Sox-Yanks and 24 Points
Have times ever changed. Tonight the Red Sox and Yankees renew their rivalry on ESPN while the two hour season finale of “24” runs simultaneously on Fox. If this were three years ago I would be beside myself. I would be angered at the level of my own excitement, because, of course I would be mired in a serious conundrum.
24 or Sox-Yanks? Jack or Pedro? Kingsley or Jeter? Since this kind of dilemma occurred annually from 2003-05, I got used to biting the bullet and taping 24, because Sox-Yanks was just too riveting to miss.
These days the “rivalry” is watered down to the point where one run games are the anomaly as opposed to the norm, and the singular buzz that used to surround every series ceases to be. Sure, they still attract wild amounts of fans and media and play the occasional fantastic game. For the most part though, the matchups have assumed the feeling of just another baseball game, and not yet another chapter in the ongoing saga of the Red Sox and Yankees. There hasn’t been a brawl since ’04, hasn’t even been a game so induced with emotion and passion that Derek Jeter has seen fit to charge into the stands to procure an out.
Simply stated, there hasn’t been a general, steadfast refusal to lose on the part of the players. That goes for both sides. Just look at recent history. Last year the Red Sox allowed the Yankees to come into Fenway in the middle of August in a pennant race, and disrobe them. Five straight? Excuse me? Then at the beginning of this season the Yankees watched, wide-eyed, as the Red Sox came from behind in three straight games at Fenway before getting smacked down in two of three the next weekend at the Stadium.
It’s almost as if the rivalry has turned into a give and take of touché. Humiliated at Fenway? Props Yanks. Toyed with at Yankee Stadium? Too-freakin-shay Sox.
Sorry but this would have never happened in the ’03-’05 heyday because those teams so mutually abhorred the prospect of defeat at the expense of the other that they would scratch and claw with everything they had to avoid that outcome. During that period if you took a sample size of any 12 consecutive games one team would have six wins and the other would have six wins. Game times would average almost five hours. The games themselves would average a good deal more than nine innings. Box and line scores would be irrelevant. Hell, there was only so much Sportscenter could do. Unless you were a part of it, the Sox-Yanks experience, you couldn’t do it justice. There was no such thing as the casual or outside observer; the magnitude of the thing wouldn’t allow it.
It used to be the same with 24. From 2002-04 every Tuesday night from 9-10 pm was specially reserved for another sixty-minute slice of Jack Bauer’s harrowing day. The audience was niche and the plots were taboo. The humanity of Jack was still a concept and not a punchline. The twists were unforgettable and the endings were groundbreaking. The purpose of the show was to present an adversarial point of view and run with it, even walk the fine line of subversion. It was timely, relevant, and realistic in a grisly way only achievable post-9/11.
Above all though, it was novel. No longer. Like anything in the entertainment realm, once it became too widespread it was doomed. Doomed to be ruled by the dollar and not the novelty. And let’s face it, when the first three seasons revolve around an elaborate assassination plot, a cohort of oil giants using Islamic extremists to detonate a nuke in LA to boost business, and the dispensing of a gruesome and deadly virus on innocents, there’s only so much horror to explore.
Then there’s Jack. Originally a Federal Agent-turned man apart, the character has become so banal that there are actually betting lines on the over/under on the number of his kills in any given episode. What used to be a unique narrative about a man struggling to salvage a few ions of humanity while fighting evil has turned into the Jack Bauer power hour. The questions surrounding season finales used to be along the lines of how is Jack going to save his wife and daughter? Or how is Jack going to prevent a school full of children from being attacked? And most importantly, will the hour end with Jack’s death?
Three seasons later, I’ve stopped asking those questions. Jack won’t die because Fox won’t let him. He’s too lucrative. Not to mention so uniquely lethal. Tonight, the question is something like how many Chinese and/or Russians and/or family members is Jack going to off in his latest blaze of glory? This is the question I ask myself, and in the same breath, who’s going to win, Red Sox or Yankees? On both accounts am I eager to discover the answer? Of course. Will I watch and be entertained? Naturally.
But will it ever be like it the old days again? With 24, not a chance. The show is now just another franchise, so if you want a real taste of it buy the DVDs of any or all of the first three seasons. The verdict is still out on Sox-Yanks because we do have a-now-three-years-pending ALCS rubber match to tackle, but that’s a long ways off.
In the meantime I’ll stake my rep on “over 11” for Jack tonight.’