Thursday, April 26, 2012

A Common Love

One day back in the fall, one of my staff members and I, in random conversation, discovered we're both from Southern California, and lifelong L.A. Dodgers fans. And this guy was legit; he opened up his phone and showed me pictures of himself with his wife and daughter at beautiful Dodger Stadium, much more recently than I had been there. He even thought of me at Christmas time, giving me a Fernando Valenzuela bobblehead that now stands proudly on a shelf in my office.

Ever since that conversation, I've remembered this bond every time I see Andrew at work, and I appreciate the qualities that make him a great employee even more than I did before.

But something still sticks in my mind from that first discovery:  Andrew happened to mention his age that day. Now, it's always been obvious that I've got several years on him, but I have to admit that my mind stopped short for just a moment when he said he was born in 1986.


Yes, 1986.

I actually remember 1986...pretty vividly. The Dodgers were terrible, the Lakers lost in the Western Conference Finals to (stinking) Houston, I turned 13 years old and received several power tools from my grandmother for my birthday, after telling her how much I had enjoyed my woodshop class at Walker Jr. High. I was watching Game 6 of the World Series when the ball rolled through Buckner's legs.

Shouldn't someone born in 1986 be....a baby?

No, Andrew is 26 years old, with a wife, a child, and a job. Amazing, isn't it? Amazing how fast younger people's adult lives fill up with the very responsibilities and relationships you're already accustomed to, and assume they aren't quite ready for.

But there was something else about Andrew's age that my mind just couldn't shake:

Where was he for Gibson's home run? (He was 2 years old.) Where was he during Fernandomania and the 1981 World Series win over the Yanks? (Not even born yet.) The disillusionment of Garvey's free agent departure for San Diego? (Nope.) The heartbreak of Ozzie Smith's playoff home run off Niedenfuer? (Mercifully, not here to live through it.) The Pedro Martinez-for-DeLino DeShields trade? (Not even out of elementary school.)

You get my point.

Every single one of my formative Dodger moments and experiences, all the things that make up my Dodger story, are known to Andrew only as history. He wasn't around for any of them. And honestly, by the time Andrew came along as a serious Dodgers fan, I was long gone, and I couldn't tell you what his formative Dodger experiences were. By that time, I had shifted from being a hometown fan to a long-distance fan, and wasn't paying nearly as close attention as I once did.

So, how to respond?

On the surface, there is no denying our common allegiance, but how tempting could it be for me to categorize him as a little less bona fide, a little less legitimate, a little less proven, because he wasn't around for the things that made me an original?

But even as I ask that question, I can't escape the reality that there are many who could wonder the same thing about me. My Dad could argue that he's more of an original than I am when it comes to Dodger fandom. He lived in L.A. before the Dodgers did, remembers when they played in the Coliseum before Dodger Stadium was built, and actually watched Koufax pitch. What could be more legit than that?

Is it possible my Dodger story could have seemed just a little less consequential to him at the time, in comparison to the legendary names and events from his early years? Do you think it escaped him, during Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, that I was totally unaware that Bill Buckner had played for the Dodgers years before I was old enough to know?

Could it have been tempting for him to categorize me as a Johnny-Come-Lately who might have a ticket into the club, but would never fully understand what you "just had to be there" for?

And speaking of things you just had to be there for:  It won't be long now before a new generation of Dodger fans will grow up never having heard Vin Scully's voice. How could that be? How will anyone's soul become stamped with the interlocking L.A. logo without Vin Scully? The same way it's happened for every generation sofar:  People will watch the games, cheer for Dodger blue, and over time, fall in love with this team for their own reasons, just as I did so long ago.

Formative experiences, defining moments, personal landmarks, enduring legends. So important in the development of a lifelong love, but so often different among people who share the same love.

What is more important? The love we share, or how each of us arrived at it? Is one generation's arrival at this love more legitimate than another's? Is my story more bona fide than yours? Is my bond with my generational cohort more important than my bond with all who share this love, of any age?

How tempting can it be to value the familiarity of similar stories more than we treasure the unique nature of each family member's story? To create tiers of acceptance, with those who haven't lived my story being somehow less than those who have.

This temptation wouldn't be much to worry about if we were just talking about the Dodger Family.

What about your family?

What about the Family of God?

"I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one, I in them and you in me, so that they may be brought to complete unity." John 17:20-23