Tuesday, November 02, 2010

The Giants Win the World Series

Photo by Jill Clardy

The Giants won the World Series, and entire city of San Francisco is a madhouse tonight. Shawn, my local homeless guy, is out on the corner, stripped to the waist, pants hanging halfway off his ass, whistling and cheering at the passing cars. They honk in happy response. It’s an unusually warm night tonight, which is helping to impel people onto the streets, laughing and shouting and hugging complete strangers. An old lady, who is at least ninety if she’s a day, is decked out in orange feathers, high-fiving everyone around her.

Normally this sort of stuff brings out the misanthropist in me, but this time it’s different. While the national news media ignored them, the Giants were slowly creeping to the top of the heap. Even after they made it into the playoffs, the national news media paid them little attention, choosing instead to concentrate on the Phillies and the Yankees—two teams they knew well, and could talk about with authority. The Giants? A ragtag bunch of oddballs that seemed more like the leftovers than the cream of the crop. Throughout the playoffs, the media took the stance that if they ignored the Giants, maybe they would go away.

But they didn’t go away.

Even after the World Series began, the New York Times barely reported on the Giants, choosing instead to concentrate on Texas. Ben Shpigel’s headline on Saturday read: “Texas Rangers Draw Closer in World Series.” And on Sunday, Tyler Kepner’s headline read: “Rangers’ Lee Expects to Be Razor Sharp in Game 5.” It wasn’t until their decisive win on Sunday night that the Times finally deemed it fit to start talking about the team, but even now, they do so by talking about them as a former New York team. Tonight’s article about the win starts out: “The Giants bolted New York for San Francisco 53 long years ago.” The next article on the sports page reads: “Harlem Learns Immortalizing Mays Isn’t Easy.”

I guess that is to be expected. The New York Times is, in spite of national distribution, the Big Apple’s local rag, but the fact is: the Giants are a San Francisco team. There is nothing evenly remotely New York about them anymore. They are a weird bunch. Some look like hippies, some like felons, and some like nothing I’ve ever seen. Tim Lincecum, with his bow tie and should-length hair looks more like a classical pianist than a pitcher. Then there’s Brian Wilson, with his bootblack beard, who claimed on Jim Rome’s show that he learned is a certified Ninja in a dream. “We're all the wildcats and misfits and people nobody wanted,” said Giants reliever Jeremy Affeldt. “We have some crazies in this clubhouse, but that is who we are.”

Most importantly, they seem like a team; a characteristic all too often missing from major league baseball in these days of corporate ownership and multimillion dollar contracts. Back during the Barry Bonds years, we rooted for the team, but it was a bit half-hearted. Bonds was not a particularly likable person (and we all knew in our hearts that he was taking something). Worst of all, the rest of the team seemed like an afterthought, not just to the owner, but to the fans as well. A win in 1989 would have still brought people into the streets, but it would have been different. It would have been about Baseball and Sports (in capital letters), and the power of steroids. This felt like it was about San Francisco, and being different, and ignoring what the rest of the country thinks about you (and it didn't hurt that we were beating the team that George W. was rooting for). This was fun.

It’s almost midnight now and the celebration seems, if anything, to be getting louder. Shawn has pushed his shopping cart into the alley, and is getting ready to settle down for the night. He seems happy. “Wasn’t that just great?” he asks. Tonight, in spite of being homeless and alone, he is one with the city and the city is one with him.

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