn., said.

But the point was to narrow the boundary until each adjacent town fell to one side or the other. The border would be a continuous line, allowing no recognized islands of hostility in enemy territory. Such bastions would be viewed as anomalies, like Union sympathizers in Tennessee. True borders, after all, are no wider than a dotted line.

Polling a representative sample of people in every town would be impossible, so the method was simplified: Use a company-issued 2002 Pontiac Grand Am to traverse the highways and back roads of Connecticut, New York and Massachusetts. Roll into towns unannounced. Choose a person or group of people — preferably those with a bead on the area, like police officers and firefighters, politicians and postal carriers, bartenders and barbers — to be the proxy for their village. Excuse me, but is this a Yankees town or Red Sox one?

When possible, irrefutable data — a choice of baseball caps, for example, or the sale of team-logo cookies, or an office straw poll — would be used for confirmation.

I do find it interesting that the Times has the border further south than I remember from my childhood, when it ran right through the Farmington Valley. This does make me wonder if the border has shifted southwards in recent years.

posted by Dan on 08.18.06 at 12:50 PM


If the border has indeed shifted south, meaning Sox nation has expanded it is most likely the band-wagon effect of winning the championship. I moved out of Boston at the turn of the century but prior to that was a season ticket holder in the 90's. I can remember on nights I couldn't make it to the game I would literally have trouble giving the tickets away, or I would give them to co-workers etc only to find out later they didn't bother to go. This despite the sox being very competitive at the time. Nowadays I hear getting a ticket is like trying to score celtics tickets in the 80's....Impossible. What's worse is that I hear bandwagoners, I mean fans are naming their dogs "Fenway." Hold on while I clear my keyboard of vomit.

posted by: Pete on 08.18.06 at 12:50 PM [permalink]

Similarly: where is the border between St. Louis Cardinal and Chicago Cubs fandom? It seems to exist in an east-west line somewhere around Pontiac, about 100 miles south of Chicago... but I'd appreciate other readers' analyses.

Note: The White Sox are not included in this discussion because no one south of Blue Island even knows they exist.

posted by: jim on 08.18.06 at 12:50 PM [permalink]

I would put the Cubs/Cards border farther south. Growing up in Decatur, it was pretty evenly split. Champaign is Cubs territory, especially if you count all the students from the Chicago suburbs. Bloomington/Normal is similar. Springfield is clearly Cardinal country. Peoria is Cub territory.

The White Sox are a team???

posted by: Tom on 08.18.06 at 12:50 PM [permalink]

I grew up in Western Mass which is by any definition Sox territory, but there were always a few loud Yankee bandwagoners. By rule no one can legitimately be a Yankee fan North of Hartford and East of New Haven. I wonder where the line in drawn in the Maritimes between Sox and Jays fans?

posted by: msj on 08.18.06 at 12:50 PM [permalink]

I'd say I-91. Those East thereof trend Sox, West trend Yanks.

posted by: gonzo on 08.18.06 at 12:50 PM [permalink]

Whoops, already said in the article. That's what you get for careless reading on a Friday afternoon.

posted by: gonzo on 08.18.06 at 12:50 PM [permalink]

The red sox are the personification of evil.

Kim Jong-Il roots for them.

posted by: Dave on 08.18.06 at 12:50 PM [permalink]

As a native of Portsmouth, New Hampshire I've always assumed the line was at the Mass/Conn border. I mean, don't folks in Conn. support the Giants and the Jets rather than the Patriots (and I'm talking about the lean years, not the aberrant, joyous years of the recent past)? And, of course, Conn. folks had the Whalers (hiss) instead of the Bruins. I just assumed Conn. was hostile country across the board, and as a child even discussed with friends the possibility of having Conn. officially designated as a non-New England. Anyway, I miss the Whalers . . .

posted by: Soylent Green on 08.18.06 at 12:50 PM [permalink]

Maybe not great data, but it is data

posted by: AlanB. on 08.18.06 at 12:50 PM [permalink]

Here in Cali, the great debate is where does Dodgerland end and the Giant's Zone begin. (The Oakland A's are the White Sox of Cali, most interesting to fans in the immediate Oakland area and - lately - economists who've read Moneyball.)

posted by: Foobarista on 08.18.06 at 12:50 PM [permalink]

While Burlington, Vermont is squarely in Red Sox territory, we are in close proximity to Yankees fans just across the lake in NY state. Periodically, they make incursions across the border and have to be repulsed by all means necessary, including withholding Ben and Jerry's shipments. Only by denying Yankees fans their supply of Chubby Hubby can we bring them to their kneees...

posted by: SteveinVT on 08.18.06 at 12:50 PM [permalink]

My memory from growing up in small town Rhode Island in the 1960s was that the dividing line was based on which "old country" your people came from rather than geography. The Italians were typically Yankees fans, probably a DiMaggio thing, and the rest--the Irish, mainly, but also the newer immigrant groups like the Portuguese--were Bosox people.

posted by: David on 08.18.06 at 12:50 PM [permalink]

"I grew up in Western Mass which is by any definition Sox territory, but there were always a few loud Yankee bandwagoners. By rule no one can legitimately be a Yankee fan North of Hartford and East of New Haven. ?"

I disagree, having grown up on the shoreline east of New Haven, towns there are solidly Yankee towns. They are all on the shoreline east/Metro North Rail line, and are dominated by the Local New York News Channels,zero Boston News channels. Old Saybrook is when it starts to change a bit, which makes sense, since it hugs the CT River the true border of Yankee Country and the Red Sox Nation. Even Hartford is still iffy with the Sox, I will concede it to the Nation, but only due to the recent bandwagon effect. There are still plenty of Yankee and old whaler fans than can't stand Boston.

posted by: Kevin on 08.18.06 at 12:50 PM [permalink]

Kevin wins--CT River, imho. Definitely closer to the mark than I-91.

posted by: gonzo on 08.18.06 at 12:50 PM [permalink]

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