Al Capone-A double play (“twin killing”)
Al Capone-A double play (“twin killing”)
cashew-An undisciplined, zany nonconformist; a nutty player.
Last year on this date, we celebrated our son’s coming of age. He put together an amazing ceremony with readings from many cultures and writings from many people throughout the world. They all reflected to him, what it means to become a man in today’s world, to be part of a bigger community, to have a deeper consciousness and to take to take on greater responsibility in this world. I wrote a piece to him. It is what follows.
As most of you probably know, I am a pretty big baseball fan and a crazy Red Sox fan. I am not, on the other hand a religious person. When my husband and I began our journey as parents we agreed that we would raise our children to be good people, but that we would not raise them to follow any particular religion and that we would leave that choice to them as they got older. So it was much to my surprise (shock) when our son told us he wanted a bar mitzvah. How could this have happened I thought? Where did we go wrong?
Of course, we also have given our children just about everything they have ever wanted and we have certainly supported them in all of their endeavors, so there was no question that if he wanted it, we would make it happen. Meanwhile though, we wanted to ensure that he was mindful and reflective of this experience and was doing it for the right reasons, not because it was what he thought his grandparents expected or because it was what many of his friends did. We wanted to ensure that he was aware of the meaning behind his words, be they English or Hebrew. We had many conversations with J (some rather intense) about what it was he really wanted in doing this ceremony and in acknowledging his journey to adulthood. We encouraged him to explore his feelings and goals and his own belief system–to look at where he sees himself in the world and in his own community. J, with us, came to an understanding that he really wanted a ceremony to mark his coming into adulthood and he wanted to be surrounded by the important people in his world to share this moment in his journey.
Somehow (through divine intervention of the baseball gods) we found ourselves able to have this celebration at this amazing house of worship (Dodger Stadium). It is not, of course, Fenway Park, but the spirituality of the game is definitely here. What a perfect location for us. I’ve always joked that if I had to chose a religion, it would be baseball. The rules of baseball are not unlike the rules in life. They are a guide, a set of clearly defined directives for playing the game fairly (without instant replay) and allowing everyone equal chance at greatness. Even the torah is not meant to be read literally but as a set of metaphors and lessons for how to live a just life.
One day when J was about 8 or 9 he told us he wanted to play baseball. I was so glad when he chose it as his one and only sport. Baseball combines the best of a team sport and an individual sport. Sometimes you stand alone and strike out and other times you hit one out of the park. Every day, people have outstanding moments in a game but rarely can one person be given sole credit for a win and likewise even though we’ve seen people massively blunder a play (think Billy Buckner), one person can truly never take full blame for a loss. Sometimes you sacrifice for the good of the team, sometimes you get beaned on the head, every once in a while, you have a day-a moment when you pitch an elusive perfect game or, you face challenges that seem insurmountable, but you always have your team around you to lift you up. Each day and each game bring new opportunities and possibilities.
So too is life.
Each failure or crushing defeat brings with it the optimistic chant, “there’s always next year” and sometimes, sometimes when you keep the faith long enough (86 years) next year actually comes, you can overcome the demons of your history and just like that, curses can end.
Things can turn on one pitch or when you seem to be down to your last out, one small gesture can turn it all back around-David (Roberts) can look Goliath right in the eye, challenge him head on, steal a base right from under his nose, and know that things have turned around just like that. Empires fall and dynasties end, and the underdog, the little guy can, with the right bunch of idiots around him, do the impossible.
Every spring, I wait with anticipation for opening day. Where I come from, the beginning of baseball season, means spring is here. Here in Los Angeles where temperatures fluctuate by only a few degrees from January to June, the coming of spring may not mean much, but in Connecticut, it means the snow will finally be gone, the crocuses will pop up and the daffodils will soon follow. It means a fresh start after the long dormancy of winter. the start of a new baseball season means a clean slate, a new beginning, a new chance, and eternal hope and optimism. Such is the start of a new life. When J was born (4 weeks before we expected him, but of course, during spring training) , we could see for the first time as parents, a new life, entrusted to us, a life filled with hope and optimism-a perfect start. We saw a new person with a very old soul. This child has not disappointed. Every day he shows us greatness, sometimes he makes an error, but he gets back in the game and continues to play, sometimes he makes an amazing play, a web gem moment. He is loyal to his friends and family–his team, and he is a team player. J has and has always had great empathy and compassion. He loves animals and he has a value system that is deep and unwavering. At the same time, such as in the game of baseball, J knows that he can never take things too seriously. He has a great sense of humor and sees life in all it’s irony and foolishness. Many nights before going to bed, I find myself in J’s room laughing my ass off with him over something foolish but hysterical. He is a powerful good friend, a fierce big brother, protective and challenging at the same time. He is as likely to pick on M (his younger sister) as he is to hang out with her playing a video game, or showing her the latest funny You Tube video. When J was little, if he got sad or hurt, he only wanted his baby sister M to comfort him. J delights in his newer baby sister, and told me shortly after her birth, that he finally understands how much we love him.
Recently, in a game in Baltimore, Manny Ramirez made an amazing catch in left field, ran up the back wall and high-fived a Sox fan, before running back down and throwing the ball to double up the runner on first. I have never seen anything like it before and that is one of the reasons I love baseball so much. You never know what is going to happen and you continually see things you have never seen before. that is the beauty of the game of baseball and that is the beauty of the journey of life.
Mahalo is J’s middle name as most of you know, because we got him when we were on our honeymoon in Hawaii. Mahalo means thanks you in Hawaiian. J, as you travel the bases of life, always remember the rules, and always always Keep the faith. Mahalo for being our son.
bastard pitch-An unhittable pitch. Don Baylor: “It was down and away and out of the strike zone, four or five inches off the plate. A pitcher’s pitch in layman’s terms, a bastard pitch in hitter’s terms. Down and away, unhittable.
I’m thrilled to find this term because I recently coined the term “bitch of a pitch” which means basically the same thing. I could not find this term in my Dickson Baseball dictionary.
I am a big fan of Rachel Maddow. (It doesn’t hurt that she’s a Sawx fan.) Recently she highlighted a book on her show called The Dickson Baseball Dictionary Third Edition by Paul Dickson. I also LOVE baseball so I immediately ordered this book on Amazon. It is about 3 inches thick and has thousands of baseball definitions ranging from the mundane to the really arcane. (good rhyme, huh?)
I decided to start a new feature called the baseball word of the week. All words are credited to his book. Play ball.
bashing-The ritual of bumping forearms at home plate with a teammate who has just hit a home run. The practice began in the late 1980’s with the Oakland Athletics’ sluggers Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco, who compared forearms they had built up in the offseason and were often referred to as the Bash Brothers.
I find the origination of this term ironic, since both of the afore(armed)mentioned players have been implicated in steroid use.
In an attempt to lighten things up a little from yesterday’s post and keep things in perspective I am going to tell you a story about keeping the faith. Also, this story shows that sometimes (most times) in life we must experience the bitter to really appreciate the sweet…
So I’m a New England girl, born and raised, all my family is from the Boston area (hence the spelling of mothahhood-like lobstah, chowdah, and bee-ah), but I’ve lived in LA since ’86. Got married, had some kids, but couldn’t possibly raise them to be anything but Sox fans. Of course, having cried myself to sleep many times, I knew I shouldn’t raise my kids to be Sox fans, but I really couldn’t do anything about it–it’s pretty much in my and my kids’ dna. So, 2003, my son is a crazy big baseball lover and even bigger Sox fan. The Sox have a great year, make it to the post season, actually look like they might beat our arch nemesis to advance, Grady Little leaves Pedro in one pitch too many and it’s history all over again. I was too jaded for tears at this point, but my poor son went to bed in sobbing tears. My heart was broken for him and I was kicking myself for letting him love the Sox. We have many friends here that are Sox fans and for weeks after, we all agreed that raising our kids as fans was bordering on child abuse.
BUT, kids are pretty tough and by the next day my son was over it, telling me the famous words, “we’ll get ’em next year.” Yeah, I’ve heard that before. Anyway, he was eternally optimistic–so much so, that he made his email address redsoxchamps2004@____.com. Mind you, this was still 2003.
Forward to, 2004 mid season, my family is actually back east (we go every summer), the Sox have just traded Nomar, we’re 10 1/2 games out of first and it’s looking bleak. Don’t know why, but I was walking on the beach in Maine with my mom, looked up at her and said, “The Sox are going to win it all this year and you and I are getting tattoos when they do. ” She looked at me like I was crazy, but said, “yeah, sure.” Then, everything starts turning around.
Long story a little shorter, forward again to October 2004, Sox down to the evil ones 3-0 and losing game 4 with Rivera coming in to close. I have already sent my kids to bed–no need to repeat last year (and so many other years as well) because I can’t bear it and I turn the game off. But then I start thinking “what kind of fan am I if I can’t watch them lose.” I go in the bedroom, turn the t.v. on, sound off and then a hit, Dave Roberts in to run. Now keep in mind, we used to go to a lot of Dodger games and Roberts had only been recently traded to the Sox, so I am sitting on the edge of my bed, heart pounding because I know how Roberts can run. Everyone watching and playing knows that Roberts is going to try to take second. No doubt about it, and even so, he does. Then a hit, Roberts scores and game is tied. I watch them tie it up, but really can’t take it anymore so I leave the t.v. on in the bedroom and go in the den. My husband and I each keep going in the bedroom to check the score and the game goes on forever. Anyway, finally, Big Papi closes things out and we CANNOT believe it. I had to wake my son up to tell him. It was then and there that I knew we were going all the way and so did my son. Nonetheless I couldn’t eat for 3 days.
Anyway, I ramble on. You know the rest. I got my tattoo in December 2004 and every day it is much more than a tattoo. It is my reminder that whenever life throws curve balls or “curses” to always keep the faith. I guess the point is that we have a lot to learn from our kids. To this day my kid’s email address is redsoxchamps2004@_______.com.
The silver lining about 2003 for my son was that 2004 was all the sweeter. He tasted the heartbreak of all those that came before him, but he got to experience the redemption. And he will always remember. We celebrated that night like there was no tomorrow.