Saturday, May 1, 2010

Tales from Abroad: Yanks & Sox Still Unequal

Across the US, the Yankees and the Red Sox are both synonymous with winning. (The two teams have combined to win four of the last nine titles, to say nothing of their division and league success.)

They're also synonymous with baseball - all the history, all the current financial balance questions, and all the "cool" of donning those logos. You can't speak of sports or Major League Baseball in this country without bringing these two franchises into the conversation.

Yet abroad, the story is much different. Though the number of Sox fans has been growing by leaps and bounds since '04, the Yankees remain much more visible -- partly due to their baseball team and partly due to the popularity of that interlocking N-Y. Through international stars on and off the field (Jay-Z, Hideki Matsui, Mariano Rivera, etc.), international endorsements of all kinds (Derek Jeter and Gatorade or Nike's Jumpman apparel, to name two), and unbelievable feats on the field, the Yankees have reached international shores in every conceivable way.

While I was in Rome, I walked down Via del Corso, a packed street in the heart of the city renowned for its shopping and style. Consider it the Fifth Avenue of Rome. I was struck by how many Yanks hats walked past me -- many, it seemed, worn by locals.

In two weeks in Italy in Rome, Florence, Amalfi and Capri, I failed to see a single Sox hat. Coincidence? I'm sure it was. But the key point here is that I saw more Yanks hats 4,000 miles from New York than I do 300 miles away in Boston.

Take a look at this Google tool, called Insights for Search, which reveals the search volume on Google for various terms. In this case, when neither the Sox or Yanks win a title ('05, '06, and '08) the Yanks double the search volume of the Sox. Even in championship years for Boston, they only manage to surpass New York in the month of or following their victory.

An even closer look below the graph reveals that the Yanks far surpass the Sox in Google searches out of Rome and Milan, two of Italy's most developed and international cities.

But there's more. Take a look at the following countries too-

Finally, take a look at the most popular MLB teams on Facebook and Twitter (both international sites launched in the US), and the numbers are quite staggering.

It's good being home in Boston, but in an altogether too strange way, I was even more at home in Rome.

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