I grew up a Yankees fan, but the first Major League Baseball game I ever attended was a Baltimore Orioles game. This was in the early 1980s, at Memorial Stadium, back when the O’s still wore white and black caps with orange bills, and the team logo was a jolly cartoon bird’s head instead of an elegant ornithological diagram. I have no memory of who the Orioles were playing (obviously not the Yankees, or I would’ve remembered). I’m not even sure which of my relatives took me to the game—Uncle Marvin? my cousin Lynn’s husband Steve?—but I know it wasn’t my father.
Dad taught me how to throw and catch a baseball in our back yard in upstate New York. He watched Yankees games with me sometimes, and he explained the rules of the game to me. What’s an RBI? Can a batter keep hitting foul balls forever? That part of my brain, my baseball understanding, was inscribed by my father, and I like knowing that. Yet Dad, a Baltimore native and long-time Orioles fan, had lost his baseball fanaticism by the time I became interested in the game. I always wondered why.
This World Series has made me think again about fading fandom. That’s because the Boston Red Sox are in the Fall Classic, and my brother-in-law Bob is the hugest Red Sox fanatic I will ever know. Bob’s passion for the Sox has not cooled and will never cool. Trust me: for Bob, the crimson B is sacramental. Bob’s son, my nephew Jake, is about the same age I was when I most loved baseball. In the past two weeks I’ve seen Bob and Jake teetering on the edge of post-season bliss, then post-season despair, now post-season bliss again, and I feel my own baseball fandom (who’s my team again?) fading in the beaming radiance of all this father-son Fenway bonding. I want the Red Sox to win it; I’ll feel awful if the Red Sox don’t win it. I want the people in my family to be happy.
This helps me think about my dad’s baseball history. As a young husband, my father—a first-generation American, Baltimore-born—took a job in Binghamton, NY, which only received Yankees and Mets broadcasts. Naturally, my brother and I became fans of New York baseball. If my dad wanted to root for his precious O’s, he’d have to root against his sons—especially me, because I was a Yankees fan. I remember Willie Randolph when he was a fleet second-baseman who owned the right side of the infield at Yankee Stadium. I remember how much I liked the Yanks’ third-baseman’s surname: Nettles.
My brother-in-law Bob has lived almost his whole life in and around Boston. It would be very difficult for him to leave the area, and his Red Sox fanaticism would be a big part of the problem. But Bob doesn’t have to worry about it: he doesn’t have to sit by and watch his children become enamored of alien teams. His kids are growing up in a suburb of Boston. Their house is full of Red Sox gear, Patriots t-shirts, Celtics garbage cans (with little plastic hoop and backboard)—it’s a multilateral campaign of indoctrination. My nephew Jake, all of ten years old, was at game 7 of the ALCS when the Red Sox completed their comeback over the Indians. No need to quote Emile Durkheim here; obviously, the kid is a Sox fan for life. Just like his dad.
But what about his uncle? I grew up with a fractured baseball patriline—my father sublimated his love of the Baltimore Orioles so that I wouldn’t have to explain to wary friends why there was a cartoon bird on my baseball cap instead of a transposed “NY.” Lately my love for the Yankees has ebbed to an amateur interest in Steinbrennerology; I’ve found myself pulling for the Mets instead; and right now I’m all about the Red Sox. I’m thinking, though, in the future, I should make a major league commitment. I have nothing against elegant ornithological diagrams; in fact I’ve always liked the stately black cap with the accurately stitched oriole on the front. That bird won’t match the flights of fandom I remember from my youth, I’m sure, but I feel the tug of patrimony.
See also: The Modern Spectator guide to the World Series.
I love everything that Bri writes. I hardly ever went to a game. I may have taken Howard once or twice. I’m not the one who took Bri to his first game
By the way cousin Brian, it WAS cousin Lynn’s husband Steve who took you to “Opening Day” on April 8th, 1985 at Memorial Stadium.
With all of the family fact checkers involved, how could you leave out the Binghamtom Mets?
— tys Oct 31, 11:57 AM #