Thursday, November 4, 2010

Agony and Ecstacy: How the 2010 San Francisco Giants Drove a Grown Man to Tears

"What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives everything its value." -Thomas Paine, 1776

"If I die before I witness a San Francisco Giants' World Championship, my life will be somewhat incomplete, no matter what else happens." -Andrew Nolan, 2009

My first thought when the tears came was, absurdly, "I wonder if I've ever cried before 10 a.m. before." The next one was, "I'm almost positive I've never cried in front of this many people..."

I'm not much of a crier. Don't do it at movies (except this one). Didn't do it on the day of my wedding, nor at the birth of my son (nicknamed "Panda" before we decided on his real name because of our love for 2009 Pablo Sandoval). I did get a bit choked up the night the Giants won the World Series for the first time in their San Francisco existence.

Oddly, though I had celebrated effusively that night, I still felt a bit...numb. It all seemed a little unreal. After waiting for my conscious life for this to happen, I couldn't quite process it. This team did it? And with relative ease? I'd built it up to be such a Holy Grail, such a vain fantasy, that when it actually happened, when the Giants actually rolled the Rangers in five was a letdown of sorts. Where was the drama? Where was the torture? This wasn't the team I'd followed these many years, knowing that any success was merely a prelude to a massive failure just around the corner.

Catharsis didn't come until approximately 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday, November 3, the morning of the parade that I'd been hoping to attend for the past...well...since I can remember. And it came in the oddest of places: on a BART train.

There are so many things I could write about the 2010 S.F. Giants, but many others have said them already, and better than I have.

I could tell you that part of my "letdown" was that I realized how attached I'd grown to this particular squad, and I wouldn't get to see them play together anymore. They were a constant in my life since April, and they evolved constantly and intriguingly. I devoted many more hours to watching/analyzing/worrying about them than is healthy.

I could tell you that this was the most likable Giants bunch since the late 80's, and possibly ever. It was a "team" in the truest sense of the word. The best team in baseball, for one magical year.

I could tell you how this was a concrete example of the way sports can bring a region together. It's been a long time since we've had a championship around these parts. I don't care if you were a bandwagoner or a die-hard; the Bay Area was buzzing for the Giants during their run.

I could tell you how euphoric it feels to write these words: The 2010 San Francisco Giants are World Champions.

Instead, I'd like to share with you what got me so verklempt at the Embarcadero station the other day, and how it fully epitomizes my jubilance as a Giants fan.

As any Red Sox/White Sox/Cubs/Indians fan could tell you, there is (or was, in the case of both Soxes) a legitimate fear that lifelong fans could pass away before seeing the team he or she devoted so much time, energy and passion to reach the ultimate zenith.

You can tell my high school students haven't been Giants fans for long enough because they say things like "You gotta have faith!" and "Stay positive!" They were eight or nine years old in 2002. Not nearly old enough to have the hole punched through their heart still be a gaping wound eight years later. Heck, I was 13 when the Giants were swept by the crosstown A's in 1989, not to mention for the myriad playoff flameouts in between. It takes time to build up this much agita.

And here's the thing: I never saw Mays play. Or McCovey. Or Marichal. Other than the occasional appearance at the ballpark, they're just statues and old newsreel footage to me. There are people who've been rooting for this team since it moved to San Francisco in 1958 and became part of the fabric of one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Some of them died before they got a chance to watch the outpouring of joy that the rest of us experienced on Wednesday, November 3, at a parade that part of me dreaded would never take place while I walked this earth.

This championship is for all of us. But even more so, it's for them.

Which is why my eyes clouded with tears when I looked to my right on an incredibly impacted BART train and finally saw the sign the woman in the wheelchair who'd gotten on at Rockridge was holding. She had to be in her 80's and was being wheeled around by her similarly-aged husband. There had been too many people for me to see it before, but once the doors opened at Embarcadero, people got off, and I could see the large, orange sign she was holding. Without warning, I was reduced to a quivering mess.

I took a photo with my cell phone camera as quickly as I could, and then awkwardly half-embraced the man pushing the chair, who had seen me trying to document the moment and aimed the woman and the sign toward me. I stammered, "Her made me cry." His eyes also began to well up. "Me, too" he replied.

Her dad had raised her a Giants fan, who knows how many years ago. He never got to see them march down Market street as World Series Champions in person.

Well, it finally happened. His daughter made sure he didn't miss it.

Thank you, 2010 San Francisco Giants. Thank you, from all of us.


Angie said...

Aw Nolan, now you're gonna make ME cry!

Emily said...

I saw that sign in the massive crowd when I stopped to watch the Civic Center portion of the parade on tv in a bar. Unfortunately, the announcer said something stupid like:"I wonder if Dad is somewhere in the crowd." I knew immediately he was not, what that sign meant, and it brought tears to my eyes. I'm glad you got to see it too.

~Invictus~ said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
~Invictus~ said...

Great post, Nolan.

There are so many life lessons to be learned from the world of sports:

Keep fighting. Keep hoping. Continue to seek, search, bleed, laugh, cry, sweat, and swear until you get what you want...and then, do it all over again tomorrow.

Congrats, buddy.