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October 30, 2013
Posted at 11:23 pm

Pinks Hats and Blue Caps

My wife is definitely a Pink Hatter. I, on the other hand, am a Blue Hatter all the way. It's in my DNA, a gift from my father every bit as much as my brown hair.

Normally, I don't give a Tinker's Cuss about baseball. Hockey is my game, honed by many, many hours spent in cold, nameless rinks at all hours of the day, watching my son try to master the intricacies of skating and moving a slab of rubber on ice at the same time. He got pretty good at it. Figuring I had a choice between learning to enjoy the game or being miserable for months at a time, I chose to learn and love the game.

That said, there's something in my DNA that climbs out of the depths of my being whenever the Boston Red Sox play baseball in October. If you don't hale from New England, it's hard to explain, or even understand. Bruins, Patriots, Celtics -- pretenders one and all. The Red Sox are the glue that binds New England in the sporting arena.

It's in our DNA.

My Dad had it bad. He was 7 in 1946 when Teddy Ballgame and Friends lost to the St Louis Cardinals, the same age I was when the Red Sox lost to the Cincinnati Reds in 1975. I can't I remember 1975 very well. I damn sure don't remember the World Series. But I remember as I got older my Dad, night after spring and summer night, faithfully watching the Red Sox engage in agonizing, tantalizing teases, year after year. He watched much pretty every game, lived and breathed Red Sox, taking a break in the winter to suffer with the Bruins.

I think 1986 took 5 years off his life. That one hurt, even me, who really had only a vague, osmotic understanding of what was going on. I was in my first year of nursing school, and I lived at home. The house was crowded the night of Game 6, and my oh my, we were all sure the Curse was about to be broken, sure this was The Year. Then...

No matter how many times I see the replay of that moment, it always ends with Vin Scully crying out, "Behind the bag!" and that stupid ball dribbling down the right field line. From Party to Funeral in one fell swoop. The other shoe dropped. We were punished again for our hubris.

Then came a long spell in Purgatory (Hey, we were good Catholics, it fit). Baseball faded from my consciousness but for a few teases here and there. It never faded from my Dad's consciousness. He kept on hoping, believing, never forsaking what was woven into his New England DNA, watching every night.

Then, at the turn of the new century, it seemed as though things might -- just might -- be changing. Oh, but agonies remained, oh yes indeed, usually at the hands of the vile pin-stripped Yankees, the thieves in the night who stole Babe Ruth from his rightful place in New England. 2003 hurt badly, almost as bad as 1986. My DNA was dragging me back home. I was returning to where I belonged, getting stirred up in October, only to be deflated by November.

Then came 2004. Dad was sick, terminally so. I as a nurse watched helplessly as he wasted away. Still, the Red Sox were on every night. Dad believed. Even in May, there was a sense that... maybe? He struggled, oh how he struggled, to hang on to see his life's dream fulfilled.

Alas, it was not to be. Dad died in June. The Red Sox did not die in June. Or July. Or August. Or September. Or October. They did it, four months after my father, the crotchety old SOB, lost his grip. Four months!

So, on October 28, 2004, I went to the cemetery with a Red Sox cap, sat on his grave, and bawled my eyes out for over an hour. Once I composed myself, I got in my car to go home. I put on a local sports talk radio station so I could live the moment a bit longer. I don't know who's in charge of such things Up There, but for some unearthly reason, the station chose to play Louis Armstrong's "It's a Wonderful World" as a lead in to their next segment.

Needless to say, I had to pull over to the side of the road and spend another half an hour trying to pull myself together.

Yeah, it's in my DNA.

But my wife? She's a Pink Hat. She's from New England, but it isn't in her DNA. I can't remember exactly when it happened, but sometime in the early 2000s, it became trendy for Hollywood types to be Red Sox fans, Bandwagon Jumpers, Faux-Fans. Suddenly, actresses, models, woman in positions of trend-setting authority starting wearing Red Sox caps. PINK Red Sox caps! Women who didn't know a foul ball from a curveball, didn't care either. It was Cool To Be A Red Sox Fan, so out came the Pink Hats.

My wife and I were getting into the We're Serious phase of our relationship, which meant she was being integrated into my family. My father LOVED her, and she returned the favor. Now my wife's idea of playing the bases has nothing to do with baseball. She was true Pink Hatter material. She knew she needed to at least go through the motions of pretending it mattered. So she got herself a Pink Cap, and a Pink Hoodie, and paraded it in front of my Dad to show that, yes, I'm on board.

And he loved it! He just ate it up! Yep, she was the real deal. And so she was... and is.

So when October rolls around, and the Red Sox are still in it, the DNA stretches it's coils and reminds me from whence I came. Then, whatever the outcome, as fall fades into winter, my interest in baseball will fade, replaced by hockey, only to rear up again the next time the stars align. My Pink Hat will sigh, break out her motheaten Pinks, and I... I am entitled to wear my worn and faded Blue Red Sox cap.

Thanks Dad.