Like a fastball to the groin, the most painful indignities last long after the bruising fades. And so it is that I’m reminded this week of one of my least favorite memories.
It was November 2010. The San Francisco Giants had just defeated the Texas Rangers, earning their first World Series championship since the team’s mailing address read Polo Grounds, New York City.
Just as the entire Giants infield swarmed Brian Wilson on the mound, my son, Carey, continued what had become a familiar chant in our house: “'et’s 'o, 'iants!” Carey turned 3 this month. Ordinarily, I’m overjoyed to celebrate his inability to pronounce certain consonants, but on this day, my instinct was not so sweet.
You see, I’m a Los Angeles Dodgers fan, born and bred. My boys—the sweet, lovable, stubborn, relentless, energy-sucking wise guys that they are—are determined to be Giants fans. As much as I want to nurture their love for baseball, I simply cannot support this decision. It goes against everything I was raised to believe.
I’d like to blame their mother, who is a Giants fan, but this isn’t her fault. When we married, Tiffany knew I’d do everything in my power to push the Dodgers on our kids. To her credit, she’s done nothing to stand in my way.
Nope, I can pin this problem squarely on the man in the mirror. From the outset, I followed the “How to Raise Your Kids to Root for Your Favorite Sports Teams” playbook word for word. I bought them Dodgers paraphernalia of all shapes and sizes. We watched Dodgers games on TV, and I introduced each and every player. I even dragged the family to Southern California for two Dodgers playoffs games. At every step, I was certain their love for Dodgers baseball was growing stronger.
Then my oldest son, Matthew, turned 3, and he realized the only thing better than rooting with me was rooting against me. I quickly learned a very valuable parenting lesson: If you want your kids to do something, often the best approach is to tell them not to do it. Sadly, it was too late to help me in this case. The harder I pushed for Matthew and Carey to be Dodgers fans, the stronger became their desire to do the exact opposite.
It has since become one of Matthew’s (and now Carey’s) favorite pastimes to tease me about the Dodgers—and the Lakers. The boys like nothing more than taking sides with whichever team the Dodgers or Lakers happen to be playing—never mind they've never heard of most of these teams. That’s just not the point. What’s fun to them is the look I get—eyes squinted, lips pursed—whenever they get under my skin, even in the silliest of ways.
Some might say: “What’s the problem? Chuck your Dodger jacket, swear off Vin Scully, forget you ever heard the names Orel Hershiser and Kirk Gibson, and pretend 1988 (the last year the Dodgers won the World Series) never happened. Accept the fact that the Bay Area is now your home, and stock up on San Francisco Giants world championship gear. You and your kids will be much happier for it.”
I’ve almost gone that route, actually. For Christmas, I bought the boys Giants World Series T-shirts, and more recently I succumbed to persistent requests for Buster Posey and Tim Lincecum jerseys. I don’t even mind (any more) that both kids want to act as if they’re playing for the Giants when we’re at the park for pick-up baseball games. After all, baseball is baseball. At least they’re not making me play hockey.
But, I’m still not happy. I was raised a Dodgers fan and practically grew up in Chavez Ravine. Some of my best childhood memories involve visits to Dodger Stadium with my grandfather. I cried when Jack Clark took Tom Niedenfuer deep in 1985, and I hollered when the Dodgers beat the A’s in five games in 1988. I still have a Dodgers jersey with the name “Straw” printed on the back.
I love my kids, but I love the Dodgers, too, despite 20-plus years without a championship. I can’t stomach pity comments from my Giants friends (“The Dodgers could be good this year, you never know.”), and yet I want my kids to experience the same excitement I felt as a boy, rooting for the home-town team with friends from school.
This is a dilly of a pickle for a doting father. On the one hand, I’m stoked my kids love baseball as much as I do. It means summer days playing baseball at the park, countless hours side by side watching televised games, and conversations about games from years past, each moment serving as a history and life lesson. On the other hand, I’m kind of forced to support the Giants, at least a little bit.
I’ve tried reasoning with them, to no avail. I’ve tried bribery and threats, too. Unfortunately, promises to withhold driving privileges until they’re 18 have little meaning to 3- and 4-year-olds. We have very few rules in our house. Eat a fruit or vegetable with every meal; practice good manners always; and root for the Dodgers during baseball season. I had no idea the latter would be the most difficult to enforce.
So, I’m a lone Dodgers fan living with three Giants fans. There’s still hope for Carey—I think he wants to root for the Dodgers, but his brother is very persuasive—but any hope I had of turning Matthew is almost certainly lost. From his Lincecum-like wind-up to his Posey-esque batting stance, that kid is a Giant, through and through. For a die-hard dad, it’s the ultimate indignity.
But as the 2011 season begins, there is one thought that makes this bitter pill a bit easier to swallow: The Giants are on pace for just a single championship every 50 years or so. Ha! Good luck with that, my little Giants fans!