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Diamond vs. gridiron

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We are all wired differently. No two of us are exactly the same. We might have many things in common but there are other things that separate us, that give us our own identity.

My brother, Jim, and I, for example, are what were in the old days known as "Irish twins." We were born two days short of a year apart. Jim and I grew up in the same bedroom; shared the same loving parents; ate the same things for breakfast; had the same friends; and went to the same schools. We even looked like brothers (and still do), but we are different, and always have been, in at least one important way.

He's a football guy and I'm a baseball guy. I have from the very beginning been drawn to the game we call "the national pastime" while he has always primarily been a fan of what has become, if you can believe the television ratings, America's most popular sport. My heroes as a kid were Dom DiMaggio and Ted Williams and Bobby Doerr and Johnny Pesky; his were Glenn Davis and Doc Blanchard, Mr. Outside and Mr. Inside of the great Army backfields of the 1940s, and Doak Walker of SMU, and Otto Graham of the then unstoppable Cleveland Browns. We grew up in an age when the Patriots did not yet exist, when the Celtics played in an infant basketball league, and the Bruins were not yet on our radar. In other words, we grew up in the olden days.

We both played all sports though neither of us progressed beyond the sandlot stage; but he was bigger and stronger than I, which I always chalked up to the fact that he was my elder by 363 days. It was just a matter of time, I thought, until I caught up. If you were to describe the two of us today, though, you'd still say, "He's the bigger, stronger one." I was faster over short distances, which I'm sure saved my life on those occasions when I went too far in the taunting department, as younger siblings are wont to do. He was slow to burn and quick to forgive, thank God.

It's not that he didn't like baseball or that I didn't like football, we both did -- and still do. He goes to several Red Sox games a year and, like most people at the games, has an opinion on just about every play. I never miss a Patriots game on TV because they are on an historic run and because they are just plain fun to watch. I must admit, though, that it's been years since I've been to a game at Gillette Stadium. When I am at home there's never a traffic jam on the way to my couch and the concessions stand (my refrigerator) is easily accessible. Fenway Park has its traffic jams and concession stands congestion, of course, but that's different -- it is for me, anyway.

When the Patriots lost the Super Bowl in February I felt bad, and I wondered, and still wonder, why Malcolm Butler never got into the game when just a single big play on pass defense could have made the difference, but I slept soundly that night. On the other hand when the Red Sox lose an important game to the Yankees (and this year every game against the Yankees is important) I have to be kept away from sharp objects for at least 24 hours or until the next game begins.

Jim and I are just different that way, I guess. We turned out to be different in another way, too. When he came of age, Jim decided to enter the seminary and dedicate his life to being a priest. The vows of poverty, chastity and obedience never tempted me, though, and, while he's been in the business of forgiving sins for all these years, I've been committing the sins that keep guys like him in business.

When the Patriots were born Jim had already been a seminarian in Washington, D.C., for a number of years (he's an Oblate of Mary Immaculate, not a local parish priest) so he had an allegiance to the Redskins back then. His mission -- spreading the word of God -- took him to places like West Virginia (for whom in the NFL do you root when you're in West Virginia?). He was in the Third World section of Miami when the Don Shula regime was in its final years. Fortunately, he's been in the Lowell and Tewksbury area (currently at the Oblate Residence in Tewksbury) for most of the Brady and Belichick run.

I have always been a devout Red Sox acolyte, beginning with the magical age of Ted Williams, through the Impossible Dream of Yaz and Tony C, the glorious years of Fisk, Evans, Rice, and Lynn, the golden age of Pedro and Big Papi, and on into the emerging reign of Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez. And I've seen it all play out in the crown jewel of all American sports venues, Fenway Park. Call me lucky.

So here we are, Jim and I, coming down the home stretch of life, so alike in many ways, yet different. We've taken different routes to get where we are, and we've been riding different horses. His is football and mine is baseball.

He's the better jockey, having more ably navigated his way around the racetrack of life. But I've been riding the better horse, and don't try to convince me otherwise.


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