In 1986, I was in seventh grade, and my favorite baseball team was playing in Game 7 of the World Series. As I recall, that game was on a Monday night, and the question of whether I should stay up to watch the pivotal game. . . actually this was never a question. As much as my parents wanted to spare me the embarrassment of falling asleep in a pool of drool on my desk in math class the following morning, they also knew they were fighting an uphill battle. I was an irrational Mets fan at the height of my irrational baseball fandom, and if it came to it, would have picketed our front yard with a bullhorn, or at the very least snuck out of my bedroom to watch the game at the local bar.
Fast forward three decades, and my oldest son is in seventh grade, and his team is in Game 7 of the World Series. It’s not the same team, because I’ve noted before that this son is infuriatingly independent-minded. But the parallel is worth nothing, and now that I have at least created the facade of being a responsible parent, I am left to wrestle with letting Charlie go the distance tonight to watch his Dodgers try to win the World Series.
Now before you hurl accusations of hypocrisy and being a killjoy for considering otherwise, let’s agree that life is different now than it was in the carefree 80s, when we rode bicycles without helmets, drank soda with lunch and dinner, and as I learned later, most of my beloved Mets were routinely navigating a different set of white lines than those on the ballfield. The concept of wellness consisted of little more than Jane Fonda in a leotard, and while we certainly were told even then that a good night’s sleep was important, we enjoyed the luxury of only considering it in the abstract.
Now, though, I’ve been exposed to studies that say insufficient sleep can lead to poor performance in school and sports, irregular behavior, skin problems, and illness. More importantly, my wife has seen these studies as well, and life’s just easier when I do what she says.
Besides, even for me these days, postseason baseball is no small investment. Other than those evenings interrupted by work or sports practices, the normal routine in our family is to finish dinner around 7, clean up, and maybe throw on a game before we send our boys up to their rooms around 9. In this World Series, that might mean the top of the second inning. And even if we let the boys stay up until 10 as we did for Game 6, the number of dizzying lead changes in this Series means the most important action is still unfolding after midnight. I could have let Charlie watch every inning of the postseason as I did in 1986, but only at the risk of turning him into a pimply, sniffly, petty thief who makes careless errors in class and misses wide open nets in his hockey games. For the sake of his teachers and his teammates, we’ve turned off most games before the Dodgers and Astros have even dipped into their bullpens.
Then again, one game is ONE GAME, and if my beleaguered Mets are any indication, Charlie might himself be an overly cautious dad by the time the Dodgers get another chance to win a championship. I can live with my son being groggy-eyed and ornery for a couple of days, but I can’t live with denying him his own potential indelible memory. It’s why he’ll indeed watch every minute of tonight’s Game 7, and why I’ll be right there beside him . . . most likely asleep on the couch by the bottom of the fourth.