Thursday, April 19, 2012

oy vey: for the love of the game

Seeing as I'm a third generation Bostonian (Massachusettsian?), it's no surprise my loyalty to the Red Sox runs deep.  That I gave birth to our children in 2004, the year that the Red Sox finally broke the Curse of the Bambino and won the coveted MLB championships, is to me, no coincidence.  That I gave birth to another child, three years later, coinciding with the Red Sox clench of the title again just proves it.  Yep, I've got a ... wink towards the heavens ... special connection.

For as much as I love the Red Sox, I've found it interesting that some of my favorite people are actually Yankee fans. I always think it's funny when I meet some one who is totally cool on every range of the spectrum, only to find out who their favorite team is. So I'll tell them, "You really are so wonderful, except for that "one" tiny character flaw.  Come on. Can't we do something about your baseball allegiance?"

As we were walking back to our hotel from one of our outings in New York, William commented to me that he liked the man's hat, walking in front of us.  The man's hat was actually a yarmulke and the man, overhearing us, turned around and smiled at my seven-year-old.

"You like my hat, do you?" he asked. 

William smiled and held my hand a little tighter. 

The man slowed down and walked next to us, and soon, we were engaged in a conversation. It turns out he was a native New Yorker, and he asked where we were from. William, never letting go of my hand, told him that he was from California. That prompted a whole new conversation and I'm not entirely sure how it happened, but that conversation eventually turned to baseball. My son mentioned that he loved baseball and was a BIG Red Sox fan. And the man, who had been smiling happily, suddenly furrowed his brow. 

"Red Sox?!  You're a RED SOX FAN? That's a problem..." He shook his head, turned his palms up to heaven and said, "Now, now, now. Have you ever heard of a guy named 'Mickey Mantle?'" 


His face lit up again, and for the next 10 minutes, we stood in the lobby of our hotel and talked to this man, an absolute stranger, and quite possibly, the world's greatest Yankee fan, about baseball.  He was a walking encyclopedia about Mantle. He told us about how Mickey was ambidextrous and could bat both right and left handed. He then demonstrated to our family, how during one game, Mickey stepped up to bat and hit the ball right out of the park. And he saw it all happen, because he was perched on a nearby rooftop. It was one of the most memorable days of his life. 

Once we said goodbye and parted ways, William asked, "How come we talked to that stranger? Weren't you afraid he was going to take us?"  I considered his question for a moment and replied, "You always have to be careful. Always. But there are a lot of good people in the world and taking the time to slow down, smile, and acknowledge them can be a gift for them - and for you."

I added, "But of course, I wouldn't want for you to talk to an adult without me or your Dad around. In an environment like this when we're both here and I'm holding your hand, you're safe. Even if that man was a Yankee fan...." I gave a fake shudder and playfully squeezed his little hand. 

William looked up at me and very seriously said, "Mom, you know, I've been thinking about that and I think I need to change sides. I'm going to be a Yankee fan from now on. ESPECIALLY if it means I can wear a nice little hat like the one he had on."

My son, a Jewish Yankee fan?

I never saw that one coming.