Ron and the recliner made the sound simultaneously as they collapsed into each other. Both were covered in dust and grease spots from hard work days much like this one. Ron took a deep, slow breath, closed his eyes, and exhaled. He picked up the TV remote and turned on the pregame show. He popped open a beer, silently congratulating himself for navigating through the minefield of Thomas trains and tracks strewn about the family room.
Ron wasn’t sure how he had raised a gearhead, but that was undeniably the best way to describe Joey. The boy loved his trains and cars- anything with an engine. Ron didn’t care much about these things himself, but somehow they had his son’s full interest, which left no room for baseball.
Ron smiled at the Joey, who was rearranging the train tracks for the thousandth time. That’s ok. The boy is so young. There’s plenty of time for him to learn the game.
Still, when Ron was Joey’s age he was obsessed with baseball. He had memorized every 500 home run hitter (there were a lot fewer of them back then). What if they never got to have a catch in the backyard? Ron had always envisioned coaching Little League as an integral part of fatherhood. Would this be denied him? Worse yet, would he force his son to become the apathetic daisy-picker in right field? What if they never fully bonded as a father and son? Would Joey grow up to resent him for pushing his own interests?
“Daddy, what team do we like?”
The question pierced Ron’s dark thought cloud unexpectedly. Was this the moment? Could this be the seminal point in their relationship when he would begin to explain baseball to his son? If so, where should he start? How does one describe something so complex and magnificent? What if he blew it? This might be his one and only opportunity to define the future of their relationship.
Ron climbed down from the recliner and sat on the floor next to Joey. He pointed to the players on the TV screen as they took the field. “You see that team with the stripes? That’s the Yankees. We LOVE the Yankees! Now, you see that other team wearing gray and red? That’s the Red Sox. We do NOT like the Red Sox!”
Joey considered this for a moment. “Daddy, I like the Red Sox,” said the toddler absently, as he continued to build his train tracks.
The world went dark. Ron’s heart pounded. His vision blurred and his ears popped. Just breathe, he told himself.
Ron thought he was a pretty flexible parent. Joey could grow up to love or marry anyone he wants of any race or gender. He could follow any career he wants. He could even drop out of school and be bum. Hell, he could turn to a life of crime, and Ron wouldn’t care. As long as Joey was happy and healthy nothing else matters. Except for this.
Breathe out. Breathe in.
Ron’s grandparents were immigrants who settled in Manhattan. Their first assimilation into American culture was rooting for Lou Gehrig and Joe DiMaggio. His parents grew up with Mickey Mantle and suffered through the Horace Clarke era. They never confirmed that he was named after Guidry, but Ron always assumed it was true. His family was older now, with strained relationships in certain places, but the one uniting thread was always the Yankees. HIS son could NOT like the Red Sox. It was simply impossible.
Breathe out. Breathe in.
Focus on breathing. Just think. Lifetime allegiances are declared at this age. The next few words could determine a lifetime of fanhood. More than that, it could bring him and son closer together- finally- or drive a permanent wedge through their relationship.
Ron opened his eyes. Merely seconds had passed. He willed himself to remain calm and turned to look his son in the eyes.
“If you want to be Red Sox fan, that’s fine,” he said slowly, ‘but Yankee fans are going out for ice cream.”
“I WANT TO BE A YANKEE FAN!” exclaimed Joey. “I WANT ICE CREAM!”
“Good boy! Go get your coat and shoes.”
“Is Mommy coming for ice cream too?”
“No, son, she can’t. Mommy is a Mets fan.”