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Sneers, loathing greet a Boston fan in NYC

NEW YORK - The contagious joy of Red Sox Nation may have spread to all corners of the country this week, but New York is apparently immune.

At least that's what a reporter learned when he donned a Red Sox cap, a team warm-up jersey, and red sneakers to roam the land of the Yankees yesterday, venturing from midtown Manhattan to the bombers' own Bronx, inspiring a chorus of jeers and boos. As Boston celebrated the World Series championship, New York offered a collective scowl - and worse.

"[Expletive] Boston," a doorman uttered in front of the Lehman Brothers office building in Midtown Manhattan, after making eye contact and offering a sly smile.

From the relentless glitz of Times Square to the lonely grit of Yankee Stadium, drivers leaned on their horns, pedestrians tossed the occasional elbow, and a man passing out pamphlets in the Garment District for a men's clothing store sale withdrew the sheet of paper when he saw what the reporter was wearing. The venom cut across race, gender, and socioeconomic lines.

Two burly men yesterday, in the middle of loading a truck with police barricades along Seventh Avenue in Chelsea, pointed fingers and began an impromptu chant with a familiar ring.

"Boston sucks! Boston sucks!"

"You got a long way to go before you can talk dynasty," said Salvatore Leo, a 49-year-old from Staten Island who wore all denim and spoke near Times Square with a toothpick hanging out the corner of his mouth. "You won two World Series in four years. We won four in 10. Come on!"

Revealing a bit of Sox envy, however, he then offered to trade Yankees general manager Brian Cashman for his Red Sox counterpart, Theo Epstein.

"Nothing good ever came from Boston - Denis Leary, Michael Bloomberg," said a grizzled lieutenant in the New York Fire Department, who declined to give his name after grabbing lunch in Chelsea. "When I think of Boston, I think of Bill Buckner. I don't like Boston. At all."

When reminded that the Sox just won the World Series, he said, "You guys are so pompous."

It seems the tables have turned.

Yankees fans have long taken pride in how little attention they paid to the Red Sox and the city they play in. Sox fans were the ones who constantly chanted about how the Yankees, well, stink. They raged about Alex Rodriguez batting a ball out of Bronson Arroyo's hand in Game 6 of the 2004 American League Championship Series. Boston fans mocked Jason Giambi's alleged use of steroids.

But now, New York fans are in a position they are unaccustomed to - second-tier city, at least in terms of one of the greatest sports rivalries of all time. And they don't seem quite sure how to handle it.

"The balance of power is shifting," said Paul Mills, 20, who grew up in Brooklyn wearing Yankees pinstriped baby clothes and only remembered the good times as he hawked the New York Post outside Madison Square Garden. "The Red Sox win the World Series, Joe Torre leaves, A-Rod options out. Everything is crashing down. I don't know what happened. It's really depressing."

Talk radio here was loaded with Yankee fans lamenting the Red Sox win, questioning how they would replace Alex Rodriguez at third base, and asking whether new skipper Joe Girardi could steer them back. In a column headlined "Baseball as we know it is over," Mike Vaccaro yesterday in the New York Post called the Sox "cold-blooded World Series assassins."

Some identified with New York Jets fans - whose team hasn't won a Super Bowl since 1969 - as proof that they can be loyal to losing teams.

And there were only a handful of people yesterday spotted in Red Sox gear.

"I go through a lot of trouble here," said Henry Rodriguez, 25, who proudly wore a flat-billed Red Sox cap. "People honk their horn, yell, '[Expletive] the Sox!' It feels good."

A cab driver declined to drive a Sox-clad reporter to Yankee Stadium, saying it would not end well.

"Nah, brah, you don't want to go there," he said. "You're going to get pushed, shoved, and punched in the face."

But a ride on the Number 4 train to 161st street revealed a different scene.

While Yawkey Way was crowded yesterday with fans loading up on the T-shirts and caps declaring themselves World Champions, the souvenir stores lining Yankee Stadium were all shuttered.

At the Sports Bar & Grill the lights were out, barstools were on the tables, and the black-and-white photos of Joe DiMaggio, Babe Ruth, and Mickey Mantle looked over an empty room.

John Quirk, a 36-year-old bartender at the Yankee Tavern and former minor league pitcher, said he had no ill will toward the Red Sox. But in the next breath, he said, "Dustin Pedroia, I hate that little . . ." The word he used wasn't a term of endearment.

He then uttered a mantra familiar to Sox faithful - or at least it used to be.

"Wait till next year."

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