As I sit here alone on my couch mourning the loss of the Boston Celtics to the fucking hated Los Angeles Lakers, I am sad. Nay, I am downtrodden. I’m pissed off, I’m frustrated and I’m downright melancholy. So why is it, while I’m furiously stewing in my own misery, that I can’t help but think fondly of my father?
I know I’m part of a “new” crop of dads and we’re all about positivity and bucking stereotypes, but as Father’s Day approaches I personally find it fitting to focus on the misery my father and I share. Specifically where sports are concerned.
You all know I’m a sports nut. And most of you know I came to be that way mainly because of my father. Generations of my family have grown up living near Boston, and that means we all inherited the Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics and Bruins. And when I say inherit, I mean it. You don’t choose who you root for, it just happens. Love for Boston sports is no more an option than your eye color and the inability to avoid the word “wicked.”
Now those of you only partially attuned to the sports universe probably think it’s great to be a Boston fan because recently the Patriots won three Super Bowls, the Red Sox claimed two World Series trophies and the Celtics won the NBA Finals in 2008. I won’t lie, it has been great. Otherworldly even. But prior to the Patriots first SB win during the 2001 season, this was not the case at all.
The Patriots were the laughingstock of the NFL for years. The Celtics were once great, but hadn’t won a title since 1986. And the Red Sox, well, the Red Sox were a fucking Greek tragedy. A lack of space prevents me from detailing the epic failures of the pre-2004 Boston Red Sox, but all you need to know is the Red Sox didn’t just lose games. They tore your heart out. They actually discovered new ways to lose which, if forced on terrorists, would be more effective than anything Jack Bauer could dream up.
During Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, the Red Sox were two runs ahead of the Mets going into the bottom of the 10th inning. They retired the first two batters. That means they were one out — just one out — away from winning. But the Mets got a hit. And then another. And then another. And the tying run scored on a wild pitch of all things. During that stretch, the Red Sox were one strike away from winning the series a half dozen times. I kid you not. But the game was still tied and the Sox still had life. Mookie Wilson hit about as routine of a ground ball as you get toward the first baseman, Bill Buckner, who then let the ball roll through his legs to lose the game. It was a notorious moment, and one that still brings a grimace (and possibly a punch to the face) from Red Sox fans when you bring it up.
And the black cloud hanging over everything was that they hadn’t won a World Series since 1918. That’s 86 years.
That may have been the pinnacle of disappointment for Boston fans, but it is one instance in a long line of examples that bonded us together. Because it used to take a special kind of person to be a Boston sports fan. To come so close, so many times, and always come up short? It created a brotherhood of tortured souls. A bevy of pessimists who knew disappointment was bearing down on them like a freight train, yet always stood directly on the tracks with the misguided hope that maybe it would stop this time. And no matter how bad it got, or how horribly they toyed with us, we always came back to them with renewed hope and optimism. Year after year, season after season.
The men in my family care about sports. Probably a little too much. But the point is, we really do care. We’re passionate to a fault. We don’t watch big games so much as live out every single moment. When Pedro pitched for the Red Sox we’d line up shoes in front of the TV for every strikeout. When they played the Yankees we’d put a Yankees mug in the toilet for the duration of the game. We pass around lucky bats and balls. We wear specific shirts for good luck and we’re not against watching games from outside the house if we think it’s lucky. We once locked my mom out of the house during the 2004 ALCS against the Angels because Vlad Guerrero hit a grand slam as soon as she came inside.
Some people think I’m totally fucked because of this. To devote this much time and attach this much meaning to a game. But you know what? I like the way I am. And I like the way my dad is. He’s 54 years old but when he’s watching a big game he’s like a teenager. He’s pacing, yelling, screaming and cheering because he’s devoted. Loyal. You root for one team and you stick with them, even when they suck. Yes you’re allowed to mock them and say awful things about them, but that’s OK because you’re stuck with them and you’ll be there for them regardless. Kind of like family.
When they win and actually reward your fanaticism it’s fantastic. This video is proof of that:
But when they lose and crush your spirit, somehow that bonds becomes even deeper and more pronounced. That which doesn’t kill you makes you more pissed off or something like that.
For instance, the late 80s and early 90s were not a good time for the New England Patriots. My dad had season tickets, and we watched our 1-15 Pats get creamed every Sunday while sitting on uncomfortable aluminum benches with no backs in a shoddy stadium while the December rain, snow and sleet pounded us during a meaningless loss. Sounds miserable right? In a way it was, but those games also gave me some of my most cherished memories with my dad. Father and son, braving the elements, loyal to a team most others had abandoned long ago. True fans. Diehards. The ones who never gave up hope and came back year after year. Battle-tested.
Will just turned 2 in April. He’s already been to a Red Sox game and a Celtics game. The first of many. I will teach him loyalty. Passion. Resiliency. I will show him how to be a good fan, and remind him that fan is short for fanatic. Because it’s OK to be a sports nutcase. And he will know he’s with kindred spirits of like-minded crazies. It’s something we’ll always be able to talk about, even when he’s an obnoxious teenager. It will be a lifelong bond between the two of us that will last as long as I’m breathing.
And I know this because my dad has shown me the blueprint. Happy Father’s Day to all!
When you’re done here check out Dad-Blogs and Fatherhood Friday, where I wish all the dads a great Father’s Day. Except the LA Lakers fans. They can suck my ass. today.