A mighty orange and black roar rises up from downtown San Francisco. The City’s World Championship baseball team, the San Francisco Giants return home to 500,000 plus grateful fans. Electric, meta-ecstatic, even orgasmic does not describe the energy in that moment when the Giants and their fans meet at the pinnacle of their passion. I was not at the parade, but at least 2 miles from it. I could hear and feel it. During the entire day, groups of fans in full Giants regalia, hats, shirts, wigs, orange and black paint, even real and fake beards on opposite sides of city’s major tourist/commercial avenues chant to each other as they pass, overcoming the typical vibrant thrum of mid-day. I walk into a hardware store followed by fans, and as soon as they cross the threshold, employees and other patrons shot and chant, “GIANTS.” I enter the Marina Super to pick up a half gallon of milk, and it’s the same. Clinking cash drawers, receipt printers go silent as fans, patron and employees raise their arms high, hands unclenched, and roar “GIANTS.” I am sitting in a bar in North Beach at 12:30 A.M. basking in their glow, and the reception is the same. Anytime anyone in the slightest Giant’s colors enters, like a wave, the chant starts at the door and flows through both floors of the establishment.
I am a tourist, a pedestrian when it comes to professional sports, especially baseball. It can be painfully slow, and I’ve never understood the appeal. It is just a game after all, entertainment. I’ve attended the occasional game as a picnic outing with too expensive, mediocre beer, garlic fries, and peanuts. I’ve baked in the mid-day sun, shivered in the mid-day fog, and giggled at the less then lucky patrons sitting out in the open as seagulls return to a roost only to find it occupied and poop on the invaders. My friends love it and have tried to explain it, but I’ve never fully grasped it until now. They can extol player statistics from its inception to the latest competitors. They use these as a basis to predict outcome and consequence, as if they were managing the team themselves, and everyone does. Overly negative on occasion perhaps, but never, absolutely never loosing faith. I’ve heard them call SF Giant baseball torture, because the team has had such amazing potential in the last 8 years since I first followed in passing. Either from lack of will or bad luck, the Giants have not been able to put it together at the right time. They’ve been called a rag-tag group of misfits. Barry Bonds’ record home run tally is referenced with an asterisk for “innocent until proven guilty,” juicing steroids.
Maybe they are, but here in San Francisco, we love eccentric misfits and welcome creativity, quirkiness, and peculiarity with open arms. Rather it is Emperor of the USA Joshua Norton printing and handing out his own money, the anti-fornication soapbox reverend at the Market and Powel cable car stop condemning modern physical animal release to hell, or “pink man,” a performance artist seen around the city in a pink leotard, pink cape riding a unicycle. San Franciscans revel in it; we see neighborhoods as a positive community expression where everyone is Chinese, Latino, Jewish, Russian, Irish, Martian, or Venutian. So be it, the SF Giants are our most heroic “misfits” of the City. What else would you expect?
I never played organized sports as a child or teenager. Instead, I chose a different path; I choose books and belief systems, cars and computers, art and theater, and one girl. In school, I was always chosen last or close to last. In street games, I earned a reputation as a fierce and capable competitor. I earned nicknames like “Freight train” on asphalt and lawn football; and “Teddy bear,” in soccer, kickball, and softball. I was a fat kid when it was an anomaly, and no amount of teasing or harassment could turn my smile into anger.
I entered a 5-mile citywide cross-country race in middle school on the local college campus. I was not fast, but I could finish without walking. In fact, I didn’t come in last, but had enough in my plump limbs to sprint past one other last competitor. Children can be cruel. Trotting along, last, but conversant with another competitor, the race took us through a heavy bush laden area where coaches and officials could not see us. Those who had not win or even place laid in wait to express their superiority the best childish way that they could. They rained on use with spit. I feel bad for them. I was stunned, but happy to sprint and finish.
I realize now that Baseball is the only competitive sport that is the great equalizer. No special physical traits are necessary. Small like Buster Posey, well fed like Pablo Sandoval, tall lanky from Texas like Audrey Huff, or cool as ice dyed black beard (fetishist?) like Brian Wilson. If Tim Lyncecum recreates with a little Prop 19 in his private time, well keep it up and the fastballs too. Anyone can play, anyone can succeed, and everyone is welcome; that is truly is an American ideal.
I understand more. I may never achieve the depth of appreciation and knowledge that lifers have, but the game is a most enjoyable picnic, a sublime past time that is best live and grows subtly, slowly, but deeply into your psyche. I can enjoy it at my leisure and still bask in its failure or success. It’s not a moral issue, political controversy, or economic woe. It’s not brain surgery, no one’s life is at risk and for two and half, three or more hours, I can sit in the open-air talk, laugh, eat, and relax. I can roar in the ecstasy of success or yell in frustration for success without spitting on the losers, or trampling someone else’s toes, because in baseball, there is always the next game or the next year, a new recruit or last career days of a lifer. It’s not over; it never is.
The Giants came to San Francisco from New York City in 1958. I was born in 1959. The Giants have not been to the playoffs in eight years; I arrived in the city eight years ago. I’ve never felt so much like I belong or am where I am suppose to be. If the participants of such a past time can create such a pleasant picnic for everyone, I now am a true baseball fan. I can’t believe I am still glowing. San Francisco Giants, thank you, I am proud to be on your team and would be so even if you had not won.