Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Giants win the pennant! - a fairweather reflection

I've been a fan of the San Francisco Giants my whole life, but I still like I'm fairweather.

It's just hard for me to follow baseball anymore. I invest so much time and energy into the NFL and NBA seasons, I feel like I need to take the summer off. Baseball is the biggest grind - day in, day out - for both the players and the fans. The game, to me, is compelling for its tradition, its longevity, its role as the presumptive pastime of our nation (even if that unofficial role was usurped by football long ago).

I took my wife to the first baseball game she had ever seen. It was in Beijing, during the Olympics. The match was between South Korea and the Netherlands (the Asians mercy-ruled the poor Europeans in four or five innings I think). She grew up in China and had absolutely no concept of what was happening - the strike count, a fly ball, running the bases, all abstract nonsense. These are things that most Americans seem to understand at birth. But when I tried to explain it to her, I found myself getting confused when trying to describe even the most basic concepts. It's a game that is incredibly intuitive in a lot of ways, but to explain it somehow saps it of its magic. It's really quite ineffable, and is much better experienced sensually and through cliche - the crack of the bat, the smell of the grass, the hot summer evenings, the fleeting moments of intense focus broken up by zen-like re-adjustments of a glove or tracing shapes in the dirt with your cleats. It's because of those things, and not my failed attempt to explain what was actually happening, that my wife had a blast that day - just a nice afternoon at the ballpark. It's simple, possibly even pointless, but so much depends on it.

But I digress - the fact is that the Giants are world champions for the second time in three years, which incredibly puts them in league with some of the greatest teams ever to swing the collective bat. (I can't help but wonder what would have happened last year if Buster Posey hadn't suffered that brutal leg injury... I want to say three-peat.) They are a thrilling team to watch, packed with colorful characters, and so obviously a cohesive unit. A model sports franchise, in my opinion. I just wish I could consider myself a bigger fan.

I did go watch them play when they were in Houston for a series late in the summer. They won, obviously, and by the 8th inning, there were only Giants fans left at Minute Maid Park, quite a few by my counting. Now the Astros are moving to the American League, which disgusts me partly because I have no use for the AL and its ridiculous DH, but mostly because that leaves me with precious few opportunities to see my favorite team play in the flesh, save for the odd inter-league series every few years.

And one more thing - the Giants' championship run this year made me a little sad because it came only a few weeks after my cousin, who was just a few months older than me, passed away after a painfully short battle with cancer. He was one of the biggest Giants fans I knew, and he deserved to see them win one more. The romantic in me assures the cynic that he was watching from some cloud up there, or perhaps from a different dimension entirely. And maybe he was. It's just too bad his physical self was not here to join us in rejoicing. He would have led the cheers. We miss you Nathan.


Frink said...

Great piece. Nice to see the Leaner leaning again...


Frink said...
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