|Ethan playing ball, age 1 1/2|
So many of my childhood memories with family involve everyone gathered and watching games together. There was my grandmother yelling at the Red Sox on Channel 38 or my first game ever at Fenway, surrounded by my parents and uncles (1986, Sox vs. Jays, we won!). There was the weekend gatherings during the Patriots' 1985 Super Bowl run, culminating with a Super Bowl party at my other grandmother's, complete with a TV in the bathroom (too bad they lost in devastating fashion). There was the constant backdrop of Sox games on the TV or crackling through the radio during cookouts and big family dinners.
And after years of rooting for losing teams, teams that would break our hearts in sickeningly creative ways year after year, there was sheer joy of watching with the people we were closest to while the Patriots and Red Sox finally exorcized their demons and won it all (in 2002 and 2004, respectively).
When Dan and I married, or actually before, I realized something: I was entering into a marriage in which the woman would be the bigger sports fan. Back before we had kids, when I had more time to watch sports, Dan and I would joke that he was the football "widower" on Sundays.
Dan hates sports. I mean, hates sports. He always has. He thinks they're pointless. He once brought a book to read at a Red Sox game. He can usually be found surfing the internet during major sporting events. Either that or he will be sitting and quietly tolerating, rather than relishing, the game. He likes to joke that his favorite day of the year is the one after the All-Star Game: the only day there are no professional sports played.
So Dan is not a sports fan, and that's okay. He didn't share the same kind of family traditions. None of his family are really huge fans. Gatherings didn't revolve around sporting events. There aren't the same kind of memories, of emotions connected to baseball and football.
I never expected Dan to blossom into a sports fanatic. There was something else I didn't expect: that our four-year-old, supposedly not athletic little boy would morph into a really, really big sports fan.
I'm not sure when we first noticed. Maybe it was when he was begging to play baseball and picked up the basic rules of the game in mere minutes. Maybe it was the first creative prayer he ever uttered, last year ("And thank you God for the Patriots that win"). Maybe it was the way he wanted to stay out and watch his great-grandfather hit golf balls for the better part of an hour, or his love for playing catch with Uncle Nate.
"I hate to say this," I said to Dan a few weeks ago with a smile, "but I think Ethan really, really likes sports."
And so yesterday, the kick-off to the Patriots' season, opening day for all of the football fanatics in the land, I witnessed something quite incredible.
There, on the couch, at 1 o'clock, were Dan and Ethan.
Dan was explaining the rules of the game.
Ethan was intently listening. Perhaps not completely understanding, but definitely paying attention.
Before long he knew the difference between a field goal and a touchdown, and that the game was divided into 15-minute quarters. Before long, we were cheering as the Patriots roared ahead of the Titans in the bright Nashville sun.
Dan thought maybe he'd be building model rockets or airplanes with his son. I don't think he ever envisioned making a connection over a bunch of grown men tackling each other.
That's a cool thing about parenthood. That's a cool thing about life. You travel down a path unexpected; you do something you never thought you'd do for someone you love, and you find yourself surprised by joy.
The other night, I heard Dan ask: "Ethan, do you want to go outside and play catch?" Ethan was out the door in a flash. And so they played, as the sun set and the evening grew cool. He's too young this fall, but the spring sports sign-ups will be here before we know it. I wasn't sure, but I think a possibility might become a reality. I think Ethan may be out on the soccer field and baseball diamond, months from now. Those two have a lot of practicing to do.