700 years ago,
fear spread from the Sea of Japan, through the Eurasian Steppe, and into the breadbasket of Eastern Europe. The very mention of the Mongol Horde-an invading army so alien, so crude, so terrifying that many whom they conquered questioned their very humanity-shook the bones of millions and filled the sleep of two continents with unspeakable nightmares.
For the last decade, the modern cradle of civilization, fair Baltimore, has faced a threat far more repugnant, far more terrifying, and far more difficult to understand when it talks at you: Red Sox Nation. Sure, the Mongols built mounds of human skulls where villages once stood, but they also had a sweet side. They brought cultural and religious tolerance, art and architecture, and truly delicious beef dishes. The dark hordes of Massachusetts, in contrast, come under their great golden banners, bearing the horrifying head and cold, dead eyes of Ben Affleck; they screech with their twisted tongues, making foul utterances about "parking cars" and "wicked pissers." It's a lot like Mordor without all the magical midgets.
For decades, the Red Sox Horde was essentially Yankees fans without the winning tradition. Sure, they were obnoxious, but their losing ways made having one clamped onto your leg sort of adorable, like a miniature pit bull or a teacup crocodile. They were a cowardly and superstitious lot, obsessed with their "curse" and their "magic underwear." Then the team figured out how to spend its billions, won a couple of World Series, and the Red Sox Horde spread like toe fungus on a continental scale. Sox fans were everywhere. They were in the bars of Fells Point. They were lurking about the harbor. I even rewatched an old videotape and found one skulking about in Al Capone's vault and another peering out from a thicket in Geraldo's mustache. Worst of all, they were all over Camden Yards.
There wasn't much we could do about it either.Since 1997, the Red Sox had only lost the season series to the O's once, were 81-44 at Campden Yards, and weren't shy about it. Since it costs, like, $82,000 for a bleacher seat in Fenway Park, Sox fans came down in droves. Do you know why they call it "Taxechusettes"? Because spending any time with them is so incredibly taxing. The best O's fans could muster was a few feeble chants like, "Crabs are better than lobster," or "Boston is the worst town on the Eastern seaboard that starts with a 'B!'"
Now the shoe is on the other foot. The Orioles closed out last season in epic fashion, knocking the Sox out of playoff contention. The O's have guaranteed a winning record in Fenway this year. Take a moment to savor the Orioles' victory, then take every opportunity to gloat at any Blow-Sox fan you meet. I, for instance, was in the Bahamas during the off-season and ran into a woman in a Red Sox hat and matching bikini. She pointed at my 2012 Disco-Bird cap and, being a knowledgeable baseball fan, asked, "What is that?" When I told her she rolled her eyes and said, "Really? Ha!"
Well, "Ha!" to you, missy! It is now my mission to find that woman, get one more good look at her butt, and scream, "Who's laughing now?" then follow her around until, like 43 percent of Bostonians, she drowns in a baked-bean flood, then I'll dance an Orioles jig on her grave while guzzling Boh, singing Orioles Magic, and contracting syphilis.
And the beautiful thing about it is, it ain't gonna change soon! The Sox are falling apart. Last season, as they battled down the stretch, their top starters, Josh Beckett, John Lackey, and Jon Lester, turned the clubhouse into a sleazy den of beer drinking, video-gamery, and open fried-chicken consumption. This year, the log flume of failure continues unabated. The team traded All-Star infielder Kevin Youkilis in the hopes that it would clean up the dysfunctional clubhouse. It didn't. Bloated contracts to Lackey and leftfielder Carl Crawford are making it difficult for new GM Ben Cherington to continue the housecleaning. But the icing on the cake is the full-on mutiny in the clubhouse. Players have been secretly sniping rock star manager Bobby Valentine in the media all season and had a not-so-secret meeting with team ownership to whine some more.
Two years ago, Valentine withdrew his name from consideration for the O's managerial opening and told ESPN Radio's Michael Kay he didn't take the job because the Birds "don't look like they're going to turn around very quickly." Well, now afterthought-candidate Buck Showalter has the Birds in contention for the wild card. Valentine has kept the Red Sox and their $146-million salary 2.5 games ahead of last-place Toronto. The Orioles clubhouse, on the other hand, has learned the Baltimore way: No Snitching. Instead of egos, the O's have a new hero every week: homegrown veterans, like outfielder Nick Markakis, are providing quiet leadership; young phenoms, like third baseman Manny Machado, who earned AL co-player of the week his first week in the bigs, are giving much-needed lifts. The pitching is rallying, the defense is improving, and young stars like Matt Wieters and Adam Jones are building a shaving-cream pie-filled clubhouse that Baltimoreans can be proud of.
So, go O's-more to the point, suck it, Boston!