By Jason Keidel
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You must be an incurable sports junkie to recall something like this, but I remember exactly where I was that day in 2003 when I read that Larry Lucchino called the Yankees the “Evil Empire. ” (I was getting a Subway sandwich shop on Varick Street in Manhattan).  Between Lucchino’s quote and Curt Schilling’s sock, it felt like the Red Sox not only reversed a curse but also usurped the Yankees’ spot as America’s Team.

That, of course, made me despise the Red Sox even more. And the disgust spread to all things New England, including the Patriots, David Ortiz and Ben Affleck. It was chic to root for all things Massachusetts. And Red Sox Nation was at the vortex of this virus.

Boston’s charm was not only in its ancestral role as underdog, but also its prerogative as undermanned vis-à-vis New York — the proletarian versus the privileged. But when you spend $627 million over the last four years — sans one playoff win — you lose your right to gripe over Gotham.

And now Boston’s swan song has sequels, remixes and censors. It has become too ugly for public consumption, and there’s no better microcosm than their manager.

This has been a brutal week for Bobby Valentine. Between his threat to punch a talk-show host in the mouth and Tom Verducci’s dissertation on the dissolution of the 2012 Red Sox, Valentine comes off as a cocktail of Tony Bernazard, Mike Tyson and Jim Mora.

In the Sports Illustrated feature, a baseball executive said that running a baseball team with Valentine as your manager turns you into a “referee” between the players and manager, which “gets old.”

If you said you knew that the results would be this historically bad, you’re flat-out lying. Frankly, I didn’t understand why Terry Francona was fired. Two World Series trophies and killing “The Curse” surely negates a 7-20 September. Or not.

But if the anti-Francona had to happen, I didn’t think that Valentine was a bad idea. If nothing else, it shows how corrosive that clubhouse really was. George Patton couldn’t have gotten the Red Sox to play hard this year.

Which leads to an interesting question: Can you hate your antagonist, your rival, your antichrist, when they suck? It becomes much harder, to be sure. As a Steelers fan, I don’t hate the Raiders the way I did 33 years ago, when George Atkinson and Jack Tatum were punching the snot out of Lynn Swann. Where’s the fun?  Half the hatred springs from the threat of losing to them, either directly or in the standings. Thus, my rancor is redirected at the Ravens.

Now the Red Sox have dumped a quarter-billion dollars in payroll, raised the white flag and made a pennant race moot. They are — gasp! — rebuilding. This is something that can occur anywhere but the Bronx, but it is jarring to see in Boston,  where money flowed exponentially over the last decade and where the Red Sox became eerily similar to the Yankees. Perhaps karma foiled them more than any poor free-agent signing.

It’s almost impossible to hate the Red Sox when they’re this bad. Almost. Stomp them now, before they get good again, which will eventually happen. Eventually.

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What do you think, Yankees fans? Still hate the Sox as much as ever? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below…