On Thursday night, while at a reading, I received two pieces of news: John Hughes, director of Sixteen Candles, had died. And the Yankees were beating the Red Sox, 9-3 (They went on to win, 13-6). The most surprising thing about these two bits of info: I didn’t even know the Yankees and Red Sox were playing.
When I came to college in New York in 1991 (the year of Hughes’s last film as director, the Jim Belushi-vehicle Curly Sue) I hopped onto the Yankee bandwagon. In the ensuing years, I looked forward to each Yankee-Red Sox series like it was a holiday, an incredible holiday that lasted three or four days at a time and repeated throughout the summer and sometimes in the fall with increasing reverence and fervor. I felt that the whole city of New York with its legions of Yankee and Red Sox fans was celebrating with me. Looking back now it’s hard to remember that passion in the same way it’s hard to remember taking a John Hughes movie seriously, not that I ever took them too seriously, except maybe The Breakfast Club.
I don’t care about the Yankees any more. There are lots of straightforward reasons for this: I never liked Giambi or A-Rod or Roger Clemens; the whole Yankee clubhouse in fact got a little gross. But there is something else missing from today’s Yanks and Sox games, which John Hughes brings to mind.
It may be just the haze of nostalgia, but it seems to me that teen movies in the Reagan years were much more class-conscious than they have been since. They drew strong divisions between the insiders, the rich successful citizens of America, and the outsiders, poorer punks with broken homes. Hughes’s screenplay for Pretty in Pink (1986) depended largely on a black-and-white distinction between record-store dwellers, Duckie, Annie Potts, and Molly Ringwald, and the Polo bourgeoisie, James Spader and Andrew McCarthy. It was easy to pick a side.
Movies after the Clinton boom, though, like Bring It On or She’s All That, had an earnest investment in a happy multiculturalism where the rich and popular aren’t so bad if you just get to know them, and everyone has an opportunity to join them. They were NAFTA movies.
Before the steroid witch-hunts and the BoSox successful emulation of their talent-buying rivals, the Yankees and Sox games used to divide the world like John Hughes’ movies. Lines were drawn between the evil empire and the beaten-down outsiders of Red Sox nation.
So why did I side with the Yankees, the James Spaders of baseball? Well, geography for one. But I also never bought into the Red Sox self-pity. They had one of the largest payrolls in baseball and a huge fan base. They were more Andrew McCarthy, the simpering liberal rich kid, than they were Duckie. And no man likes Andrew McCarthy.
Whichever team you liked, there was something grandiose in the fight. Or maybe that’s just nostalgia talking. Regardless, the Yankees and Red Sox of today seem to me like Pepsi and Coke. I don’t really drink very much soda. But if I did, I’d take Coke. And I’m a little happy the Yankees swept.