Barrett, Wayne M., USA TODAY
"WHERE THE DEVIL is the cup-underwear?" I demand ed. Came my wife's reply, "You know very well that I cannot get involved in that," No, indeed, for she is the family traveling secretary and I am the equipment manager. She arranges who is driven to what sporting event and I see to it that they are well-equipped to face whatever athletic challenges the day has to bring. True, she is able to pick which of our kids to watch play baseball, soccer, or hockey, but I still have the better job. Not only do I get to buy lots of cool stuff--like the wooden fungo bat I purchased online so I could hit fly balls to our boys at the park, or the big bucket of baseballs I use to throw BP to our sluggers, or the roller blades needed for the spring hockey season--I experience the extreme pleasure of watching them play with some of the very same equipment that I used during my yesteryears.
For example, Trevor, 10, is a fielding whiz in Little League this season with my mitt from college. Alex, 12, who just learned to skate earlier this spring, has blossomed into a key contributor on his roller hockey team using the "Soviet" sticks I secured when the Berlin Wall came down, and while I've never played soccer like Julie, she, too, has been able to showcase a piece of my youth by employing some of my old oversized jerseys as nightshirts.
If there is a fault in my job performance, it's that I like to bend the dress code. For instance, since I favor the Eastern European style of hockey--which was okay in high school when I rooted for the Russians in the Summit Series against Canada, but it sure caused problems when I found myself in Middle America at the University of Missouri cheering for the Soviet Union against Team USA in the 1980 Winter Olympics (the real Miracle on Ice was that I was able to get out of the Heartland with my diploma, and life, still intact)--I'm always looking to add a USSR flourish to my uniforms.
For instance, when I joined a beginner's hockey league, I fabricated a tale about my grandfather defecting from the Soviet Union and Americanizing his name when he came to the U.S. So, I had BARETZNKOV printed on the jersey. I even had them run the "K" backwards. Another time, when playing in a local Long Island house league, I covered the rink's logo on my jersey with a CCCP patch. On my dek hockey team, our uniforms were yellow and read Golden Blades. Not mine, which had an embroidered hammer and sickle across the front. Of course, I never doctor our kids' uniforms. Still, I can't help but wonder what Alex's roller hockey jersey would look like it sported a Team Slovakia Olympic patch, or if it really would be such a bad thing if his Little League Indians shirt showcased a retro patch of Chief Wahoo.
As for current projects, Trevor and I--he's the sole offspring who seems to share this passion with his dad--are working on a Washington Nationals jersey, since his little brother, Jesse Nathaniel, is named after that team; a Mudville Nine shirt, inspired as much by a sports-themed cafe we visited in Disney World as the famous poem; and a Kansas City hockey jersey (K. …