Today’s Pinch Hitter is Mike Nuckols, who’s been reading the LoHud Yankees Blog since long before I showed up. Mike’s a writer (which is convenient), and he’s a longtime Yankees fan (naturally), but he’s also a father, and that’s the source material for his guest post.
I used to be a normal Yankees fan, but then my son, Jack, screwed the whole thing up for me. Everything got a lot more complicated. See, it’s not enough just to raise your kid to root for the Yankees and loathe the Red Sox. You also have to raise them to be good people. And sometimes the Yankees make that difficult.
Now don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of great lessons my son has learned from baseball. He’s learned that if you strike out, then get out to the backyard, practice your butt off and next time you’ll get a hit. He’s learned how to take a tough, tough loss. And there’s nothing like the double play to show the value of teamwork. But baseball — the Yankees in particular — also present some bad lessons.
As a dad, what do you do about A-Rod or Cervelli? Do you still root for them? Last season the Yanks only really started playing well when A-Rod was on the field. I remember him smashing a game-changing home run that had me screaming with joy. My son and I were exchanging high-fives. Which means I was essentially telling my kid: “Yeah he’s a creep and cheater, but the Yankees really need him and that’s more important.”
What kind of message does that send?
And what about the Steinbrenners and the money thing? I’m trying to teach my son that might doesn’t make right — but the Yankees are the exact opposite of that.
“Don’t worry that we didn’t make the playoffs. This offseason we signed McCann, Beltran, Ellsbury, and we outbid everyone else for Tanaka. We may not be able to win by being smarter or working harder, but money can make everything OK.”
It’s confusing, right? My son has turned my Yankees fandom upside down.
However, being a dad and a Yankees fan hasn’t been all bad. In fact, there are ways that my son has made being a Yankees fan a thousand times better. The 2009 season blows away any other championship for me. Jack and I would get up every morning and look at the standings. We tracked them the whole season, through the playoffs and all the way to the World Series. When Johnny Damon pulled the double steal in Game 4, we were literally dancing around our living room and hugging each other in delirium.
This past season I paid a small fortune to bring Jack to Mariano Rivera’s last game in Yankee Stadium. I found most of the game a little boring. The Yanks were out of the playoffs so it didn’t matter if they won or lost. When Rivera came in to Enter Sandman, it was kind of a letdown. It didn’t have the incredible drama of a real save.
Then something strange happened. Two guys were coming out of the dugout.
“What’s going on?” I asked.
“It’s Jeter and Andy Pettitte!” Jack screamed.
Rivera’s two longtime teammates came out and took the ball from him. Then Rivera’s head was buried on Andy’s chest and the greatest closer in all of baseball was crying like a baby. Suddenly my son and I were crying too. We were somehow managing the cheer and cry at the same time. Unforgettable.
There’s no hesitation teaching your son to root for Mariano Rivera. Baseball accomplishments aside, that guy is a model of class, sportsmanship, and doing things right. And we were there for that moment at the end of his career. There’s going to show that on SportsCenter 30 years from now and my son can say: “I was there. My dad took me to that game.”
That wasn’t just baseball history. That was part of the history of me and my son — and it’s there because we’re Yankees fans.
Woosh! I better start saving up in case Jeter retires next season.
Associated Press photo