The Sox/Dodgers matchup tests allegiances and one's sense of responsibility
Kids of a bicoastal couple generally have it pretty good, getting the best of two worlds. They get to call one place home, and can opportunistically claim native status in the other. It can get complicated, though, when it comes to professional sports and fandom. This became clear as my kids grew into Red Sox fans. I was raised as an Oakland A’s fan, which was pretty natural considering the A’s won the World Series in 1972, ‘73 and ‘74. The last time I went to the Oakland Coliseum, however, was to see the A’s in their last, quite unsuccessful, trip to the World Series, in 1990. When I moved east and had kids of my own, I remained a Raiders/A’s fan, but, sadly, that never interfered with family allegiances in the post season.
As an athlete, I did have the honor of competing in a couple of Olympics. As a spectator, I’m not what you call a rabid sports fan. Other than those early World Series, my experience at major sporting events outside the skiing world comes entirely from my friend Jean. She takes the sports fan business very seriously, and her work in the restaurant business—specifically a LOT of beer sales— has yielded some great perks over the years, in the form of front row seats and backstage passes.
This did not end when I got married and had kids. Because of Jean, my youngest son—who happened to be born on the first Saturday in May, AKA Kentucky Derby Day—experienced the Holyfield Lewis HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP OF THE WORLD (it must be said with Cosell like emphasis) in utero, and saw the US Open Finals in a stroller. The first time my husband and I left him overnight was to piggyback on Jean’s cushy VIP treatment at the Kentucky Derby.
As the kids grew up, Jean took on the responsibility of educating them about “real sports,” vs the niche sport of ski racing that they insisted on pursuing despite her advice. (Jean only truly appreciates skis when they are attached to a snowmobile). Throughout their childhood, halfway between their spring/summer birthdays Jean would send my kids a box filled with junior baseball, football or golf gear. In 2008, when I finally brought the kids to LA, Jean pulled out all the stops. She took them to Disneyland (their first and only Disney experience), gave them surfing lessons in Malibu (where they caught their first waves and their first staph infections) and, to top it all off, took them to Dodgers Stadium.
The young, then unconflcited fans, with Maury Wills
There, they didn’t just watch the game. Thanks to Jean, and her friends in sporty places, they got to run out on the field with a bunch of kids and meet the players, meet Hall of Famer Maury Wills, and get access to a VIP area with, among other things, free flowing soda and unlimited soft serve ice cream. Amidst this fantasy, and before the sugar coma set in, my youngest son, then seven years old, looked at Jean and in a worried voice said, “I don’t know if I can be a Red Sox fan AND a Dodgers fan.” She assured him right away that he could. “They’re in different leagues,” she explained. “The only way they’d ever play each other is if they were in the World Series… and that will never happen.” Of course the next sentence carried a promise: “And if it does happen, we’re going!”
Though they kept with the ski racing, my kids nonetheless cultivated an appreciation for mainstream sports, and particularly baseball. Shortly after the trip to LA they both embarked on enthusiastic Little League careers. My younger son built a mini Fenway wiffle ball field on our Back 40, complete with a Green Monster and precariously cantilevered lights. It made for good summer fun, and fueled a spirited rivalry with his west coast grandfather about the Red Sox vs the A’s. Coming of age, as they did, in a post curse era, they grew up with a delusion like my own, that their home team just always went to the World Series. They lived a charmed existence as Sox fans, and along the way forgot their pledge of dual allegiance.
The mini-Fenway "Field of Dreams" wiffle arena
Ten years after that trip to Dodger Stadium, Jean and the boys sparked up a text exchange as the Dodgers and Sox advanced in the post season. Last Wednesday, my younger son was on the couch madly working on a homework essay, when Jean called. “Put me on speaker,” she instructed, and we started talking baseball, and marveling that just maybe, the Dodgers and Red Sox would finally meet. She went on to explain her process of getting World Series tickets if that happened, while he listened enviously, laughed, and kept tapping away on his computer.
“So Ollie, are you ready to come to LA?” she asked.
He stopped typing and looked up at me. I shrugged my shoulders, knowing what was coming. Jean can be very persuasive.
“I can’t…I mean…school, ACT’s, physical testing….” my son stammered. Again, he looked at me for back-up. Again, I shrugged. I am well aware that my judgment in these matters is not exactly sound. I passed up one post Olympic trip to the White House to attend a training camp, and I passed up the next one to go to a Dodgers game…with Jean.
“But, L.A…..it’s all the way across the country. How?.....”
“That’s why they invented frequent flier miles and red eye flights.”
“Can’t you come to Fenway?”
“I’d be happy to come to Fenway. Do you have an in?”
“Well that’s for you to figure out. For now, we’ve got tickets in Chavez Ravine.”
By now his eyes were wide, incredulous, as it dawned on him that I was not going to object. I know Jean better than that by now. This is exactly how she rolls: She makes it happen; you jump on board for the ride or not, and live with the consequences.
On Saturday night, I was at Northern Stage, with my phone in my pocket, in silent mode. Near the end of the performance, my pocket started vibrating with incoming texts. When the show was over and we stepped outside, I looked at my phone. Puig had just hit his three run homer, making the score 5-1, and Jean was telling us our future.
“We’re going to the World Series! It finally happened!”
Whoever “we” is has yet to be determined. My older son, when he does lift his nose from the grindstone that is freshman year of college, is just bitter that he’s out. The other, reciting a list of things preventing him from going, is proving he is far more responsible than his mother. My husband, who, strangely, also once passed up a trip to the White House to go to a ski race, may once again prove why he is my soul-mate.
All grown up, on holy ground. The chances of getting to Fenway now are about like catching a fly ball.