Monday, December 27, 2010

Why Couldn't He Be a Drug Addict Like the Other Kids?

By the time my son Ryan was ten years old, he'd already been playing baseball for a few years. He knew the game, was a decent player, and had developed an interest in what was going on in the Major Leagues.

I've been a Yankees fan since I was about five. My grandfather went out to Yankee Stadium during the Ruth-Gehrig days, my dad grew up in the era of Mantle and Maris, and I enjoyed the Munson-Jackson "Bronx Zoo" period of the 70's. In short, our family DNA was encoded with pinstripes. It wasn't until I was 14, in fact, that I found out that "we'll root, root, root for the YAN-KEES!" weren't the original "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" lyrics.

So when my son dropped the bomb on me, right in the middle of the game we were watching on ESPN, I was completely caught off guard.

"Dad, I don't think I'm gonna be a Yankees fan. I don't really like them that much. I have another favorite team."

Not a Yankees fan? Excuse me?

Once the initial shock wore off, I decided I'd be better off staying calm and trying to understand. I mean, Ryan was a Southern California kid, after all. He didn't have the same hometown loyalty that I'd had growing up in New Jersey. I'd just approach the situation lightly.


I didn't actually say that. I thought it, but I didn't say it. What I said was, "Okay, this favorite team of yours, is it the Dodgers?"

I felt like a suspicious husband questioning his philandering wife. "Is it that Italian-looking guy that you work with?"

"Nah, not the Dodgers."

"The Angels then?" We didn't live that far from Anaheim, and they'd just won the World Series the year before. Maybe he'd gotten caught up in the hoopla at school or something, hanging out with the wrong crowd.

"No, I hate the Angels. My favorite team is the Red Sox."

It knocked the wind out of me like a clenched Fisk to the solar plexus.

My son, my very own flesh and blood, the child I looked upon adoringly the day he was born and swore to raise and protect to the ends of the earth. The kid who peed in my ear the very first time I tried to change his diaper.

A friggin' Boston Red Sox fan.

The betrayal to the family alone was unforgivable. Imagine a Kennedy not wanting to go into politics or a Corleone treating a snitch with forgiveness and a smile.

At first, I blamed myself. I hadn't schooled him in Yankee history early enough. I assumed too much, thought that the bloodline alone would be enough to make a Yankees fan of the boy. Instead of Green Eggs and Ham, I should've been reading him Bucky Dent: The Little Shortstop that Could. Or maybe The Story of Reggie's Three Dingers.

I talked to my dad about it. He was disappointed, as you would imagine, and he also laid the blame squarely on my shoulders. "How could you let this happen?" he asked.

"Well, it could be worse, right? Ryan could hate baseball entirely."

"That wouldn't be worse."

"What do you mean?"

"Let me put it this way, would you rather your kid hate politics or be a member of the Nazi Party?"

As always, Dad had a point.So now I had to deal with the fact that Ryan was our family's version of Fredo.

"Ryan, you're my son and I love you. But don't EVER take sides with anyone against the Yankees again."

I was distraught. I noticed myself working through the stages of grief.

Denial: "There's no way he actually likes the Red Sox. He's just trying to get my attention."

Anger: "Take off that David Ortiz t-shirt this instant, or you're grounded for a month!"

Bargaining: "Look, Ryan, let me get you a cool Yankees jacket and we'll go see them when they're in town. I'll even throw in an authentic Mariano Rivera jersey."

Depression: "I'm a failure as a father. I've broken the family tradition by allowing my son to root for Team Anti-Christ."

Acceptance: Focus on my other child, Ryan's little sister. "Hey, Lindsay! Let me tell you a story about a cute shortstop named Bucky Dent!"

So now Linds has her very own Derek Jeter t-shirt and Yankees cap.

And someday, Ryan is going to have a son of his own. I'm not going to make the same mistake twice. This time I'm going to nurture the Yankee blood that I know is still in there, and bring true Bronx Bomber spirit back to the family name. I'm gonna babysit my little grandson every chance I get and tell him all the old stories about Mr. October, Louisiana Lightning, Goose and Sparky.

I don't know what my grandson's name will be. Ryan might give him a name like Steven or Michael, Seth or Kyle, Jason or Patrick.

But no matter what his name might be, I'm callin' the kid "Bucky".


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Eva Gallant said...

No sympathy here....I'm a tried and true Red Sox Fan. More power to you, Ryan, I say, for seeing the light, despite your upbringing! If it's any comfort, my stepson in a Yankee fan. I don't speak to him much.

ReformingGeek said...

Ah, poor Knucklehead.


My cousin's daughter (age 13) is a big Red Sox fan. I just don't get it.

What did you expect from a kid that peed in your ear?

skip said...

I can't wait to see how Suldog responds to this.

Mr. Condescending said...

This is atrocious. This is wrong on so many levels.

A Mountain Momma said...

Seeing as there is such an intense rivalry between the Red Sox and the Yankees doesn't this open up a whole new world of interesting father-son interactions and new avenues for ridicule?

Sounds good to me.

Now if I could only get my daughter to hate the Canucks, it would give her and her dad something else to fight about when she starts wearing too much make up.

Chrissy said...

Bucky! He was so dreamy....

Hope you guys had a great Christmas!

Suldog said...

About time someone in your family showed some smarts. The only thing better would be if he was a Celtics fan.

If I were God... said...

Baseball, really?
It's New Year's Eve! (almost)
Get your head outta the infield and into the champagne!

Let me help you into the spirit. I wrote this for Fred -like 10 minutes ago-, but maybe you need it more:

'Twas the night before New Year's
and all through my cock
the blood was collecting
making it hard as a rock

it stood so tall and so proud
with a wide grin right on it
I know some drunk chick
sooner or later will want it

it's a tradition for sure
even God understands
one night all can let loose
and I don't need my hands

when it's over I'll tell her
it's time to leave my dear
you don't have to go home
but you can't puke in here

MikeWJ at Too Many Mornings said...

Best. Post. Ever.

Love it, Knuck. And dump the kid. He's obviously a loser.

Fred Miller said...

If you want a value-neutral grandchild, name him/her Fred. The name renders you sterile. I have no loyalties and can root for any MLB or NFL team on command. I was raised on George Brett, but I love Mr. October. See? I am a Republican, but I vote mostly Democrat. In Kansas! I'm telling you. "Fred" is the safest name if you're worried.

If I Were God... said...

I think the reverse of Fred has interesting possibilities: Derf
Hear me out; It has the simplicity of 'Fred', with the jaunty new-age twist of turning it 'round, topped off by the implied durability of 'Nerf' -the best ball a kid could ask for.

(Do NOT forget to teach him how to box, Nerf will be in a LOT of fights)

Peter Varvel said...

Ha ha ha ha ha!
My fear was always that, if I had become a parent, there would be the risk of having to be supportive if my kid(s) wanted to play any sports (and that I would have to actually pay enough attention to learn the rules).
I woulda' been constantly badgering you for pointers!

Boom Boom Larew said...

I appreciate the whole Red Sox/Nazi connection... makes perfect sense that once you head down that slippery slope away from the Yankees, becoming a Nazi can't be far behind. When will we recognize that kids are bound to grow up and break our hearts sooner or later.

Anonymous said...

My son who we forced to play Little League baseball was selected to play on the town's "Red Sox" team. Not only did I have to see him in that ugly uniform every week but I had to cheer for his team! Thank GOD he quit baseball!!!!

(I am posting as "Anonymous" because I made a Google account but cannot remember my dang password!)

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