How the Boston Red Sox Changed My Political Views.

I’ve been a Red Sox fan since June of 1967. That was when my fifth grade teacher took our class to Fenway Park for a night game. I don’t remember who the Sox played that night, but I remember that the game went into extra innings, and that Tony Conigliaro hit a home run in the bottom of the tenth to win it.

I also remember that the picture of Tony C. in the program was about the cutest thing I’d ever seen in my life and my first real crush was born.

As was my life as a Red Sox fan.

If you follow baseball at all, you’ll know that the Boston team used to be famous for it’s inability to win. Year after year, we Sox fans would cheer ourselves hoarse in the spring and cry ourselves hoarse in the fall.

That all changed in October of 2004, when the Sox finally overturned the curse that had plagued them for 86 years. They won the World Series.

All of New England celebrated that victory. We were beyond thrilled, beyond excited, beyond proud. You would have thought that every one of us had pitched in the playoffs!

What made things even sweeter for us was that in order to make it into the World Series, our beloved boys has beaten the despised New York Yankees.

All year long, all through the 2004 season, and for several years afterward, everyone in New England talked about how much we hated the Yankees.

I remember how everyone talked about the two teams. Our guys were “The Idiots”; the Yankees were the “Evil Empire.” We adored the relaxed, fun feeling of our team. So they drank in the clubhouse, so what? We were charmed by the antics of Johnny Damon, chuckling at the image of his naked pull-ups.

And we all knew, deep in our very souls, that A-Rod was weak, whining and pitiful. We loathed Derek Jeter, who we considered to be cold, emotionaless. An automaton with no soul. Don’t even get me started on what we thought of Joe Torre, a manager as sour as our own Terry Francona was sweet.

Curt Schilling? Our brave hero!

Mariano Rivera? A fool.

And on and on it went. It was kind of fun, you know? Our shared adoration for one team and shared hatred for the other gave us a sense of belonging. It gave us a feeling of safety and security. It gave us a sense that we were a clan, protected by our loyalty to ourselves.

It was only during one of the off seasons that it occurred to me that we were being a little closed minded. I listened to an interview with Derek Jeter on XM Radio. I was surprised to realize that the man was articulate, intelligent, warm and funny.

And then I was surprised at my own surprise.

I am embarrassed at how long it took me to realize that just because a guy wore a Red Sox jersey, I couldn’t assume that he was a prince. The whole “team” thing was really only about baseball games, not character.

When all was said and done, Curt Schilling turned out to be someone I wouldn’t want to sit next to on a bus, while Derek Jeter is a guy I’ve truly come to admire.

So what does all this have to do with politics, you ask?

It’s the whole “Vote Blue No Matter Who” thing, that’s what. It’s the way that we immediately write off anyone who watches a different cable news channel than we do.

I know it can be fun to laugh at those memes about how stupid the “sheep” are because they can’t “think for themselves.” But this stuff is only funny when “our” side is saying it about “their” side. When the barb is turned around and aimed at “us”, we bristle and comfort ourselves by saying how hateful the other side is.

Here’s the thing: I have really strong political views. I’m a far left, progressive, Medicare-for-all, tuition-free-public-college, hippy snowflake. It would be really easy for me to pick a team.

But I’m no longer willing to assume that every other liberal thinker is a saint and every conservative a sinner. “We” aren’t smarter than “they” are. “We” aren’t kinder, or more gentle, or more deserving.

And we are NOT a team.

I don’t think of the political parties as teams. I don’t think of their followers as teams. I now realize that everyone who wears my favorite uniform isn’t a good guy and everyone who wears the other jersey isn’t criminal. I am no longer willing to vote for a candidate just because there is a D next to their name.

I have finally realized that I won’t be pitching in the playoffs. In fact, I know now that this isn’t actually a game and that I’m not bound by clan loyalty to help one team come out on top.

Because we live (at least theoretically) in a democracy, I am free to cast my vote for whichever candidate I prefer.

Thanks to Derek Jeter for helping me to evolve.

Image attribution: Red Sox vs. Padres, Fenway Park July 4th” by djanimal is licensed under CC BY 2.0 


Even when they're awful....they're my team.

Even when they’re awful….they’re my team.

One of the hard things about being a parent is helping kids to learn what it means to be a good human being.   It’s hard to teach them that integrity is something that can’t be faked.

One of the really hard things about being an elementary school teacher is helping children to learn and understand that winning is really fun, but there is more.

I’m a Red Sox fan. I know a lot about losing teams, and about unexpected success. I know a lot about loyalty, and sticking with your team even when it sucks.  I’m a Red Sox fan; the memory of the 2004 American League Series will stay with me forever.


There have been few things in my life that have been sweeter than defeating the Damn Yankees. Watching A-Rod squirm. Watching Jeter Mourn. Watching Mariano blow it.

But here we are now, in 2014.  And A-Rod has been exposed as the cheater that he was. Mariano has retired. Both the Red Sox and the Yankees are awful this year. There will be no playoff rivalry this year.

This year its all different.

This year is the last year of Derek Jeter’s career.  And I find myself thinking, often, of how I can use him as a role model for my students. How he can be a perfect example of what it means to have integrity.

Oddly enough, Derek Jeter is reminding me of my Dad.

Like Dad, Derek Jeter took his job seriously.  He was humble.  Did you ever here Jeter refer to himself as “we”?  Me either.

Like my Dad, Derek Jeter was always aware of how lucky he was to have his job, his skills, his success. He is rich, but I don’t know if he lived that way.  He is single, but I have never heard of him being filmed in the elevator with a celebrity, have you?

I know that Derek Jeter isn’t a real hero: he hasn’t saved lives or changed the world or created beautiful art.  But he can be a hero in my classroom this fall, as I talk to my class about integrity, and doing your best, and about being a good sport.  He can help me as I talk to the kids about why it is important to support your own team but to appreciate the talents and skills and admirable traits of the “enemy”, too.

Maybe those lessons can go beyond the fifth grade classroom. Maybe they can resonate beyond baseball.

Who knows.

What I know is that I hope I can be at Derek Jeter’s last Fenway game.  I’ll cheer myself hoarse.

So Good.


Some days you are just running on empty.  Done. Spent. All hollowed out.

Some days you just have nothing left.  Nix. Nada. Nothin’


Today was a day like that.

I blame Big Papi and those bearded bad boys of Boston. Way too many late nights around Beantown this month. Way too many.  Last night I stayed up for every last pitch, every beard pull, every champagne shower.

So good, so good, so good!!!

But you know what I’m gonna say, right?  This morning was not. So. Good.

I was in a deep, deep sleep when I began to be aware of distant bells.  Lyrical and sweet, they seemed to be calling me to some lovely place where I could rest.  I was enjoying them, right up until the moment when I realized that they were coming from my iPod alarm, and that it was 5:30 AM.


I hauled myself out of bed and into the shower, then headed for the espresso machine. Twenty minutes later, I found myself on the front steps, in the pitch black morning, with my work bag and purse on one arm and a bag of extra clothes in the other.  My witch hat was balanced precariously on my head, and my cape was dragging. A coffee cup wobbled in one hand.

“Grrrooooof”.  Something BIG whuffed in the woods right next to my car.

What the HELL!

As I tried to tell myself that it was just an owl, about a hundred branches came crashing down, and whatever it was out there gave another big “grrroooof”.   I squeaked like a terrified mouse and frantically shoved everything into the back seat. My heart was going about a billion miles an hour.  In 4 seconds flat I had vaulted into the car and hit the lock button.

As I sat there gasping for breath, and hysterically trying to peer through the foggy darkness, one hopeful thought burbled to the surface.  “Well, at least I’m awake now!”

I drove to work with my knees shaking, and got ready to start a day of Halloween festivities. With 24 fifth graders.  With a head ache.  On 4 hours of sleep. Woohoo.

I gobbled down some ibuprofin, took my pulse, tried to put the Groofer out of my mind, and quickly threw together a big black beard to go with my witch costume.  I organized my desk, turned on the computer and suddenly remembered that I had a morning parent conference. With a Mom I had never met.  I looked up just as she entered the classroom.  “Hi!”, I chirped, trying to recover my equilibrium.  “Come on in!”

Ever cool in the face of disaster, I swept my cape gracefully around my shoulders and pulled out the student’s folder.  “Have a seat!”, I offered in my best hostess voice, which for some odd reason sounded muffled and sort of fuzzy. Realizing that the young mother in front of my was staring at my chin, and realizing at the same moment that beard fuzz was flying up my nose, I hastily pulled off the beard, and the conference began.

Considering my costume and the 52 sneezes that exploded out of me, I think the conference went pretty well.  Sort of.  Ish.

Enter the 24 hyper kids. “Did you see the game?!” “I love your beard!”  “When can we eat candy?” “Where are my fangs!?” “Do we have homework?” “Can you guess what I am?”  They were all talking so loud and so fast that I started to miss the Groofer. I briefly considered taking more ibuprofin, but my liver started to melt, so I decided to just go for another cup of coffee instead.

It’s now 8pm.  I’m still in the black skirt and orange sweater, the pointy hat and pumpkin spangled socks. The beard is gone, but the headache persists. Over the past 12 hours I have served cupcakes, pretzels and lemonade, danced to “Rock Lobster” and the “Monster Mash”, cleaned up feathers and beard fuzz, corralled and lined up the whole crowd five times, had another conference and attended two professional meetings. Then I drove in the rain through rush hour traffic to give out three bags of candy to the kids in my mom’s neighborhood.  All while dressed as a witch. On four hours of sleep. With the fear of the Groofer in my soul.

But every time I start to complain, I remember Big Papi, sweeping Koji into his big arms.  And I have to smile.

I may be spent, and I may be destined to become a Groofer snack, but at least I got to see another Red Sox championship.

So.  Good.

Baseball Voodoo

I became a baseball fan way back in June of 1967.

To be specific, I became a Red Sox fan in June of 1967.

My fifth grade teacher brought us all to a night game at Fenway, and the Sox won in the tenth inning on what had not yet been labelled a “walk-off homerun”.   It was fun, it was exhilarating, Tony Conigliaro was cute and heroic and not that much older than me. I fell in love, and I fell hard.

I became a Sox fan, and that meant pain. I watched my Sox come close in ’67, then founder and drift and struggle and come close a few times again.

But it wasn’t until 2004 that all of our baseball dreams came true.  It felt like a miracle when they won the World Series. It felt like a dream.

It felt like a once in a lifetime experience for everyone who ever loved the Boston Red Sox.

My boys were young back then.  Matt was 14, Tim was only 12.  Kate was a freshman in college, so she wasn’t at home as we suffered through the first three ALCS games against the dreaded Yankees (“The evil empire”).  But the boys were here.  And they were pulled into the crazy magical thinking that went along with each of the wins of that series.

I remember that I had to stop at the grocery store before game 5, and I bought Boston baked beans and Boston brown bread to go with the meatloaf that I had planned.  The Sox won.

We ate Boston Baked Beans and Boston Brown Bread for the next two games.  And the Sox won.

What I had forgotten before today was that at the beginning of the series I had made a simple ground beef dinner.  My kids always had a yearning for sauteed ground beef over noodles.  Whenever I was away overnight, Paul would buy a box of Hamburger Helper, and everyone was happy.  Of course, being the healthy food fanatic that I am, I would gripe and complain and point out the dangers of all of those chemicals.  So I had tried to come up with a healthy, no-preservatives version of “Hamburger Helper” that would make all of us happy.

Apparently, I had made the dinner at some point during the baseball playoffs of 2004.

I had forgotten all about that meal until today, when I thumbed through a notebook of recipes, looking for a lemon cake.   As I turned the pages, passing pancakes, shrimp, Asian meatballs and various cookies, I came to a page that was recorded in my own handwriting.  It described a meal of ground beef, onions, tomato paste and spices.  I had named the dish “Yankee Noodle Dandy”.   But I laughed out loud when I saw the word “Yankee” crossed out, and in Tim’s youthful scrawl, the words “Red Sox” written just above.SONY DSC

Such sweet memories, of my own childhood, and of my children’s.  Such sweet memories of pulling for a team, wishing for something that is so out of our own control.  Of feeling that we are part of a team, a group, a collective of hope.

Go, Red Sox!