I know most of you — my wonderful and loyal readers — are women and mothers. Some of you may love sports, but I’m guessing the majority of you don’t. In fact, my fanaticism for Boston sports teams has earned me some fairly harsh criticism at times. But read this, keep an open mind, and maybe you’ll see where I’m coming from.
Because tonight reminded me why I wanted to become a parent in the first place. Well, not the whole night. Actually most of the night was spent at a municipal meeting, which was excruciatingly painful because it meant I was missing Game 4 of the Red Sox vs. Angels series. I was getting constant text messages updating me on scores, but it’s still not the same. In a perfect and fair world I would’ve been keeping my son up way past his bedtime, propping him up on my knee and the two of us would’ve watched some playoff baseball.
You have to understand, sports are such a huge part of my life. My father passed it down to us and his grandfather passed the Red Sox and Patriots down to him. And if you know anything about the Red Sox, it meant my brother and I became well versed in pessimism, disappointment and heartache at an early age. However, it simultaneously taught us to be passionate, dedicated and loyal at all costs. I still remember my first game at Fenway. The Green Monster was the biggest thing I’d ever seen. Roger Clemens was pitching when Roger Clemens was still a god and not some steroid laden jerk. Over the years we went to countless games and if we weren’t there, we were watching on TV.
But not all the memories are good ones. I remember listening to my Dad cry in 1986 and I personally blamed Marty Barrett for making the last out of the game during Game 7 in that series. I remember being in college near New York state and suffering the indignities of the 1999 ALCS against the Yankees. Then, in 2003, my generation got it’s very own Buckner moment when Aaron “Bleepin” Boone hit a game winning homer off of Tim Wakefield in Game 7 of the ALCS. I nearly cracked after that one. I wasn’t myself for a good month and I constantly felt like strolling into traffic.
But then 2004 came and the Greatest Comeback of All Time against the Yankees. Big Papi hitting walkoff after walkoff, Curt Schilling pitching through pain like a gladiator and before I knew it the impossible had happened and the Yankees were dead. Four short games later it was a ground ball to Keith Foulke, who flipped to Mientkiewicz and the Red Sox were World Champions. I spent that night with my Dad and my brother (and MJ while we were dating). I could’ve gone to the city with my friends to celebrate, but that just wasn’t an option. There was only one place to be and that was with my Dad. The guy who taught us about the game and, despite his limited athletic ability (sorry Dad), somehow turned my brother and I into all star baseball players as kids. With the guy who still acts like he’s a 12-year-old sitting in the bleachers during games. I trained a video camera on him just before the last out was recorded, because as happy as I was I knew it meant more to him. Because you have to understand, it had been 86 years between titles. My dad honestly thought he was going to die before he saw a Red Sox world series. Can you imagine investing more than 6 months a year, three hours every night for your entire life with no payoff? That was what it was like being a Sox fan.
I’ll never forget the look on his face when we won it all. Shock, disbelief, unadulterated joy and finally appreciation. And that appreciation wasn’t meant for the Red Sox. It was meant for me and my brother. I know he’ll always be thrilled beyond words that Nate and I chose to be with him at that moment. But what he doesn’t know is that it wasn’t a choice for us. It was just the way it had to be.
Because he’s our dad and at the risk of sounding like a misogynist, there is something so ridiculously special about fathers and baseball. Something that automatically binds and weaves together generations. That’s why I won’t be friends with people who don’t like Field of Dreams. If you don’t like Field of Dreams, don’t ever come back to this blog. For you are without a heart and I don’t want to know you. When Kevin Costner and his dad play catch at the end…sorry, I’ve got something in my eye.
Tonight the Red Sox won in the 9th inning of a tension-packed game. I made it home just in time to see it. When Jed Lowrie knocked in the winning run I jumped around, yelled, hopped on the couch…and made a beeline for the nursery.
“Don’t you dare wake that baby up,” was the hissing sound I was met with from my bedroom.
But of course, I went in anyways. And I went in to see him because when MJ first told me she was pregnant, I had a vision. I had a vision of me, holding a baby boy decked out in Red Sox gear. It was clearly October and the two of us were standing in front of the TV cheering on the Sox in the late innings. Bases loaded, two outs, and BOOM — the Sox get the winning hit and Fenway Park explodes. I run around the house holding my son, throwing him up in the air, laughing and giggling and teaching him the importance of what just happened.
But since I pissed off my wife last night when I woke Will after I came home, I decided to play it safe. So I leaned down and excitedly whispered “Hey buddy, the Red Sox won! We’re going to the ALCS!” To my surprise, he opened his eyes up wide, focused them on me and smiled what I will go to my grave believing was a very knowing smile, like he knew exactly what I was telling him. Then he rolled over and went back to sleep.
I hope he understands that if the Red Sox make it to the brink of another World Series win later this month, he’s coming with me to Grandpa’s house. Three generations of Sox fans, the newest one getting indoctrinated into a special club he will only appreciate years from now.
Because for the non-sports loving contingent out there, THAT is what sports is all about if you’re a real fan. It’s about passing on a tradition. It’s about staying together and remaining loyal through thick and thin. It’s knowing that once all these bandwagon Red Sox fans move on when the team isn’t good anymore, we’ll still be there at every game. And no matter what is going on in our lives, no matter if we had a huge fight and exchange “I hate yous,” we’ll always be able to come back to baseball as the bridge. As the bandaid. As the common denominator. As the tie that binds.
So LET’S GO RED SOX! It’s time for my son’s first World Series title!!