It was a bad weekend to be a New York Yankees fan. They were swept by the Red Sox, after all. And to add insult to injury, it happened at home. But it was harder still to be the parent of a pint-sized Yankees fan. And that rests squarely on the shoulders of Jorge Posada.
A loss kids can take. A petulant temper tantrum from a star we've traditionally depended on to be a stalwart role model is a bit harder to swallow. In case you missed it, Posada took himself out of the line-up on Saturday, ostensibly as an F-U to Manager Joe Girardi's decision to have the 39-year-old DH bat ninth.
Put that way, and Posada sounds like a brat, like the kid who would be sent off to time-out forthwith. As a friend's daughter asked, why is he complaining? At least he STILL GETS TO BAT.
From the eyes of a child, it really is a simple matter of a love of the game. These men are paid to play baseball. It's the stuff of sandlot dreams. Posada, it seemed, was looking a gift horse in the mouth and spitting in its eye, or some such combination of silly cliches. No wonder our kids are confused. We are trying to teach them to enjoy sports for the sake of enjoyment, not for their own personal glory. Remember, there is no "I" in team, kids!
But it's harder than that, isn't it? Posada has been a player I have looked to for so long because in 16 years in the spotlight in a baseball town, the Bombers' catcher has had so few fumbles. He's won four World Series, been in five All-Star games, and gathered five Silver Sluggers along the way. He's been a cornerstone for the Yankees operation, along with best friend Derek Jeter and closer Mariano Rivera, one of just three players remaining from the 1996 World Series team that brought the Bronx back to glory. He was a vocal supporter of Girardi when he was first hired, welcoming him to the team with open arms. And his life off the field has been just as clean-cut. He's a dedicated husband and father, the name behind a foundation that's helped countless kids with Craniosynostosis, a fusing of the skull that affects babies' brain growth.
Basically, Posada has been thisclose to Derek Jeter on my ideal man list for as long as I can remember. The only thing putting him in my number two slot is that he IS married (yeah, yeah, and so am I ... but a mom can dream, can't she?).
In short, to judge Posada on one weekend is to treat our kids as though one tantrum is a marker of their entire future. And so we as parents had to balance the Posada bashing this weekend. Yes, he was wrong, we said to little ones in pinstripes, but it was one mistake, and we all make them. We, meaning parents too. We, meaning people who, like Posada, are getting older and having to face those young whippersnappers taking our place.
He bristled at being knocked back in the batting order; we feel a twinge when our kids pick the teenage babysitter to hang out with instead of us. Same thing, really. With age comes a feeling of uselessness, and a tendency to put out our claws to grab hold and hang on to that last shred of dignity. When Posada, Jeter, and Rivera leave the Yankees, I won't just lose three of my favorite players to retirement. I will lose the last ties to the years when I discovered the team, when I was a high school kid making her own choices -- in this case to root for the Yanks over my mother's beloved Sox. It will represent my own aging.
And so when I look to my daughter to explain why Posada wasn't on the field as the Bombers faced down our arch rivals, I am faced with a much harder discussion than I thought. It isn't "why isn't Jorge Posada playing baseball?" but "why we need to value a person's past as much as their present." It's the same conversation Posada may well be having with his OWN kids that works in the homes of his fans: "Daddy is having a tough time getting old, and Daddy stumbled, but Daddy has been trying to be good for so darn long that it just got to be too much for him. Daddy will do better next time."
That's the story of Jorge Posada's weekend: the 16 years that came before it. Did your kids ask about Posada? How did you handle the conversation?
Image via chris.ptacek/Flickr