A couple of weeks ago, John came into our room and said, “It looks like the MLB threw up on our son.” All I heard at first was “throw up” and “son,” and started to launch into vomit abatement mode.
“No the MLB threw up on him,” (he emphasized like it’s actually a thing that happens)… “Mets Hat. A’s shirt, Rockies shorts.”
As of last month, Jake’s 10. He’s all limbs, freckles and Justin Bieber hair. He has very sophisticated culinary preferences, and tosses the kids’ coloring menu aside to peer over my shoulder at the grown up menu. When he finishes a meal, he unashamedly eyes my plate, so now I eat faster. He can carry on an intelligent conversation with adults, is good with the follow-up questions, and has amazing recall with biographical & historical factoids. I call him my cub reporter, and he rolls his eyes.
I see what a tween is now – stuck there between little kid and teenager. I can see it in his eyes, “I want to cuddle with you, but I don’t want you to think I want to cuddle with you.” He measures himself against me, waiting for the day he can look me in the eye. I remind him that even when he is taller than me, I will still in fact, be the boss of him.
He rises with or before the sun to turn on the MLB network to check scores and amazing catches and homeruns he missed while he was sleeping. He can rattle off stats I don’t understand, and who’s going on, or coming off the DLs across American and National Leagues.
He understands now, how hard it is to become a professional baseball player, so has been considering his options: sports analyst, sports agent, sports doctor.
I’m well aware that there are countless little kids out there who love baseball and basketball and football. But the one who lives under my roof has hit a rough patch lately with his sports heroes.
The first team he fell in love with was the USC Trojans. Poor kid didn’t have a choice in the matter. His father and I are both Trojans and football is just what you do when you go to USC. Saturday games are still a major event at our house, and another excuse for hot wings and clam dip. When John was in seminary, before the advent of the smart phone, he’d excuse himself from mandatory Saturday seminary activities to stand in the hall yelling commands to some robot on the other end of his gigantic cell phone. You could call a number and get scores! Wow! It was all very futuristic and sophisticated and his classmates still remind him of his voice booming through the hall trying to get the robot to understand his needs. “FOOTBALL! FOOTBALL SCORES! COLLEGE FOOTBALL! USC FOOTBALL SCORES!”
Jacob had a Reggie Bush doll that has now been passed to his little brother, a sports nut in his own right (and who this year re-named St. Patrick’s Day “Dan Patrick Day” and had a fever-induced hallucination starring Kevin Garnett). The hands fell off the doll, Lil Reggie, about 4 years ago. Once in a while I’ll come across one of the hands in a toy box, and it’s really quite disconcerting. Almost as creepy as stretching out on the couch only to have Lil Reggie peeking at you from behind a pillow.
We live near Cal which means we are reminded frequently of USC’s recent fall from glory, or as we think of it, push from glory by the NCAA, based on the unsavory actions of the USC athletic staff, and (maybe not) Reggie Bush.
His next loves were the Giants and Barry Bonds. I didn’t know another little kid who was rooting for Barry Bonds more than Jake. He’d pretend to be Barry Bonds whenever he picked up a bat and would ask daily if there were new homers. Then we had to start talking about steroids and asterisks…with our 1st grader. We forbade him from walking away from us in the store, talking back to his mother, and taking steroids.
There was a point where we actually tried to refocus his attention on good guys. Hard working family men. You know, like Tiger Woods. Last holiday season was tricky, trying to steer away from sports news, regular news, entertainment news, newspapers, anything on the radio, or any conversations with other humans. We’d already had the steroid talk. I wasn’t ready to explain mistresses, bottle service or sex rehab.
He’d already seen Michael Phelps & Tim Lincecum each get caught with pot. Big Ben goes to jail for being gross. LeBron draws the ire of a nation with his one-man money show.
John & Jake were watching ESPN a few weeks ago when the the Lance Armstrong doping allegations story popped up. John said the look in Jake’s eyes was one of hurt and betrayal. “Nooo. Not Lance Armstrong!” before flopping back with the kind of frustration and defeat that should be reserved only for mothers. I’m afraid in 5 years, he’ll look back on that moment as the one where he decided that heroes might be a waste of time.
Since then, two players from his other favorite team, the Mets, are in the news, Johan Santana has paternity drama, and Francisco Rodriguez, K-Rod, gets arrested for being in a super-classy fight with his father-in-law. We have about 100 pictures of K-Rod taken from 10 feet away, while Jake sat starry eyed watching him warm up. I’ve noticed in the last couple of days, Jake’s been absentmindedly flipping through these stories, on his way to the Disney channel.
I think it would have been easier if the MLB had just actually thrown up on him.
August 24, 2012: For his 12th birthday, the only thing Jacob wanted was a t-shirt with the number of his new favorite Giant, Melky Cabrera. Days later, Cabrera was slapped with a 50 game suspension for doping. We’ve delicately discussed the Penn State football program over the past months, and not so delicately, the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal. When I saw today’s Lance Armstrong news, I remembered this post I originally published almost exactly two years ago. Things change, but not really. And I really wonder how a family can collectively find a new interest – like bird watching or stamp collecting.