When a son succumbs to dark side

August 09, 2005|By The Rev. Timothy E. Schenck

BEN HAS TURNED to the dark side. Maybe it was inevitable. All his friends are Yankee fans. But still, I held out hope before we moved to New York from Baltimore when he was 3. Now that he's 6, he's anointed Derek Jeter his hero. And, to my thinking, this is pure heresy.

It could have been different. When he was young and impressionable, I taught him to say, "Boo Yankees, go Orioles" at the mere mention of the Bronx Bombers. I always viewed raising a Yankee-hating Oriole fan as a critical piece of my parental duty. And I've failed. All the love in the world doesn't excuse this calamity. To make things worse, Ben has even corrupted his younger brother, Zack. So the insidious virus continues to spread throughout our home.

I had reservations about moving to New York. When I left my position as the assistant priest at Old St. Paul's to become rector of a church in Westchester County, I told my wife, a native New Yorker, that if either of our boys became Yankee fans, we would immediately move and send them to pinstripe detox. But here we are, living in New York, with no moving vans in sight.

The boys are obsessed with Star Wars. And maybe there's a parallel here. Anakin Skywalker, a Jedi knight, moved to the dark side of the force to become Darth Vader. My boys have undergone a similar metamorphosis, albeit without the annoying heavy breathing. They've moved from the light of Birdland to the darkness of the Evil Empire. They've become my own personal fallen angels. And it's painful to watch.

I recently took Ben to his first game at Yankee Stadium to see the Yanks take on the Orioles. I donned my well-worn O's cap. He wore the Yankee hat his mother bought him in open defiance of my household ban on all things Yankee. We held hands walking up the ramp into the stadium - a sight of conflicting loyalties. I assured him the Orioles would win. He stuck his tongue out at me and reminded me how much shorter I was than Randy Johnson.

The game was brutal. In between Ben's diet of overpriced hot pretzels, cotton candy and ice cream, the Yankees trounced the Orioles, 12-2. So now I'm raising an arrogant Yankee fan (as if there's any other kind) who believes winning is his birthright. I'll have to find another way to teach him humility. I hold out hope he'll start rooting for the Knicks.

I was just about Ben's age when my father took me to my first Orioles game at Memorial Stadium. It's since been razed, of course, but my memories have not. The Birds beat the Red Sox that day in 1975. Who knew that exactly 30 years later I'd bring my own son to his first baseball game? For me, it began a lifelong love affair with baseball and the Orioles. But even more important was the growing bond between a father and son.

There's talk about George Steinbrenner building a new Yankee Stadium. Odds are that Ben won't be able to bring his future children to the place where he saw his first game. And that's too bad. But it's the memories and the relationships that transcend all else. Even, and I cringe when I say this, team loyalties.

Of course, there's another lesson in this whole tragic episode, besides avoiding a move to the tri-state area. We don't own or control our children. As much as we seek to protect them and shield them from the evils of life, they need to find their own way. I thank Ben and Zack for this reminder. Even if they unintentionally made the point in the most egregious way imaginable.

The Rev. Timothy E. Schenck is rector of All Saints' Episcopal Church in Briarcliff Manor, N.Y.

Columnist Clarence Page is on vacation.

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