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Irreconcilable differences

A Red Sox fan married to a Yankees diehard? It does happen, but the rivalry is fierce

Mark Crough, a Cohasset native and devout Red Sox fan, was instantly attracted to Kerry Carle when they met on Easter weekend four years ago in a Killington, Vt., ski shop. But Carle was harboring a dark secret Crough would not discover until four months later, when they moved together to Boulder, Colo.

Upon arriving in their new home, Carle opened her suitcase to unpack. Suddenly, before her swain's astonished eyes, out tumbled a . . . Yankees hat. "I didn't know," recalls Crough, 35, who married Carle this year. "It killed me. There I am, having to go out on hikes in public with her wearing a Yankees cap. Had I known . . . Just kidding."

Ah, but many a truth is spoken in jest. The reality is that this week dueling loyalties on the question of Sox vs. Yanks will open fault lines right down the middle of many an otherwise harmonious relationship. For better and for worse, OK -- but for the American League pennant? Fuhgeddaboudit. At least for the duration of the series, erstwhile happy couples could find themselves living in the house that wroth built.

"We're in a very loving relationship, but when the Yankees and Sox are playing, we sit in different rooms," admits Alyssa Toro, 33, a Yankees fan in Brookline whose husband, Matt, is a Red Sox fan. "We have to. It just gets too intense."

You want to talk about intensity? When Red Sox fan Julie Rockett exchanged vows with Yankees fan Patrick Paulick, her family told her she was "marrying outside the faith." Rockett will allow Paulick to watch the games with her in their South End apartment, but only on the condition that he not overtly cheer for the Yankees and that he never, not once, ask her what the score is. "I have so many weird voodoo rules," says Rockett. "I am so filled with rage, and he is not."

Eighty-five years of World Series futility will do that to you. That grim history was brought up all summer long by Ron Czik of Sharon whenever the three Red Sox fans in his household -- wife Wendy, daughter Shoshana, 15, and son Joshua, 12 -- got too excited about Boston's chances against New York. Czik would simply say three things: "Bolshevik Revolution, 26, and Bill Buckner," referring to the fact that the Soviet Union has come and gone since the Sox last won a World Series, that the Yankees have won the series 26 times since 1918 (when the Sox last won it), and that Buckner . . . well, you know.

"His obnoxiousness about the Yankees is becoming . . . more obnoxious," says an exasperated Wendy Czik. So last night, as the family gathered around the TV set, dad was not to be allowed on the couch -- he was slated for banishment to a spot near the kitchen -- and his wife was planning to wear a T-shirt sporting an oft-heard anti-Yankees slogan.

The Czik family feud is a good-natured one, as seems to be the case with most of the two dozen fans interviewed by the Globe. "It's all in good fun," insists Jessica Morris, 28, of Shrewsbury, a Yankees fan whose husband, Michael, is a Red Sox partisan. "It's certainly a rivalry that gets the best of both of our emotions, but it's certainly not something that would end a relationship."

That doesn't mean emotions won't be running high as the Sox and Yanks battle it out at Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park in the days to come while those battles are echoed verbally in family rooms all over New England and beyond.

Nor will those battles be as one-sided as might be supposed here in the heart of Red Sox Nation, where a surprising number pledge allegiance to the Yankees. Transplanted New Yorkers or New Jerseyites, many of whom came to Boston to attend college and stayed to pursue careers and start families, have swollen the population of Yankees fans. Consequently, the ancient rivalry is woven into the fabric of many a young marriage -- one couple reports that they placed Derek Jeter and Nomar Garciaparra bobblehead dolls on a table at their August wedding reception -- and such unions are now facing a test stiff enough to tax the ingenuity of the savviest marriage counselor.

Before Amy and Danny Kramer of Charlestown exchanged vows a year ago, they had the traditional pre-wedding confab with the priest who was to marry them. Amy's family members were longtime Red Sox season ticket holders, and one of her proudest possessions was a baseball that former Sox slugger Jim Rice had fouled right into her lap. Danny, by contrast, had only recently moved here from Staten Island, N.Y. When the priest asked whether either of them had any reservations about entering into the holy state of matrimony, Danny somberly replied, "Yes, I do have one concern." Amy was stricken. Then her groom-to-be spelled it out: "She's a Red Sox fan, and I'm a Yankees fan." The priest, a New York native himself, sympathized but assured Danny, "You'll eventually convert."

It hasn't happened yet, and Danny says it never will. In fact, the Kramers will probably watch the pennant showdown in separate rooms. During Sox-Yankees jousts over the summer, Amy, 30, had to put up with the sound of her husband heckling the Red Sox. "The `1918' thing is coming from the other room," she sighs. Says her 31-year-old husband: "It's the answer to everything."

For relationships still in their early stages, this pennant series could prove to be the defining moment. Sarah Stiglmeier, 25, of Brighton, has loved the Yankees since she was a toddler in Albany rooting for "Reggie Jacks." She has retained a loyalty to the Yankees in the seven years since she moved here to attend Boston College and has even gone so far as to wear her Jeter T-shirt or Yankees hat to Sox games. But she has been dating a Red Sox fan for two years and admits, "I'm a little bit nervous about this upcoming series." They were not planning to watch last night's game together.

"We get feisty. We make comments back and forth," Stiglmeier says. "It's all in good fun, but you take it a little bit to heart."

When children enter this charged equation, the Sox-Yanks rivalry sometimes intensifies in unpredictable ways. As a young child in New Jersey, Suzie Byers of Lexington believed that her father actually played for the Yankees because he used to talk to the players on the TV set as if he knew them. Later, in high school, she was in Latin class with the son of Yankees outfielder Lou Piniella. Even after she married Red Sox fan Carl Byers, who did his best to, in his words, "get her to come over from the dark side," she kept rooting for the Yankees. But her pinstripes fervor began to fade after their 5-year-old son, Jake, began rooting for the Sox.

"I cannot be a full-fledged Yankees fan anymore, because my son adores the Red Sox so much," she says. "But every time the Yankees win, I'm happy for my father. I'm secretly on the fence."

In the Breslin household in Milton, 9-year-old Nate has staked out a position as a Yankees fan even though father Mark, mother Bonnie Sosis, and big brother Zack are all Red Sox fans. "I like [Alfonso] Soriano and Roger Clemens and Derek Jeter," says Nate. "And all my friends like them. Well, some of them."

In deference to his son's feelings, Mark Breslin has waived his usual rule against the wearing of Yankees hats or shirts in the house. In a few weeks, Nate has an even bigger costume adventure in mind: "I'm being Alfonso Soriano for Halloween," he confides.

But then parenthood is full of surprises. Take the Croughs, out in Boulder awaiting the birth of their first child at the end of the month. Kerry, the Yankees fan, recently told her husband that if the baby is a boy, she might not mind if they named him Trot or Grady (his Sox loyalties notwithstanding, he nixed both). As for Alyssa and Matt Toro, whose baby is due in two weeks, they are taking no chances. Matt went out and bought a Red Sox onesie for the little one -- and Alyssa promptly countered by buying a Yankees onesie.

"We might make her wear them both until she's old enough to decide," she says.

Don Aucoin can be reached at aucoin@globe.com.

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