Okay, in truth, Boston and New York sports franchises have more rings than a Vegas pawn shop. In the past decade, a team from one of the two cities has played for a major championship every year except 2006. In all, fans from New York and Boston have celebrated nine titles in the past decade, including four of the past 10 Super Bowl winners.
While a title game might feel like a birthright for some, today’s Super Bowl XLVI matchup gives everyone else something to cheer against.
“The only good thing about this game is that one of the teams is going to lose,” said Todd Crosset, an associate professor at the University of Massachusetts who teaches the sociology of sport. “We can all feel good about that.”
Something about those cities — backward sense of civility? funny accents? insecurity disguised as self-importance? a near-monopoly on tall buildings? — has a way of drawing together an otherwise polarized nation. There’s a common cause that’s easy for many to get behind.
Tim Groseclose, a professor of political science and economics at UCLA, has spent a professional lifetime studying politics, media and biases, and when it comes to big East Coast cities and their sporting teams, there’s little to debate.
“We Arkansans and Oklahomans sometimes call people from Boston or New York ‘Yankees,’ which we mean as a synonym for ‘rude, Northern person,’ ” Groseclose said. “Hank Williams Jr. might have said it best: ‘If heaven ain’t a lot like Dixie, I don’t want to go. . . . You can send me to hell or New York City. It’d be about the same to me.’”
In the oft-times insular world of pro sports, the nation’s attitudes for New York and Boston are no secret. The successes of their teams serve as inspiration for taunts and barbs. Road trips in the NFL are merely sleepovers in a lion’s den.
“It is polarizing,” said former Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy, now an analyst for NBC Sports, “but there’s been some tremendous athletes and coaches in both these cities.”
The successes of the sports teams serve as kindling, while the more potent fuel for many is a perceived overexposure of East Coast teams. And critics point to a singular culprit.
“Ask anyone in Chicago, Detroit, Iowa, Minnesota — it just feels like a large portion of the country gets ignored,” said Steve “Sparky” Fifer, a sports talk radio host for WSSP-AM in Milwaukee. “So it’s not necessarily a hatred or dislike for the team specific teams, it’s the dislike for ESPN and the coverage they provide. From a fan perspective, if you turn on ESPN during the baseball season, good luck seeing Brewers highlights. Right now, regardless of how good the Knicks are, you’ll see Knicks and Celtics every night.”