In three decades of cheering with my dad, I took it for granted that I’d be passing a love of the Yankees on to my own children. But now that my wife, Kristin, is due to deliver our first child, a boy, in early August, I’m starting to wonder what kind of fan we’ll raise.
This dilemma is unique to Washington, a city full of people who grew up in other places and now have the rare opportunity to unite around a team that is growing up right in front of us. But can I really nurture a Nationals fan? Would that feel treasonous, and would it let my dad down? After all, my Yankee devotion is as much a part of me as my last name and my love of hot dogs. My dad claims credit for my love of the Yankees, and he deserves it. A few career highlights:
●1982: I’m 6 years old and go to my first game with my dad and grandfather. My dad points out the opposing team’s manager and tells me, “Always boo the guys not wearing pinstripes.”
●Early 1990s: A “Let Mitch stay” chant starts in our section at Yankee Stadium when I refuse to leave an extra-innings game with my dad and sister in order to meet a dinner reservation. The chant got loud enough to guilt my dad into staying for the rest of the game.
●1994: I catch a foul ball at Yankee Stadium and immediately give it to my dad, because, for as long as I can remember, at every game we’ve attended, he’s lamented the fact that he’s never caught one.
●2003: My dad and I are in right field at Yankee Stadium when Aaron Boone hits an extra-inning home run to beat the Red Sox and send the Yankees to the World Series. My dad and I do a sort of jump-hug for about three minutes. (I’m sure glad camera phones were not yet ubiquitous.)
But just three weeks ago, I noticed a shift: I found myself flipping between Nats and Yankees coverage, more interested in Stephen Strasburg’s pitching line than CC Sabathia’s. Is it possible that the next time the Yankees are in town, my son won’t be wearing the same interlocking NY on his cap as his dad and grandpa, but instead a curly W? Will Bryce Harper be for him what Derek Jeter was for me?
I decided to call in an expert, so I spoke to Daniel Wann, a psychology professor at Murray State University who studies sports fandom. He thinks I might be in the first stages of falling for the Nats.