Paul here, giving Phil a rare Sunday off (he’ll return the favor for me tomorrow), because I want to talk about Mother’s Day. Yes, it’s a Hallmark holiday, it’s sappy, blah-blah-blah, but this is the first Mother’s Day since my father passed away last June, so it’s my Mom’s first Mother’s Day on her own, all of which has gotten me thinking a bit about moms in general and mine in particular.
My mother is many things, but “sports fan” is not among them. She’s not anti-sports; more like sports-oblivious. I don’t think she came to any of my Little League games, and that was fine — she wouldn’t have understood what was happening. She did occasionally come along on family outings to watch Mets games at Shea, but she never quite fit in at the ballpark. She stopped coming after I made a big point of showing how embarrassed I was that she’d brought carrot sticks to a game. In retrospect, I probably overreacted, but c’mon — carrot sticks?!
My favorite story about my Mom and sports comes from 2001, when the Giants played the Ravens in Super Bowl XXXV. I figured this might be my Pop’s last chance to see his Jints in a Super Bowl (happily, I was wrong about that), so I went out to Long Island to watch the game with him. At some point during the second quarter, Mom walked into the TV room with a big eager-to-please smile, and said, “Big game? Who’s playing?” There was Mom’s relationship to sports in a nutshell.
I don’t mean to pick on Mom. On the contrary, I think she was unusually patient and indulgent when it came to sports. The only woman in a family full of men, she had to put up with a lot of sports chatter going on between my father, my two brothers, and me. That Super Bowl was one of a jillion times when the TV was tuned to some kind of game — sometimes while we were all sitting at the dinner table. I often felt a little guilty and selfish about that, even though I was usually the one lobbying hardest for the TV to stay on for “just one more inning.”
Five or six years ago I asked Mom about all this. “Didn’t it annoy you if the ballgame was on during dinner?” I asked her. “Didn’t you feel left out of all the sports chatter?” (I decided not to revisit the carrot stick incident.)
“You know, Paul,” she said, “your father is about the least macho man there is. That was always true of you and your brothers, too. So if you all wanted this one masculine thing to bond over, I figured that was fine, even if I didn’t really like it or understand it.” I thought that was pretty great answer, and a small but telling example of the little sacrifices that mothers make for the sake of their families.
Like most women of her generation, my Mom didn’t have many career options. She worked part-time in the interior decorating shop that she and my father owned, but most of her adult life was spent being a wife and a mother. With my father and one of my brothers now gone, and with no grandchildren for her to fuss over, I’ve come to realize that my remaining brother and I are essentially her life’s work. She used to follow my career via the articles I wrote about food, design, business, and so on. But now that about 95% of my writing involves Uni Watch, she says, “You only write about sports now. I can’t understand any of that.” It makes her feel alienated from my work — and, I think, from me, which makes me very sad. One of the many reasons I’ve been pursuing the Permanent Record project is because I want there to be something in my life that she can feel connected to, something that has nothing to do with sports.
Mom grew up in Brooklyn and loves New York City more than anything, but she can’t get to and from the city by herself anymore. So this morning I’m driving to Long Island to pick her up and bring her to Manhattan, and my brother will bring her home in the evening. We plan to spend most the day checking out the High Line, which she’s been wanting to see (and which I’m certain she’ll love). I’ve promised myself not to check the Mets score on my iPhone during the afternoon. I may even bring carrot sticks.
Mom won’t be reading any of this (if there’s something she relates to even less than sports, it’s computers). But I wanted to write it down anyway, as a gesture of appreciation to her, and to all the other mothers who’ve put up with more than their share of sports from the men in their lives. As for the rest of you out there, if you’re lucky enough to still have your Mom around, give her a call today, whether she’s a sports fan or not, and let her know you’re thinking of her. Because you know she’s always thinking of you.