For the week ending 14 January 2006 / 14 Tevet 5766

Can a Jewish New Yorker Root For The White Sox?

by Rabbi Yehuda Albin
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Saved by an angel. Or should I say The Angels.

Once again, after just two years, I would have been in a bind, as now, instead of the Cubs, the White Sox had looked like they might play the Yankees in a post season match-up.

Two years ago, I wasn’t sure who I’d be rooting for, Chicago or New York. But now, with age, perhaps a bit more conservative, my position would have been clear. I would have been rooting for the Yankees.

It’s not just because I was raised in New York and was always a Yankee fan. (I still remember the feeling of ecstasy, in 1978, when NY’s short stop, Bucky Dent hit a three run homerun against Boston at Fenway lifting the Yankees to a 5-4 victory in a one game playoff. How many of you remember that Bucky was an ex-White Sox player?)

But now, as a Jewish parent, a Sox-Yanks series would have had new meaning for me.

So as I describe the potential tensions in my home I don’t mind if you’re trying to “steal the signs” and guess what my pitch is going to be.

I’m not embarrassed to admit that I’m still a Yankee fan deep down. I heard first hand that one of the world’s greatest living rabbis of 90+ years, residing in Israel, until somewhat recently, still smiled inside when he heard that “his old team won.”

But it’s a kind of funny relationship that I have with the Yanks. You see, I haven’t seen them play in person or on TV in over 20 years. I don’t even know the current players’ names. Although through the occasional radio news reports, where I keep a tab on their record, I still maintain the requisite love-hate relationship with Yankee owner George Steinbrenner.

So what kind of fan am I?

I’m not just a fan because of anti-Yankeeism, which exists in every major league city. My attachment is more positive than that.

I mean, how many people do you know who own a real Yankee Stadium seat (my father bought it for me as a souvenir in 1973 when Yankee Stadium was last remodeled.) Sure it’s only collecting dust in my basement storage closet. But I own it. One day I’m going to bolt my stadium chair onto my deck so I can use it. I’m sure at the end of this series I’ll say, “Next Year In My-chair-from-the-stadium.”

Of course, I still cherish my partially rotted Yankee cap acquired on Hat Day in 1971. It’s stored away in mothballs on a high shelf in the back of my clothes closet.

Living in Chicago, I can’t say that the Yankees get a lot of play at my house. Of course, once in a while, I visit a friend at his office, and we share a few Yankee thoughts and, deep inside, I feel the warm feelings.

But what about my children? Who will they root for as they mature?

I hope they’ll be Yankee fans. I mean, I’ve got that feeling, you know; it’s important to me -- when I married a woman from Boston it felt like an intermarriage. (We don’t have similar feelings about Bucky Dent.)

Besides, how could my children turn away from the glorious heritage of the Bronx Bombers who have more World Series championships than any other team? And look at the countless Hall of Famers they’ve produced over the decades. It doesn’t take much to realize that the Yankees should be the chosen team of any fan.

But despite my warm feelings, the hidden dusty momentos, the nostalgic conversations in other people’s offices, and a glorious history, my children are becoming real Chicago fans. They’re rooting for the White Sox.

If I would tell them that I couldn’t bear to go to a game with them, where they would cheer for the home team, because I’d feel sick to my stomach, they’d think I was some type of New York fanatic and say, “Dad, people only felt like that back in the old city.”

What happened here? How did we get to the point that while I shuddered at marrying a Boston Red Sox fan, my kids are looking forward to marrying a fellow Chicagoan?

Well, all their formative years have been in Chicago. The local papers, mostly read as they pass newspapers for sale on the streets, praise the local squads. And it wouldn’t surprise me if they’ve seen a few Chicago games on TV at a friend’s house. And of course, ALL their friends are rooting for the Chicago teams.

Lately, and it’s too late, I’ve wondered what would have been if I had taken them to see all the Yankee games in Chicago, risking our lives to root for the Yankees in the bleachers at US Cellular Field? What if I had brought NY-style franks along, while every one else was eating their Chicago ones? And if I had only allowed the sports sections from NY papers into our home? And if I had bolted that Yankee stadium chair on our porch already? And if I had worn my Yankee cap every time I did the gardening? And what about if we had talked about the Yanks at the dinner table and said at the end of every season, “Next year let’s fly to NY for a Yankee game.”?

Surely their allegiance to the Yankees would have been seared into their heart by those experiences – in fact, they’d probably be diehard Yankee fans.

And then, if I told them again and again that it’s really important to me that they be Yankee fans, I wonder if I would have had a more sympathetic ear.

So here’s my pitch. Make sure you’re a diehard fan of our religion.

Take your kids regularly to synagogue, make a succah and sit in it, get your tefiliin out of the closet, visit Israel, serve kosher franks, let them know about the amazing history of our people, and the great individual Jews who have contributed to our people and the world, make sure you have enough Jewish and Torah “readables” at home, and be sure to discuss the weekly portion at your table etc. -- that’s 613 etceteras to be exact.

And most of all, let them know it’s really important to you that they be at least as observant as you.

And maybe, one day, when you look at the way your grandchildren behave, even your Jewish core will rejoice, and you won’t have to cringe the way I do when my children root for the White Sox instead of the Yankees.

Ohr Somayach alumnus Rabbi Yehuda Albin was born and raised in NY. Besides his BA from Bowdoin College, he received two smichas while studying in Israel for 10 years, and 12 years ago he founded and now directs the local chapter of Ohr Somayach International, where he teaches classical Judaism to people from all backgrounds.

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