What is reasonable to imprint upon a child?
When you have a 5-month-old baby, you start pondering these things.
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I'd like him to enjoy baseball, as I've found it to be a wonderful companion.
It's the sport that most mirrors the pacing and emotional roller coaster of life, with an endless conversational depth that has offered me a lifetime of fodder. The seasons come and go with the game perfectly, as each cold winter off-season inevitably begets a new hopeful spring.
OK, I'll step out of Roger Angell mode now (Google him, kids, and buy "Once More Around the Park").
Anyway, selfishly I'd certainly like my child to love baseball. We'd share some joy, and I have much to teach him if he's into it.
My dad taught me the game's history, which I later realized was a way to think about and love ACTUAL history. I learned presidents like they were MVP's, as baseball helped unlock all sorts of intellectual doors.
Also, as my young man finds his place within the adult social construct, baseball is something you can talk about with anybody. I've shared moments just this week with an elevator stranger, a bartender, and a cabdriver.
My grandfather was a Yankees fan. When he brought his 8-year-old son to Shibe Park in Philadelphia in 1941, the Philadelphia Athletics were hosting the Boston Red Sox. My dad fell in love with third-year player Ted Williams as he went 3 for 5. His father, to his credit, let the son follow his heart.
So, of course I'll let my son root for whomever he likes. It's not just with baseball … if he wants to dance, dance. Fashion? Acting? Science? Go for it, shorty. NASCAR? OK, we might have a small issue. But in general, I plan to be the dad that notices whatever the boy takes to, and helps him explore it with zeal.
I inherited my father and brother's Red Soxness, only to have it mean less and less with age. I acquired Cubs affection as a post-collegiate Chicagoan, but that has faded over time. The dirty little secret of doing this job is that your pure fandom goes away, replaced (if you're lucky) by an appreciation for narrative and a joy at sport's inevitable unpredictability.
So, does it matter what particular team my son falls for? Furthermore, is it really my business or mandate to make sure what team that is? Do I dare inflict upon him a specific brand of what essentially amounts to a love for laundry (thanks, Jerry Seinfeld)?
Either local team brings inherent historical imperfections, potentially spotty futures, and distinct societal quirks. Do I want him susceptible to silly "goat curse" reasoning to explain decades of failure? Do I want him walking around with a 35th-street- sized inferiority complex about how much media coverage his team gets?
And as for my elders' beloved Red Sox, there is neither any charm nor reason to embrace a huge payroll juggernaut that has become just another East Coast monolith. If the Yankees are the Evil Empire, the Red Sox are just Evil Empire B.
I've made my choice, and have decided to not put my son in any sports logo clothing -- nothing at all -- until he asks for something himself. He can be a fan of whatever he wants. I'm just not going to give him that initial shove to either embrace or rebel against.
So, apologies to the friends and family that sent Cubs onesies, or Bears pajamas, or Bulls diaper covers. Regrets are sent to the White Sox, who graciously sent a delightful Southpaw Pillow Pal. I'm going to enact a sports experiment within this, life's greatest science project.
Now watch, at 3 years old he'll probably profess his sudden love for, say, the Padres.
Do they make a Tony Gwynn jersey in toddler size?
• Matt Spiegel co-hosts "The McNeil & Spiegel Show" 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday-Friday on WSCR 670-AM, and The Score's "Hit and Run" at 9 a.m. Sundays with his Daily Herald colleague, Barry Rozner. Follow him on Twitter @mattspiegel670. Matt thinks a runner trying to score from first on a double into the gap is the most exciting play in baseball.