If you want to know how a person feels, you need to walk a mile in his or her shoes. If you want to know what it’s like to be a Boston Red Sox fan, try walking a mile in my son’s sneakers.
Passing on the Baton
My 6-year-old son, Paul, named his gym shoes after Red Sox players one current, one former. Paul named his left sneaker, “No,” after Nomar Garciaparra. He named his right sneaker, “Mo,” after former Red Sox slugger, Mo Vaughn.
Paul's sneakers might have been named after Cincinnati Reds players, but I convinced him otherwise. I grew up in Massachusetts and have been a Red Sox fan my entire life. When I was 13, my dad took me to the seventh game of the 1975 World Series against the Cincinnati Reds. The Reds won and I was crushed.
Fourteen years later, I married a Reds fan and moved to Ohio, proving love is stronger than baseball. But, when Paul expressed an interest in becoming a Reds fan, I had to intercede and show him there was another option. An option where pitchers aren't forced to hit and a life of tireless hope and unfulfilled dreams awaits. I told him about the American League and the Boston Red Sox.
Each morning during the regular season, Paul followed the same ritual. He got up, ran downstairs and tore open the sports page. He pored over the Red Sox box score, reviewing the day's starting pitchers and memorizing as many stats his six-year-old brain could hold. Then, he put on “No” and “Mo” and got on with the business of the day.
It's How You Play the Game
While driving Paul to a Tee ball game during the summer, I had a talk with him about being a good sport and the importance of enjoying the game regardless of whether you win or lose.
“If you only enjoy playing baseball when you win, you may have a lot of unhappy seasons,” I told him.
“You mean like the Detroit Tigers?” he questioned. “They're on a pace to lose 120 games and beat the 1962 New York Mets record for most loses in a season.”
I'd been thinking about his Tee ball team but my advice was a good thing for the Tigers to remember, too.
Hope Springs Eternal
Paul was gleeful as the Red Sox won game after game during the regular season. As the playoffs approached, I knew we should hope for the best while bracing for the worst. I remembered my dad's words after the Red Sox devastating loss in the seventh game of the 1975 World Series. “We'll get 'em next year,” he said.
But, we didn't get 'em the next year or the year after that. And, after moving to Ohio, I stopped following the Red Sox quite as closely…until Paul took an interest in them.
Paul and I commiserated when the New York Yankees finished off Boston in game seven of the American League Championship Series, ending our dream of a Red Sox World Series victory.
“We'll get 'em next year,” I said words that came partly because I believed them and partly because I wanted Paul to know what to tell his son when the Red Sox lost.
“I think you're right, Dad,” Paul said. “The Red Sox will win next year!”
Paul's newfound love for the Red Sox and unshakable faith in the future make me proud. So much so, I've adopted a new morning ritual. As I get ready for work, I put on my brown dress shoes, which I have named “No” and “Mo.” If I'm going to continue to be a Red Sox fan, I want to walk in the hope-filled shoes of a six-year-old boy.
© 2003, Timothy P. Bete
Tim Bete (pronounced “beet”) is married with three children. He has nine combined years as a dad 63 in dog years which makes him an expert at answering the questions, “Are we there yet?” and “Why?” To subscribe to Tim’s column or read more of his work, visit his website at www.timbete.com.