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Kevin Cullen

A blizzard of trash talk

By Kevin Cullen
Globe Columnist / December 27, 2010

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WRIGHTSTOWN, N.J. — So we drove down to South Jersey to spend Christmas with my in-laws, Yankees fans all, which is normally like being asked to spend the weekend in a dentist’s chair.

But this was OK because for the first time ever, the Red Sox had spent more money than the Yankees during the bleak midwinter and, on paper at least, the Olde Towne Team was sitting prettier than the Bronx Bombers at the end of December, so bring it on.

“There’s going to be a blizzard back home,’’ the wife says.

“So,’’ says I, “there’s going to be a blizzard here, too.’’

“So,’’ she says, “maybe we should drive home a day early.’’

What? And pass up the chance to spend yet another day rubbing it in?

Nonsense.

The in-laws from South Jersey had to grin and bear it for two days, but the in-laws from North Jersey were supposed to arrive for Sunday dinner, and they’re not just Yankees fans but Jets fans, too, so there’s no way I was leaving.

There is a downside to all of this, of course. I was away at college, far beyond Route 128, when the Blizzard of 1978 hit, and being absent for that iconic, culturally defining event came at a price. Neighbors and friends treat you like a blow-in, like you’re not really a Bostonian, if you weren’t around for the Blizzard of ’78. It’s like falling asleep before Fisk hit the foul pole in 1975, or being in Cleveland on a business trip when Vinatieri kicked the field goal in 2002, or being on vacation in Aruba when The Curse ended in 2004.

It’s weird being away for something that consumes everyone who works with or lives near you. And no doubt there were thousands of families like ours, outside New England to spend time with relatives, facing the same question: Hit the road early, or stay put and ride out the storm, out of state?

But missing the Blizzard of 2010 in Massachusetts for a tamer version in New Jersey is worth it. The best part, actually, is not that Hank Steinbrenner’s head is about to explode, watching the Red Sox pour wood into the hot stove, but that Cliff Lee, the best pitcher on the free market, snubbed the Yankees and took less money to go to Philadelphia.

Philly is less than an hour’s drive from here, so I took my son down to Rittenhouse Square on Christmas Day and we hugged random Philadelphians. Phillies v. Red Sox would be a very fine World Series.

Yesterday afternoon, as the snow really picked up here, the whole extended family stood around a computer as we Skyped my nephew, who is on his second combat tour of Iraq with the US Army. We’re all very concerned about his safety so, naturally, when it was my turn to talk to him, I said, “Hey, Greg, did you hear about Cliff Lee?’’

Greg Pizzute is an officer, a gentleman, and a Yankees fan, and he ignored my question, which tells you something about the caliber of the young people in our military.

As the snow and the wind got worse, all the people from North Jersey who were supposed to come for dinner wimped out. They called to cancel. Of course, they cited the weather. We knew better. They weren’t about to drive a couple of hours down the Jersey Turnpike in whiteout conditions to listen to some jerk from Boston talk about how great the Red Sox were going to be, how great the Patriots are, how there is no other city in America that could run the table in 2011: football, basketball, hockey, baseball. We could win ’em all. No other city can even come close to saying that.

“You know something,’’ the wife says, “you’re becoming the obnoxious Boston sports fan you used to complain about.’’

I ignored her because there are 49 reasons to do so: Pitchers and catchers report for spring training in 49 days.

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.

Kevin Cullen is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at cullen@globe.com.

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