Today, Oct. 14, 2008, five minutes before noon, my Grandfather passed away. He was the happiest 75-year old I have ever seen, and perhaps the best man I've known.
I am the biggest Dodgers fan in the world, and nothing would make me happier than a World Series victory. Last night, I was devastated when the Dodgers blew a 5-3 lead in the eighth inning. It was one of the more painful losses (sports losses) I had experienced in my young 24-year-old life.
Yet today, when I got the phone call that my Grandpa had passed, the Dodgers loss didn't feel nearly the same.
Watching sports and being a fan is about getting away from the reality of life, even if it is just for a short period of time. Most of us have stressful workdays or busy schedules in general and at the end of the day, all we want to do is drift away into a game where, even for a few hours, life isn't quite as difficult to handle.
As I said, I am a huge Dodgers' fan. My Grandpa wasn't though. He was born, raised, and lived in Boston his entire life. Even though I "think blue," the Red Sox are one of the teams I root for. The only thing he loved more than family and friends were the Red Sox. He could name every player on every Sox team, and even knew most their numbers.
Bill Buckner's error hit him straight in the heart. The Yankees, even though he respected them, were his worst enemies. He wouldn't even wear a pinstripe suit to a wedding or party because it reminded him of the Yankees.
In 2004, when the curse was erased and the Red Sox finally won a World Series for the first time since 1918, my grandpa laid sick in a hospital bed. He never saw one of the games.
Several weeks later, his health improved, and he was able to come home and go back to living a normal life. He watched videotapes from the Red Sox championship. He even watched the victory parade. But it wasn't the same. He didn't get to experience the way he always dreamt of.
Thankfully, in 2007 the Red Sox did it again. They won for the second time in four years and for the third time in 89 years. When I grabbed my cell phone last year to call my dad and Grandpa, my phone rang before I even had a chance to dial a number. It was my dad and my Grandpa calling on three-way. My Grandpa and Grandma were crying. Tears were spilling down their old but sweet faces, and finally they were tears of joy.
My Grandpa said finally he saw what he always hoped for as a child, a father, and now a grandfather. He had waited his whole life and it was worth it.
Sports never ruled his life or affected the way he parented or lived. But he was a true fan, always. My Grandpa used baseball as a tool to bond with his kids as well. My grandparents have ten kids, five boys and five girls. All 10 kids played baseball or softball and all ten kids had my grandpa as their coach. No matter what his work schedule was, he would always make time to go and volunteer to coach for his kids' little-league team.
All ten of my aunts and uncles went to college and graduated. Several played college baseball and one even played Double-A baseball. He was there for every game, for every kid.
Baseball, even sports in general, do not or should not rule anyone's life. They are meant to be fun, challenging, and fulfilling. They bring us sadness and anger, but they will always bring moments of happiness.
My Grandpa experienced 71 years of sadness and disappointment courtesy of the Red Sox, but he never quit loving them and he never changed anything about his life. Family was always the most important thing, and even through baseball, he could prove his dedication to his children.
Love your team, love your players, and be the best fan you can be. It's okay to get upset, and it's okay to be sad. It's okay to gloat, just not too much. Most importantly, love your family and friends and never let anything get in the way of that.
The Red Sox are just a team. The players are just men living out their dream. But to fans, they are sometimes the escape from a rough day or a depressed time in one's life. When they used to take the field, my grandpa used to say: "Lookin' good boys, we have a bounce in our step," even if the Sox lost 8-0 the night before.
I will never look at a baseball game again without thinking about my Grandpa. When they take the field tonight, his voice will echo throughout my head.
I may not be as big of a Red Sox fan as my Grandpa but tonight, when they take the field, I won't be surprised if I see a reflection of his face sparkling on the "Green Monster." I will miss my Grandpa dearly and the game of baseball will always remind me of the man who taught me so much.
Rest in peace Grandpa...And who would have thought that when you left us all, the defending champions would be the team from Boston...the Red Sox.
I know it is the way you would have wanted it.