Since I’ve written about my San Francisco Giants during the good times (ah, that World Series Champions parade last Halloween seems like only yesterday), I feel it’s fitting that I should write about them in the bad. And it’s bad here in the land of Orange ‘n’ Black, stink-up-the-joint, Titanic-has-hit-the-iceberg bad. Ten games under .500 as of today. Lost 16 of their last 19. In last place in a division that your local Pony League team might be able to crack on a good day. Swept by the Mets at home. No-hit by the Reds. When your number one starter can’t get out of the first inning, as Matt Cain couldn’t in that last Mets game, you know that this team is under a dark, dank cloud.
Not all of the Giants’ misfortune is of its own making. Bad luck is playing a part in this season’s unravelling; the lead-off hitter, center fielder Angel Pagan went down in mid-May with a hamstring injury that required surgery and is out for the season. Starter Ryan Vogelsong was hit by a pitch and suffered a broken pinkie, which knocked him out of the rotation. Key reliever Santiago Casilla has been out after knee surgery. The infield is playing through a variety of interesting maladies, the most colorful being second-baseman Marco Scutaro’s permanently bent pinkie, another batting injury.
But bad luck, while an integral part of baseball, can’t explain away the team-wide hitting slump (everyone’s bat is dead except for Buster Posey’s), or the starting pitchers taking turns playing, “Where’s my mojo?,” or the erratic bullpen, or the fact that Pablo Sandoval seems determined to eat himself out of major league baseball. No, these are things that can’t easily be fixed, at least not without intensive psychotherapy.
And save some of that therapy for fans. Predictably, the sports radio shows are filled with callers who’ve turned on the Giants so fast, you’d think this was Boston. I grew up listening to the intense negativity of Red Sox fans taking each losing streak personally, and the thing I’ve always loved most about Giants’ fandom is its ability to see the big picture, to relax and appreciate the wisdom of that overused phrase, “You can’t win ’em all.”
But lately, this town is letting me down. People, it can’t always be Champagne and confetti. Being a fan means that you’re still a fan through the seasons of flat beer and peanut shells. Believe me, the team already knows it’s having a lousy year, it doesn’t need your abuse. And, by the way, it would be really nice if you didn’t sell your tickets on Stub Hub to Dodger fans so they can come in and take over the park. Root, root, root for the home team! Don’t stop believin’! Together We’re Giant! Does any of this ring a bell?
Yeah, yeah, you can call me a Pollyanna. But I’m a realist, too; I know this season is a lost cause. Still, I’m in it till the bitter end. Here’s the thing: I like being a Giants fan. I like that amazing sense of community I feel at a game. I will wear my World Series T Shirt, and my team scarf, and my cap, and my orange and black Mardi Gras beads, and my 2010 World Championship Snuggy, even if my team is getting it’s collective ass kicked by that aforementioned Pony League team. It’s part of who I am.
I realize that some fans identify so closely with their team that their self-esteem takes a hit when the team goes down. But is that healthy? No, it is not. So everyone, please take a deep breath and think about a time when the Giants made you happy. Maybe you were depressed, or sick, or you had a really shitty day at work, and all that went away when you turned on the game or went to the yard, and watched Cain deliver a broad-shouldered gem, or Buster stroke one into the left field bleachers, or Pagan win the game with an inside-the-park walk-off homer. Feel that warm fuzziness? Mmmm. Now, you can repay the Giants for the joy they’ve given you by picking them up when they need it most — which is now, in case you haven’t noticed.
O,Giants Faithful, heed the words of the greatest baseball song ever written, from the musical “Damn Yankees”: You gotta have heart.
© Joyce Millman and The Mix Tape, 2013