Kevin Cullen

Brotherly hate for N.Y.

Globe columnist Kevin Cullen isn't a Phillies fan, but he'll root for them this World Series. Globe columnist Kevin Cullen isn't a Phillies fan, but he'll root for them this World Series. ( graphic)
By Kevin Cullen
Globe Columnist / October 29, 2009

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Normally, the only people around here with more than a passing interest in a World Series that doesn’t involve the Red Sox are the handful of serious fans who genuinely love the game and the legions of degenerate gamblers who are genuinely the only reason the local Mafia hasn’t filed for Chapter 11.

But this year is different.

With apologies to Le Monde, Nous Sommes Tous Philadelphians.

God bless Philadelphians and their baseball team. They are lucky enough to get the chance to do what we long to do, what we lust to do: beat the Yankees.

This is culturally and historically appropriate. Philly and Boston are practically brothers. Philadelphia is Boston with cheese steaks. Both cities have Napoleon complexes and inexplicable accents.

In Colonial and Revolutionary times, the two most important cities in the nation were Boston and Philadelphia. Both have lost considerable clout in the intervening two centuries, much of it to the heaving, snarling, massive metropolis that sits between them.

New York’s ascendancy has left people in Boston and Philly with a healthy inferiority complex. Hence, the tendency among not a small number of Bostonians and Philadelphians to define themselves not so much by what they are as what they’re proudly not: New Yorkers.

The Yankees have won the World Series 26 times, the Red Sox seven, and the Phils just twice, including last year.

In Boston, we like to think the Curse is well behind us. Most of us treated the recent Game 3 meltdown against the Angels as an isolated incident, not a return to form. But the truth is, unlike New Yorkers, who fully expect to win everything, we still only say we expect to win. Believing it amounts to a conceit that Bostonians and Philadelphians won’t allow themselves and resent in others.

In his classic study, “Puritan Boston and Quaker Philadelphia,’’ the eminent University of Pennsylvania scholar E. Digby Baltzell argues that Philadelphia produced a tolerant elite that was lousy at leadership, while Boston’s Brahmins were less tolerant but took their civic responsibility more seriously.

Dan Rubin, a columnist for The Philadelphia Inquirer, arrived here yesterday looking for some advice from the leaders in how to be less tolerant of the Yankees.

“We’re new to this,’’ Rubin said. “We don’t particularly like New Yorkers, but we really have no experience in hating the Yankees.’’

So he came to the place where it’s an art form.

“Boston and Philadelphia have shared famous sons,’’ Dan Rubin said.

Such as?

“Ben Franklin and Irving Fryar,’’ Dan Rubin said.

Not to mention Pedro Martinez, who is scheduled to pitch Game 2 for the Phillies.

Alas, Professor Baltzell died, in Boston, 13 years ago. But there is another Penn professor, Art Caplan, who sees his native Boston and his adopted Philadelphia as kindred spirits. Caplan is an esteemed bioethicist. He is also something of a masochist: He married a Yankees fan.

“A North Jersey girl,’’ he said. “Don’t get me started.’’

Caplan said Philly and Boston are cut from the same cloth - the parochial neighborhoods, the abundance of crooked pols, the shared resentment of New York entitlement.

Caplan grew up in Framingham. He remains a Red Sox fan first, a Phillies fan second, and a Yankees hater always.

“I’d like to think that Red Sox fans will be at home and in the bars, cheering on the Phillies,’’ Caplan said.

Rest assured, perfesser. Last night, Dan Rubin was getting schooled at Cornwalls in Kenmore Square, where John Beale cooks a mean blue cheeseburger under the Citgo sign, just a Ryan Howard fly ball away from Fenway Park. Rubin was learning much from his new best friends. When it comes to the Yankees, Boston and Philadelphia are the cities of brotherly hate.

Kevin Cullen is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at

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