Yankees Red Sox London photo

Clockwise from top left, Steve Wintemeir, Carrie Catlin, Matthew Hart, Jean Leddy Hart, Peter Catlin, Shannon Catlin and Mike Egan at the 2019 London Yankees vs. Red Sox game.

With the U.S. presidential election on the horizon, the political debates have started and spouses, sometimes, take up opposing sides or points of view.

But there is an even bigger debate taking place year after year — whose sports team is better?

When a fan marries someone whose favorite team is a direct rival, the debate can get thorny.

Lockwood Road residents Jean Leddy and Matthew Hart, for example, root for the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox, respectively.

Hart said that when he found out Leddy was a Yankees fan it was almost a deal breaker, and when the two wear their Red Sox or Yankees gear to games, fans ask how they could have “married the enemy.” But the couple, now married five years, have persevered and learned to embrace their differences.

Last weekend, the couple traveled to the U.K. to watch the rival Major League Baseball teams play a two-game series in London’s 2012 Olympic stadium. The adventure “was tough on Jean because we were traveling with four Red Sox fans,” said Hart, “but since the Yankees won both games it was easier.”

Leddy said watching with Hart whenever the teams compete is fun because he is so passionate about sports. “When the Yankees aren’t in, I root for his teams,” she said.

Hart agreed for the most part it’s fun rooting for opposing teams, but he added, “When the Red Sox and Yankees play in the playoffs it’s a little more tense.”

A Gallup poll, based on telephone interviews conducted in October 2017, found that 51% of Americans consider themselves baseball fans, which indicates Major League Baseball is a sport people care deeply about.

But college sports fans can be just as intense as those who root for the MLB. Almost 31 million people attended a college sports event in 2017 and college basketball has become the nation’s second most popular college sport, right behind college football.

Jason and Melissa Eisenberg, residents of Sage Terrace, found out early in their relationship that their favorite college basketball teams were rivals — he is a Duke Blue Devil and she is a third generation University of Wisconsin Badger.

“It wasn’t a huge deal until we had kids and realized that rooting for our respective teams could some day influence where [our kids] would want to go to college,” said Melissa Eisenberg. “So, to plant the seed, I rushed to take the kids to Wisconsin before they could visit Duke.”

When the teams play each other, Eisenberg said, “I can’t watch. I’m so torn between wanting his school to win and my team being the underdogs and deserving to win. When they were against each other in the NCAA finals in 2015 we literally couldn’t watch the game together.”

On the surface it may seem like the rub from diehard fans, fanatic family members and nosey strangers might pull a couple apart. In fact, the opposite is true: couples who root for different teams said the rivalry creates friendly competition and good-natured sportsmanship, steeped in a love of the game itself.

“At the end of the day,” said Leddy, “it’s just a game.”

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