On Fathers, Families, and Fandom


To start off, a happy Father's Day to all the fathers out there in Red Sox Nation, and to their families.

I know that fandom in sports can be among the most cherished of bonding experiences for fathers and their children, particularly their sons. Part of it is of course the natural desire to share something with their children, an experience which will enable them to find something to talk about for the rest of their lives. It's not hard to see such stories all over the place (just look at the "Win It For" thread if you need examples).

However, perhaps there's something more there, a certain hope that maybe that spark will flower into something more. A secret hope that someday, somehow, somewhere, they'll be able to see their own sons step into the batter's box or the onto the rubber at Fenway Park, and make their own name in history. A desire to cling to that seemingly million-to-one shot that their own childhood dreams could be realized by their progeny. The ability to say to a random face in the bleachers or the next seat over: "Hey, that's my boy!"? It's a powerful draw.

I'd love to be able to write about all the amazing conversations that my father and I shared about our beloved Sox. To talk about all the games we watched together growing up, and what it felt like that heartbreaking day after in 2003, or that thrilling fortnight in 2004 when we went from the verge of the blackest abyss of despondency to the Olympian heights of fulfillment and joy. Unfortunately, as a second-generation American, I don't have a cultural birthright to Sox fandom. There's no history of generation upon generation of frustration and resignation wiped away under a lunar eclipse. My own father's passions were soccer (how could it not?) and, oddly enough, hockey. (And, since his first stop in the US was New Jersey, he's a Devils fan instead of a Bruins fan. Sigh.)

Like every good father, though, he did his best to share that enthusiasm with me and my brother growing up. For several years, he coached our local soccer team, and even let us stay up late during the Stanley Cup playoffs. (I will even stipulate that, being a dutiful son, in those days, I did root for the guys in the pointy NJ uniforms rather than the spoked B's. Give a kid a break.) His dreams of being the proud father of the Pelé of his generation were dashed by the fact that I have roughly the same hand-eye coordination as a euphonium, and would prefer to calculate the trajectory of a one-timer than sit in the crease. But I certainly can't ever begrudge the fact that he took time out of his schedule—which he really shouldn't have done—to provide an opportunity for us to take part in sports, and to do it with him. We can even still talk about it, when all else fails as a topic of conversation, and now that we're living on different continents, it provides another form of connection: we're not nearly so far removed from one another if  we can debate Martin Brodeur versus Tim Thomas, or if Germany's Nationalelf really has a shot to beat Spain in 2012.

So, in closing, this is a salute to all those fathers out there who took the time to introduce their children—boys or girls, young or old—to the world of sport, and what it means to them. And to all those children who used it to forge a bond and lifelong memories.

  

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