I am a Red Sox fan.
I grew up idolizing Dwight Evans (DEWEY!), I cried after Game 6 – not only because I suddenly owed Howard Elkies two dollars – and I was on the streets of Boston for the duck boat parade in 2004.
Last week, my father-in-law sent my son a Yankees shirt.
In case you’re an alien: Yankees fans and Red Sox fans don’t get along, last week’s display of solidarity notwithstanding*. Wearing Yankees gear is incomprehensible to me – to pretty much all Sox fans – and vice versa. It’s just not something you’d even consider.
Born and raised a Red Sox fan in Connecticut, I’m quite used to dealing with the enemy. I grew up in a divided family (my oldest brother recruited me to the Sox side, my dad and other brother are Yankees fans, and my mom abstained until she fell in love with Derek Jeter), on the Yankees side of a divided state, and I escaped without incident. Even after five years in NYC and one night when I told some dude I was going to “smash [his] sideburns upside [his] face.”
Sure, in 2003 I went two weeks without speaking to my brother after Grady left Pedro in an inning too long, and even now every time we chat about who cheats more and who buys more players and why Jeter is overrated and remember that idiot Kevin Maas?!, one of us usually hangs up in anger. But we’ve never come to blows.
Most teams have bitter rivals; it’s part of being a fan. It just so happens that the Boston/New York relationship is particularly bitter. But still, provided everyone is sober, most rivalry-based conflicts never escalate past friendly ribbing. Unless you’re at a Raiders game.
My father-in-law, if you haven’t guessed, is a Yankees fan. And while we have a good relationship – our only quarrel is over my theft of his daughter (the song they danced to at my wedding was the vaguely threatening “I Loved Her First”) – gifting a Yankees shirt to my son reeks of antagonism.
My son is two. He didn’t ask for a Yankees shirt. No, he didn’t ask for any of the Red Sox stuff I’ve already bought him either, but he’s my son, I own him, and it’s my right to indoctrinate him into whatever clubs I want. My father-in-law had his kids already, and they all like Nascar, so that’s a win for him (he’d better not come near my kid with any of that junk either!). My son is going to be a Red Sox fan until he chooses otherwise.
My brother is the biggest Yankees fan I know, and he wouldn’t dare give my son a Jeter shirt or a Yankees cap. That doesn’t mean he won’t try to influence my son down the line, taking him to games and trying to sway his loyalty. But he’ll at least wait until my son can make his own decisions, boneheaded though they may be. As a sports fan, trying to poach someone’s kid is typically just a line you don’t cross, like calling to gloat after a particularly heart-wrenching loss, or openly rooting against someone else’s team purely for spite.
To be fair, the package my father-in-law sent also included a Red Sox shirt, which is an indication that he knew what he was doing: giving me shit. Which is perfectly acceptable behavior for rivals. So I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. After all, we’re both Miami Dolphins fans, so he’s not all bad. Unfortunately, my wife – who has no real investment but would call herself a Sox fan – decided to side with her father, and announced that not only were we keeping the Yankees shirt, but our son would wear it.
Things got a tad heated for a bit, but in the interest of not sleeping on the couch, I finally relented:
He can wear the Yankees shirt. But only as a diaper.
And only if she can find it…
*In the scheme of things, sporting conflicts pale in comparison to things like the bombing at the marathon, and had the Yankees – and other teams around MLB – not set aside the rivalry, it would have been reprehensible. But don’t worry, it’s only temporary.