I’m a Pink Hat Fan

I am a pink hat fan. I wasn’t aware of the term before 2004 (when the Red Sox won the World Series), but since then I have heard it used derisively to describe people who aren’t “real” fans of a sports team – bandwagon fans, if you will. The term, as I remember it, was originally used in reference to women who bought pink Red Sox hats during the run up to and following the World Series win (these fans helped to form something called “Red Sox Nation”). The sight of so many pink hats at Fenway Park angers the old guard of New England sports fans – either because these bandwagon fans treat the live sporting events as social occasions (the horror!), or because these fans didn’t suffer through the lean years with their “new” sports teams. In this vein, I noticed several of my normally intelligent, reasonable friends publicly grinding their teeth about bandwagon fans during the recent Bruins playoff run.

One of these friends posted the following on Facebook: “It must [anger] the real Bruins fans who watch all season long when all the people who admit they only watch playoff hockey jump on the bandwagon. How can you admit you don’t watch a team all season then pretend to be a huge fan for 2 weeks because it’s playoff hockey. That is the definition of a fair weather [fan]. I admit I don’t watch hockey so I can’t pretend to be a fan now. I hope [the Bruins] do well but I just can’t do it. Had to get that off my chest.”

Another friend posted: “Is anybody else praying for hockey season to be over quickly so that we can stop hearing about it from people we know aren’t hockey fans (i.e. most people)?”
It seems to me that some sports fans must have difficulty enjoying themselves unless they have something to complain about. A winning team provides little avenue for the required misery, so these people create an artificial pecking order and bemoan “fake” fans. This attitude brings to mind the famous quote by H.L. Mencken, who defined puritanism as “the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.”

When I try to think about this logically, the only negative factors I can see that stems from an influx of new fans for a team might a scarcity of tickets and the accompanying rise in prices. For me, this is not an issue, since I generally prefer to watch games on TV, but I can see how it might annoy diehard fans (although, if these true fans have season tickets they get first crack at playoff tickets). Beyond that, it is simply ridiculous.

Imagine hearing a song on the radio and enjoying it, only to be maligned because you hadn’t listened to the artist’s early work. If you didn’t start watching “The Simpsons” in 1989, then don’t you dare start watching it now – that enjoyment is reserved for true fans.

I got labeled as a poseur when I told someone (the first commenter above) how much I was enjoying the Bruins playoff run.

I do have excuses for my lack of attention during the regular season, even if the name-callers don’t want to hear them. The biggest one is that professional sports aren’t as important in my life now that I have a family. By the time we get the kids to bed, I generally watch TV with my wife, and she doesn’t want to watch every Bruins, Celtics, and Red Sox game (she DOES want to watch every Patriots game, unless I’m willing to go apple picking). I have to pick my spots if I don’t want to be sitting in front of a TV by myself.

But, I understand that none of that matters. I didn’t watch more than a handful of regular season games and as a result that pink hat is firmly set on my balding head. Luckily, I’m at a point in my life where I recognize this as meaningless banter, but that wasn’t always the case.

In the mid-1980’s, between the ages of 12 and 13, I actively disliked the Mets. My dislike was possibly rooted in the fact that one of my friends was a Mets fan (as well as a Red Sox fan), but probably went along with a general distaste for New York sports. When I started rooting for the St. Louis Cardinals to defeat the Mets in 1985 (they did), this friend began to taunt me as a frontrunner. His “proof” was that I had rooted for the Cubs to beat the Mets in 1984 (they also did). This boy would repeatedly call me on the phone, call me names, and yell at me for being a frontrunner. At that point in my life I didn’t know how to handle it, so I got upset. I just remember the anger in his voice, and he was tormenting me in the way teenagers can torment one another. I left the phone off the hook for long periods of time and then when I finally replaced it, it would ring with an angry message on the other end.

Despite all of it, I still rooted for the Cardinals, and have fond memories of watching them defeat the Dodgers (my brother’s favorite team). When the Cardinals lost to the Royals in the World Series, I felt sadness (not as much as I would the next year when the Sox blew the Series, but it was real enough at the time).

The point is, if I had it to do over again, I wouldn’t have taken a single word of it to heart and would have told the kid to get lost. Now that I’m an adult, and understand where in the grand spectrum sports drama belongs, I’m willing to take gentle kidding about it, and to poke fun at Yankee fans. But when I hear adults – people with all of the worries that come along with normal lives – complain about what teams other people root for it strikes me as a bit surreal. To these people, I say: Life is short; try not to be a bucket of misery.

The Day to Day Grind Tim 01 Jul 2013 No Comments

Things that Go Bump

Nights in my house can be pretty eventful. As a parent of two young children, I try to sleep with one ear open, so to speak. A crying child will usually have me out of bed and on the way to the child’s room before I am even fully conscious and usually a pat on the bum and a soothing word is enough to solve the problem. Sometimes more effort is required; such as if one of the kids is sick or needs comforting after a night terror, but it’s all part of parenting. One night this spring, however, things went in a completely unexpected direction.

It was the week of the bombing at the Boston Marathon, and the suspects were still at large, so I was on edge (like everyone in the area), but it had been a quiet night. My daughter started crying at about 2:30am, so I hopped out of bed and made my way into her bedroom. She was standing up, but when she saw me come into the room she flopped back down into the crib. I pulled some blankets over her and rubbed her back for a minute or two until I heard her breathing fall into the measured pattern of sleep.

I carefully closed her door and took one step toward my bedroom when I heard a loud noise from downstairs in my house. I stopped in my tracks and listened carefully – our refrigerator’s ice maker will sometimes make loud noises (a fact that was a bit disconcerting when we first moved in), but I was pretty sure I had turned the ice maker off. My dog, lying at the bottom of the stairs, didn’t begin barking maniacally, so I took that as a good sign. I had a couple of issues as a child when I got spooked and called the police for things that turned out to be nothing (and got some fun poked at me by my siblings), so I wanted to see if I could hear anything more. I moved to the top of the stairs and held my breath in anticipation.

BANG!

That one I heard and felt. It was no ice maker. The noise woke my wife, who turned on her bedside lamp and looked at me with concern. I didn’t hesitate, “Call 911 and tell them that it sounds like someone is trying to kick in our door.” I stayed at the top of the stairs and kept watch while she talked to the 911 operator. Luckily, the children did not wake up (my daughter has been known to sleep through the noise of blaring smoke alarms).

The police showed up more quickly than I could have hoped, and I scrambled downstairs and let an officer in the front door while another officer walked around the back of the house. The officer outside reported that he did not see any footprints on the back porch (it was raining slightly, leaving a film of rain). He continued to look in the back yard, but did not see anything.

A third officer came into the house and together we made sure that the rooms on the first floor were clear and that nothing appeared to be missing. One of the officers then went into the basement (honestly, imagine a job where you have to walk into a strange basement to see if some desperate soul is hiding there) while I waited nervously in the kitchen. He called up that everything was clear, but that the basement door was unlocked. I went downstairs and told him that everything seemed in order (after opening every closet and looking in every nook). I seemed to remember leaving the door unlocked earlier that day – and if someone had come in through that door I can’t imagine that they would have wanted to make any loud noises by banging things around.

Once we determined that there was no one in my house I was relieved, but a little embarrassed to have wasted the officers’ time. They reassured me that it was all in a day’s work and promised to roll by more often that night. I thanked them for their time and felt honestly grateful to have such a responsive, professional, and thorough police force protecting my family. The officers then left me to wonder what had made that noise.

I may never know. I’d prefer not to think that someone tripped over something in my basement, and my dog never started barking (and she has been known to bark fanatically at people three blocks away). I looked around for anything that might have fallen, but there was nothing – certainly nothing that would have made that kind of noise. The house is new enough that I doubt that it could really be haunted (yes, I considered that). I double-checked the ice maker and it was still off. It wasn’t especially windy outside, so it’s not like something was blown into the side of the house.
So, maybe it was the house settling. For my own sanity, I’m going to go with that –but now every time I am summoned to one of my children’s rooms I pause and listen at the top of the stairs.

The Day to Day Grind Tim 01 Jul 2013 No Comments

The Horror of New Shoe Day

The morning had gone well so far, but my wife and I were nervous. It was new shoe day. My kids were receiving new shoes that they had not picked out themselves (my wife bought them), and there were no guarantees that it would go well. A week or so ago, we tried to introduce new shoes to my son, Bronco, and it didn’t go well – in the end, he insisted that the shoes were too small and hurt his feet, so we retreated to his scruffy old Chuck Taylors. But, this was a new day and we had high hopes – in part because my daughter, The Little Miss, is generally agreeable, but we also had new, larger shoes for my son.

The first victim, I mean, child to receive new shoes was my daughter. My wife put them on The Little Miss and then gently set her on the floor. Usually, whenever her feet hit the floor, my 17-month old daughter begins immediate locomotion – she doesn’t always know where she is going, but she is usually in a hurry to get there with her arms waving all around. This time she just stood stock still in the middle of the kitchen with a funny look on her face.

In retrospect, I should have distracted her or played with her, but I was stunned to see her motionless, so all I did was watch. After a time, she began to cry. Then she began to stomp her feet and reached down to undo the Velcro straps.

Bronco, now almost 3-years old and wise beyond his years, was also watching this scene carefully. He looked at me and explained, “Daddy, she doesn’t like her shoes.”
In response, I picked her up, gave her a hug, and carried her into the living room. I re-attached the straps and placed her back on the floor. She looked at up me with a huge, heart melting smile, and trundled off in search of something to drool on – all shoe-related problems apparently forgiven and forgotten. Of course, by this time my son had stopped paying attention.

Time was wasting, and all of us had places to be, so I called over the boy and sat him on my lap. He seemed agreeable as I began putting his shoe on, and everything was going well – until it wasn’t. My attempt to put Bronco’s foot into the shoe was hampered for just a moment by a small piece of elastic that keeps the tongue attached to the sides of the shoe. From what I can tell – keep in mind that I’m no shoe designer – the sole purpose of this elastic is to make the shoe more difficult to put on.

So, because the shoe did not slip on as easily as his ratty old Chucks, Bronco freaked out. He began to shake his foot and refused to participate in putting the shoes on because he claimed they didn’t fit. I am unsure how he knew this without actually putting the shoes on, but my further attempts to put the shoes on led to a meltdown. I tried to tell him that the new shoes would make him run faster and jump higher (promises made to me by my parents), but he wasn’t buying it. My wife told Bronco that it was the elastic that made the shoes not fit and let him help her to cut it out of the shoes, but he still wouldn’t wear them.

I then hauled out my old friend, bribery: “If you wear the shoes today, you can watch Buzz Lightyear when you get home.” Usually movies are not watched during the week, so this was a major concession for a kid who would like to watch the Toy Story movies all day, every day. Bronco had to lie down to give that some thought, but he eventually agreed – that is, until I actually tried to put the shoes on. Then he changed his mind and had a little tantrum that led to a little break in the action. Meanwhile, his sister was happily clomping around the house in her new kicks.

After his enforced vacation, Bronco still wasn’t interested in the shoes. Minutes were ticking away in a morning that was already off to a late start, so I resorted to an empty threat and told him that he wouldn’t be able to go outside with the other kids at daycare if he didn’t have shoes. The idea that he would have to stay inside the whole day got him back into my lap.

I somehow managed to work the shoes onto his feet, despite his continued whining protest. Once they were on, I noticed that they were a bit too big. Unbelievable. His old shoes were a size 8. The last new shoes were a size 8, and they were too small, his current new shoes (different brand) were a size 9 and his toes weren’t really near the end of the shoe. Unbelievable (I have since gone to Converse.com and found that their kids’ shoes run about a half-size large). I went to take off the new shoes, but before I could do it Bronco stole a couple of gummy vitamins and made a break for it – his shoes flopping a little as he ran.

Floppy shoes or not, Bronco did seem to run a bit faster, as my wife and I had a hard time catching him. He weaved around furniture and used his sister (still apparently fine with her shoes) as an unwitting blocker. When he was finally corralled, I told him that he could once again wear his beloved old Chucks. He looked at me as if I had potatoes growing out of my ears and pouted, “No, I want THESE ONES!”

So, he wore shoes that are too big to school and he gets to watch Buzz Lightyear tonight. You have to pick your battles and a deal is a deal.

The Day to Day Grind Tim 26 Apr 2013 No Comments

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