My son’s initiation

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The Boston Red Sox have always been the only team, in any sport, that really mattered to me. My dad put a Carlton Fisk poster up on my wall before I knew who Carlton Fisk was, or what a wall was, and, well, that was it.

Now, if you’re from any other part of the country, you probably have Boston sports team fatigue. I don’t blame you. Our city’s teams are a lot better than yours, and some Bostonians can be obnoxious about that. Not me, though.

It’s been a good ride. The Red Sox famously won the World Series in 2004 – for the first time in my life, in my dad’s life, in millions of New Englanders’ lives – and life forever became divided into before and after 2004.

After 2004, I was convinced that sports fandom could never get any better.

But then this year, it did.

I’ve got two kids now. I’ll probably regret sharing this, but the oldest, Saul, was born nine months to the day after Game 5 of the 2004 ALCS against the Yankees. David Ortiz had the walk-off hit that night.

Now, Saul is 8. And even though we live in Chicago, he has cast his lot with the Red Sox. Maybe if Chicago had professional baseball teams, it would be different. But, alas, they don’t really, so it’s all Red Sox, all the time.

This fall, Saul, my dad (an Ohio transplant) and I went to a Red Sox playoff game in Detroit against the Tigers. Tigers fans, of course, surrounded us – none so prominent as the jocular (read: slightly drunk) 50-something Tigers fan next to us. Or, more accurately, next to Saul.

This guy was fun, he was loud … and all he wanted to do was talk trash with Saul. Who, again, is 8. It was good-natured but relentless. Everything from the Red Sox’s beards to what he wanted to do with those beards was touched on by the third inning. Then, he repeated his repertoire.

From time to time, I would avert my eyes from the game and look over at the guy and my son going at each other. Occasionally, I thought about asking the guy to stop, but it would have meant taking time from watching the game. And besides, Saul’s in third grade. He can handle a drunken 50-year-old, I figured.

It was a good game, especially for us. The Red Sox had jumped out to an early lead, but the Tigers were slowly (and seemingly surely) coming back. In fact, they were only two runs down when their best (but hobbled) hitter, Miguel Cabrera, came to the plate with two runners on.

That’s when our neighbor started really going nuts on Saul. “Watch this, buddy. This is it! You guys are going down now. It’s Cabrera time. When he gets a hit, I’m a-giving you my Tigers hat and you gotta wear it for the rest of the game.”

And then Cabrera hit into a double play.

The crowd went silent. Saul and the guy looked at each other for a moment, and then Saul, wordlessly, raised up his arms in the pose of a boastful rapper and produced a priceless smirk that said, “What do you got to say now, pal?”

And at that moment, as everybody, including the Tigers fan, started laughing, this past season became just as good as 2004.

That said (and I’ll probably regret sharing this, too), somewhere around July – when it looked like the Red Sox really had something going and images of Ortiz lighting up the playoffs started to form in my mind – I went in and had a vasectomy.

(c) 2013 Mark Bazer. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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