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Oct 11, 2006:

20/20 Commentary



Schadenfreude (n) (German) [SHA-d’n-froy-duh] joy in another’s misfortune

OCT. 10, 2006 -- In my office, hanging in places of honor, I’ve proudly displayed the front and back covers of the New York Post’s October 21, 2004 edition, headlines screaming “Damned Yankees” and “What a Choke” in typical Post 48-point type. I didn’t hang up anything about the Red Sox winning the pennant.

A week later, when they won the World Series I didn’t hang up anything about that. No, what resonated with me was not the uplifting of the Sox to the rarified air of the Winner’s Circle; it was the abasement of the Yankees to the lowest low of their modern history.

It was, in short, Schadenfreude. And oh, does it feel good – when you’re on the right side of it. When it’s your team that’s getting its assets kicked in, it doesn’t feel very good at all.

Take for example the Pinstripers’ five-game sweep of the Sox at Fenway (a sweep that Gotham wags have already christened “The second Boston Massacre”) earlier this year. It caused Yankee fans everywhere to forget about the embarrassment of 2004 and revel in the Sox’ misfortunes. One didn’t hear about how the Yankees solidified their position as leaders of the AL East. One heard about how they took the boots to the Red Sox but good.

In fact, that was DOUBLE Schadenfreude. Not only did Bombers fans revel in our misfortune, most Sox fans gnashed their teeth not because we lost ground to the first place team, but because it was the Yankees who abased us so completely.

But such is the nature of a sports rivalry that redemption is ever around the next corner, and, if the rivalry is heated enough, your team doesn’t even have to be playing to take part.

With the Detroit Tigers’ swift, shocking, and decisive elimination of the Yankees this past weekend, Sox fans are walking with a little more glide in their stride than they were last week. Why? Schadenfreude, and a heapin’ helpin’ of it.

Not only did the Yankees lose, but the speed and manner of their losing has sent the organization into full tailspin. Fat George is blustering; Joe Torre, the classiest man in that clubhouse by a furlong, is in jeopardy of losing his job; A-Rod is answering questions about ditching his no-trade clause.

And Red Sox fans are soaking up every glorious minute of it.

Dave Smith, from Saugus, can barely contain his glee at the Pinstripers’ downfall: “I just think about what happened about a month ago, when the press was nitpicking about [David] Ortiz’s comments about the MVP, and Jeter got all smug and said something like ‘all we care about is winning.’ And how far did that get them? Four more games than us. They didn’t win [anything].”

Of course, we know how this year’s version of the Steinbrenner Follies will play out: Brian Cashman will make a few smart moves, Fat George will belay them with a few stupid ones, and he’ll open the checkbook like it’s never been opened before. Maybe this year he spends $250 million between buying out his ancient underperformers and signing the best free-agent talent on the market. And it’s as likely as not that he’ll end up buying another dysfunctional team who is weighted down so heavily with the burden of expectation that despite winning 95 games in the regular season they’ll fail to win three in October.

Here’s hoping, anyway. Because when it’s all said and done, Schadenfreude feels pretty damn good.

Gary Jacobs, Boston Dirt Dogs contributor. E-mail Gary

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