Welcome to Sox on Screen, a weekly blog where I watch some Red Sox-themed or adjacent movie or television show. This week’s post is more of a Sox on Spotify than a Sox on Screen because I am reviewing ESPN’s 30 for 30 podcast, Yankees Suck. We’re formatting things differently this week in a Bill Simmons Rewatchables-style as opposed to the straight essay format I had played around with for a couple weeks. Hope you enjoy.
Yankees Suck follows Ray LeMoine and his group of rags-to-riches-then-back-to-rags friends, who sold the first Yankees Suck t-shirts outside Fenway Park. The episode chronicles the meteoric rise of a team and a group of 20-somethings and the sad but true message of “you couldn’t get away with this today”.
Yankees Suck is art that characterizes a bygone era of Red Sox fandom and life, I suppose. I remember talking to my dad and his friends and siblings about their visits to Fenway Park during their childhood in the 70’s and 80’s. You’d watch people throw up in the aisles and dodge spilled beers while watching a baseball team that would inevitably disappoint you.
Who Won the Podcast?
I think the old-timers won this podcast and here’s why.
It’s really incredible how a team can compile four world titles, 13 90-plus-win seasons in 22 years and still maintain a gritty, down-and-out personality. There was a not terribly distant era of Red Sox that was less corporate, demanding, sanitized and positive, quite frankly. Being a fan was less of an outlet for your disposable income and time and very truly a part of your identity. It’s why “Yankees Suck” was chanted at the Garden, other baseball games, weddings, parties and everywhere else a group of people realized just how much the Yankees suck.
This podcast brings you in tune with that sense of blissful nihilism that made being a Red Sox fan before the revival of the mid-2000’s special. In the place of real suffering or angst, people as young as I (I’m 22 on the nose) draw on those memories that our mothers, fathers, uncles, aunts, older friends and siblings passed down. They got to experience a more romantic brand of fandom and I am jealous.
What Aged Best?
The descriptions of what makes the “Yankees Suck” chant so great have carried over beautifully past a brief period in which the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry was relatively mild. I went to Fenway Park in 2018 for a Yankees series, one of the first years since the 2000’s that featured a competitive, passionate set of games between the two rivals. An organic “Yankees Suck” chant was the stuff of legend to that point. Heard about, but never experienced in the real world.
Everything they said you feel, from the way your ears perk up to the swell of pride and anger then joy and ecstasy, was all real. I never felt more connected to the history, which had all built to this boiling point where 30,000 people exhaled their frustration in unison.
What Aged Worst?
The idea of selling bootleg t-shirts is much less cool now than it probably was in the 1990’s. Nowadays, bootleg sellers are just bots on Twitter who respond to some sucker posting “I need a [insert marketable athlete quote/nickname] t-shirt so bad” with some obviously BS link. LaMoine and company were badass and that kind of persona — for various reasons — does not exist anymore.
Most Rewatchable (listenable?) Scene (segment?)
My favorite part of the episode was how the guys described the day-to-day operations of selling these shirts at Fenway Park. They had to deal with a rag-tag group of sellers, the quasi-legality of their enterprise and masses of drunk people that became both their worst enemies and best customers.
These men understood people and business so well and that’s what comes across the most. They knew how to push the right buttons to make people angry and sell a solution. How these guys made boatloads of money makes all the sense in the world.
Best Performance From a Small Part — Gordon Edes
Edes, the legendary Red Sox historian, and his voice stand out so distinctly from the voices of the uncut punks that made the shirts. He is measured and articulate, clearly illustrating the baseball moments that created the angst which made the shirts and chants special. He’s juxtaposed by the unrefined but somehow just as eloquent t-shirt sellers, who tell their part of the story with fewer words but just as much power.
Most Quotable Line
“The Yankees represent pinstripes, Wall Street, Rudy Guliani — everything that sucks. I can’t think of one thing they do that’s cool besides play in the Bronx.” — Ray LeMoine
Believe it or not, the Red Sox were counterculture at one point. This franchise has become a kind of litmus test for New England-ness. It’s a baseball region and the Red Sox are the most essential institution in the sports culture. The underdog mentality extended to the whole city, which stood in direct opposition to New York’s undeniable status as the city. New York was big and powerful but that’s nothing to be proud of, according to LeMoine.
Could this be remade as a 10-episode Netflix series?
Oh hell yeah it could. You’re telling me you wouldn’t watch 10 episodes of Ray LaMoine and his buddies dodging cops around Fenway, dealing with rogue sellers and dealing with the inevitable costs of quickly-acquired and unimaginable wealth. Think Breaking Bad or Ozark but for slightly vulgar bootleg t-shirts. Please and thank you. I’ll watch all 10 episodes in one day and do it again the next.