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JACKIE MACMULLAN

Use reverse psychology

NEW YORK -- I am here to help.

As we embark on another installment of the fabled Red Sox-Yankees rivalry, it will be my job to make sure you are not bowled over by the usual waves of emotion that accompany this long, painful exercise in futility.

Do not, I repeat, do not, fall into this trap again. It will only cause acute pain and suffering, and no jury will award you damages, even though your agony could be proven beyond any reasonable doubt.

Think of all the material losses you've suffered when your temper has gotten the better of you. There was Aunt Mabel's antique porcelain toothpick holder in 1978 (and you wonder why she left you out of her will), the kids' pet iguana in '86 (his name was "Buck"), and, of course, last season, your Yankee-blue BMW convertible. Told you not to buy that color. What made you think spray painting it with that pathetic, vulgar chant that reeks of "We're second place!" would make you feel any better?

There is only one way to survive the next nine days. You must approach this series as though you are seeing those pinstripe uniforms for the first time. Delving into the past is counterproductive. It will only stir negative feelings and memories that enrage even the most docile housewife. Consider poor Mrs. McGillicuddy next door. She's out on parole next month, but she's coming home sporting a "Yankees are my daddy" tattoo.

Come on, now. We can do this. Let's wipe the slate clean, and lapse blissfully into a state of baseball amnesia.

The first test will come almost immediately. A tough-looking character with slicked-back hair and an arrogant spring in his step -- a New York subway operator, no doubt -- will identify you as a pitiful Red Sox fan by the sight of your now-defunct Nomar jersey. He'll sidle up alongside you and sneer, "I've got two words for you, loser: Aaron Boone."

Now, you will have no trouble handling this insult. "Aaron Boone," you will reply politely. "Yes, he plays for the Indians, I believe. Hurt his knee. Nice kid. Good baseball family. Please tell him I hope he recovers soon."

Doesn't that feel better? Your blood pressure is stable, your material goods are untouched. You succeeded in fighting the urge to assume the fetal position and moan incessantly for days, while urgent calls from your office go unanswered. See that? You won't get fired this time, thus avoiding a stint at the local convenience store selling lip gloss and fake tattoos that say "the Yankees are my daddy."

But you are not done. No, there are more pitfalls at every turn. If you are fortunate enough to possess a ticket for today's Game 1 showdown in the American League Championship Series in the Bronx, there's a good chance some grandmother from Queens who vaguely resembles Tyne Daly in "Cagney & Lacey" will jump out from behind a replica of one of those 26 Yankees championship banners and ambush you with "Grady Little!"

Breathe deep, think happy thoughts. Pop a valium if it helps (you should have many of them handy throughout this exercise). Smile sweetly, turn to granny, and say, "Yes, he is my choice as the new Phillies manager as well."

No one is saying this will be easy -- but it is necessary. Whenever the Red Sox and their loyal fans get personal against New York, something terrible happens. Surely you remember what happened to Pedro Martinez after he said to wake Babe Ruth and he'd drill him in the posterior. Petey still rues the day he uttered those words. Almost immediately afterward, he developed terrible shoulder problems, forgot how to strike out Yankee batters, threw a ball at Jorge Posada's noggin, tossed aside senior citizen (and former Sox manager) Don Zimmer like a rag doll, and finally declared his most bitter rivals "my daddies."

We aren't going to talk about that today. Pedro's problems are in the past. Boston's sensitive, resilient pitcher is a client now, and he has eliminated his previous New York state of mind from his memory bank. He has no recollection of the brawl at Fenway; in fact, if you ask him who Zimmer is, he'll tell you he's an aging, cantankerous coach with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

Martinez has bought into this, believe me. In fact, he's huddling with catcher Jason Varitek at this very moment, studying charts of the potent New York offense, trying to determine whether there is any correlation between the fact that this Matsui guy has a very big bat and a very big head.

You say emotions are what make the Red Sox-Yankees showdowns so much better than other sporting events. You insist the passion that drives your intense feelings for that team in New York is what will make beating them that much sweeter.

You are right. Nobody would ever go see a play called "Damn Orioles."

And here's the thing. This year is different from last season. Boston's team is deeper, more versatile, and infinitely more defensively sound than the group that had its hearts stomped on in Game 7 last October. The Red Sox will trot out a pitcher today, Curt Schilling, who really does have a clean slate with your mortal enemy.

Maybe it's OK to let just a little bit of your feelings show through when your team takes on the Evil Empire tonight.

But please, I'm begging you. Don't get carried away. Don't conjure up visions of Wade Boggs atop an NYPD horse, taking victory laps around Yankee Stadium. Refrain from thinking about Roger Clemens, in the "twilight of his career," smugly flashing his Yankees championship ring in your face.

Repeat after me. This Is The Year. This Is The Year.

It better be. The kids have a new pet, and it's a very expensive parrot that recites a certain vulgar Yankee chant on cue.

Jackie MacMullan is a Globe columnist. Her e-mail address is macmullan@globe.com. 

In Today's Globe
LATEST RESULTS
Wednesday RHE
Red Sox 1 5 0
Yankees 3 7 0
WP: Lieber LP: Martinez
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Game 3: Sat., 8:19 p.m.
TV: Fox, Ch. 25 Radio: 850-AM
Starting pitchers:
BOS: Arroyo NYY: Brown
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Friday's postponed Game 3 will be made up Monday, if necessary. Fans with tickets to Friday's game can use those tickets Monday.
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