I didn’t pound the desk this time.

Didn’t curse. Didn’t mumble about luck or sigh or throw my hands in the air in exasperation.

I didn’t shut the TV off and bluff firing the remote through the big screen before spinning around and whipping it into the couch cushions.

It took me a minute to realize Raul Ibanez’s ninth-inning pinch-hit home run that tied Wednesday night’s Game 3 against the Baltimore Orioles didn’t provoke the usual visceral reaction which has followed virtually every New York Yankees triumph since I was six years old.

As a long-time observer of the Yankees, I knew that Ibanez’s game-tying home run would eventually have a sequel. Not that I called his next shot, but I knew someone in pinstripes was going to hit a walkoff.

In the past, that would have at least got my blood boiling. But I was actually rather amused that the Yankees’ euphoria came at the expense of Alex Rodriguez, who manager Joe Girardi had pinch hit for with Ibanez. When Ibanez ended it in the 12th, I was already giddy with anticipation of the first insincere ARod quote about being happy for the team.

The Yankees went on to win the series on Friday, then had to turn right around and take on the Detroit Tigers in Game 1 of the ALCS on Saturday. The breaks were already falling their way before the first pitch because Detroit ace Justin Verlander, the best pitcher in baseball, isn’t going to be available to pitch until Game 3 and is, at most, only going to start two games.

But I’m not upset. Which has me worried.

I mean, sure, I still want the Yankees to lose. The more painful the loss the better. A few losses similar to the Washington Nationals’ meltdown on Friday night would be enjoyable.

But that’s because it will make Yankee fans miserable. I can still get behind the idea of Yankee fan misery. I just can’t automatically hate anyone with an interlocking NY on their head or chest anymore. And I think I have the Red Sox to blame.

Is middle age mellowing me? Did the Red Sox’ pathetic, embarassing season neuter me? Have I just accepted their inevitable march to championship No. 28? Do I — oh God, I hate myself for even thinking this — actually respect the Yankees?

Aside from ARod, of course.

I think every Red Sox fan over 40 would agree that there is no comparison between these Yankees and the ones we grew up loathing. Not a single Graig Nettles, Thurman Munson, Lou Piniella, Reggie Jackson, Bucky Dent or Mickey Rivers walks among the current Bronx Bombers. And with his decline, even ARod has become more an object of amusement than contempt.

But that hasn’t stopped me from loathing anything wearing pinstripes in the past. The teams that won four out of five titles at the turn of the millennium were, by all accounts, filled with good guys, the kind of likeable, down to earth, nose-to-the-grindstone players that every fan would love to have on their team. Yet I still hated guys like David Wells and David Cone, so much so that I couldn’t trust them when they joined the Red Sox later in their career.

As for the 2012 Yankees, I could see myself embracing if they joined the Sox. Derek Jeter goes without saying. Robinson Cano is a terrific player. Curtis Granderson is fun to watch and seems to enjoy himself on the field, in stark contrast to so many of this year’s BoSox.

CC Sabathia is a great pitcher. He just takes the ball every fifth day and grinds out between seven and nine innings. Ichiro Suzuki is still one of the most entertaining players in baseball, even at his advanced aged. Any Red Sox fan who resents Derek Lowe for wearing pinstripes should have their “Faith Rewarded” DVD taken away from them. Nick Swisher is annoying, but there’s a pretty good chance he’ll be Boston’s Opening Day first baseman next year, so best to hedge your bets.

The fact is Yankees ownership spends money on professional players who play the game the right way and don’t worry about how many days off they get during the season. The team uses its vast revenue stream the right way, by putting it back into the team (baseball team, Mr. Henry). Public relations isn’t first and foremost on its mind with every move it makes and every word it utters publicly. And the manager isn’t a tireless self-promoter who throws his coaches under the bus the moment something goes wrong.

If it weren’t for their fans, I might actually have rooted for them Saturday night. I’m still yearning for a winter of those fans making excuses. The words “Oh yeah, well at least our team made the playoffs,” will actually be music to my ears.

But if the Yankees win, it’s not really going to keep me awake at night like it once did. The Red Sox’ ineptitude has given me a whole new perspective on the Evil Empire, a perspective I’m not entirely comfortable with right now.

Randy Whitehouse is a staff writer. His email is [email protected]


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