San Francisco’s hometown champions — the redoubtable Giants — gave us an early holiday present this year by again winning the World Series, making folks go insane with joy. Sure, a bus or two, others’ personal property, and not a few pedestrians suffered some damage in all that cavorting by overly zealous fans, but by and large, we forgave and forgot because they’re our boys, and by winning, they made us all champions, privileged to bask in their glory.
I have never been a sports fan.
Except for watching handsome men run around in tight pants, baseball never thrilled me much. And football? Crashing demolition derby-style on top of each other to gain a few yards, while in the process raising their chances of permanent brain damage or worse, seems to me the height of foolishness. Also, no matter the sport, only one side can win, and that always makes me feel bad for the side that doesn’t. Golf seems like the ultimate bore — a waste of a good walk, as someone once quipped — and how can basketball be truly interesting when all the people playing it are already tall enough to simply stand there and drop the ball into the basket?
But, now, back to the subject at hand: the gift that our hometown baseball team gave to all of us with their latest triumph. As I wrote above, I never responded much to any sport.
Until Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2014, when my home team — the marvelous San Francisco Giants — won their third World Series championship in five years. Yes, that’s right, I did say my home team. For now, I am a fan. And they are my Giants! Who’d have thought? My momma would be so proud; she spent her last days in Chicago and, at age 80, she called their team her Cubbies. (She liked to watch the guys run in tight pants, too.)
But now, I admire our home team for other reasons as well: their skill, their teamwork, and their magical ability to pull this town together into one cheering mass of ecstatic humanity.
But why now? How is it that the San Francisco Giants have converted me? What has wrought this miraculous change in one who heretofore hasn’t been able to distinguish between baseball and football teams? (It doesn’t help that both San Francisco and New York City have teams called the Giants.) Again, why now?
It has to do with the people of San Francisco.
Just before we moved here in 2010, the Giants won the Series, and I remember reading about that win with such an odd surge of pride: I was moving to a town where the ball club had just triumphed. I found myself bragging to others about that. And then of course I followed the news about how San Francisco celebrated their team, and it made me even more excited to be moving here. It felt like their celebration was ours, too. Maybe it was a way to identify with the town we’d chosen as our next home.
Next, in 2012, we were on hand to witness how the city went wild. Not all of it appealed to me — the violence, the thoughtlessness of some of the more rabid fans — but the rest of it? It felt like the entire town was pulsating with happiness. With pride. With ownership!
San Francisco is just a small town enough to really feel those things throughout its entirety and I felt them, too. I began to have friends who were true fans, who wore sweaters and hats and dressed their babies in the team’s colors.
It became actual to me, more personal.
Then, this latest win.
I even watched the final game.
I read up on some of the players and learned that Pablo Sandoval says a prayer after each base hit, that our hero Bumgarner once gave his wife a cow for her birthday, and that Buster Posey and his wife Kristen are very private people.
I’ve begun to know our boys!
And once again, as the town exulted, with a kind of tribal pride, it swept me along. I avoided the parade (large crowds are not my thing), but I felt the joy in every bus driver, passenger, storekeeper, man, woman, and child for days afterward. And that’s what made me begin to call them mine: my Giants.
It has made me feel more a part of this wonderful town.
Fandom has made me more of a San Franciscan, part of a group of people who have something unique, that only living here — with such a great ball club — makes them feel.
Yay team. Yay us!