In Boston, the Red Sox rule

ROB LONGLEY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:30 AM ET

The question was posed and passed around the bar at the Red Hat Cafe in the heat of Game 3 of what evolved into an epic Boston Red Sox-New York Yankees ALCS.

Like most watering holes on a Beantown Saturday night, the crowd was fixed on the TV screens, the beer was flowing and the volume wheeled up high for a captive audience.

The next afternoon, the New England Patriots were to play the Seattle Seahawks in a bid to win an unmatched 20th consecutive game.

The reigning Super Bowl champions may be considered on the verge of an NFL dynasty, but apparently that only gets you second fiddle status in this part of the American northeast.

So between innings the subject was broached: How many Patriot Super Bowls would it take to match one Red Sox World Series?

The reaction time was instantaneous and the verdict unanimous.

"I don't really know if there could be enough," said Mark Lizotte, a long-suffering Red Sox fan from Malden, Mass.

"You probably couldn't count that high. This is a great sports town, but it is a baseball town first."

Lizotte was wearing a Patriots hat, for the record, but the Red Sox were stitched on his heart.

Still smarting from the Game 7 collapse to the Yankees a year ago, the lifelong fan could barely watch Saturday's Game 3 thrashing that was taking place just across town.

"I just wish they would lose in four," said Lizotte, an opinion that no doubt changed in the following days.

"I can't take what happened last year, not again. I couldn't talk for a month after that."

As much joy as Tom Brady brought in leading the Pats to two Super Bowl wins, the weight of emotion is much heavier with the Red Sox.

When Yankee Aaron Boone shredded the Sox with an 11th-inning homer in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS, it was Bill Buckner, the Curse of the Bambino and everything bad that has ever happened to the Bosox re-enacted.

The Patriots are a diversion, a particularly pleasant one these days given their recent success, but a diversion nonetheless.

Think of the Blue Jays of the early 1990s and multiply to put it in a Toronto context.

Those World Series victories were nice enough, but wasn't the city almost as excited when the Leafs were a game away from just making it to the Stanley Cup final in 1993?

It has been a long haul since 1918 when the Red Sox last won the World Series and it wears on the fans of New England.

Witness the incessant closeup shots of anguished fans at Fenway that Fox has bombarded viewers with the past week.

Hours before Saturday night's game, the folks were lined up hundreds deep at the hotspots on Yawkey Way, the happening zone near the stadium. When the hated Yanks jumped out to a quick lead, you could have heard a pinstripe drop.

Sunday morning in Foxboro, a half-hour's drive south of downtown Boston, the tailgaters were trying to put aside their gloom for a temporary taste of good cheer.

Like all Boston pro teams, the Patriots clearly tap into a regional following.

In the parking lot at Gillette Stadium, there are license plates from a half-dozen New England States -- Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Connecticut and, of course, Massachusetts.

Many were mixing their garb -- Sox hats with Pats jerseys -- and baseball was still the hottest topic of conversation.

Then, as they have for 20 consecutive games and counting now, the Patriots delivered.

The sellout crowd at Gillette celebrated, but not for long.

There was another baseball game to watch, after all.

"The Patriots are fun to follow when they are winning," Bostonian Brandon Smith said. "But the Red Sox are religion. If the Sox lose, it's a heartbreak.

"That's just the way it is."


Photos