I finally understand what it means to be a sports fan, specifically a baseball fan. When the San Francisco Giants beat the Atlanta Braves and headed to the National League Championship, I watched every single game. When they beat the Phillies to win the pennant, I was even more committed and actually canceled dates to watch the World Series. I haven’t watched this much baseball since my son was in Little League almost 30 years ago.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I don’t like baseball. I just don’t like all that sitting—especially when I don’t have an emotional connection to a team. I’d much rather be out fielding a ball or swinging a bat than watching someone else play. I loved cheering for my son and never missed one of his games. He was a left-handed pitcher who played through high school. I developed a whistle that caused people in front of me to turn around and glare.
But when my home team beat the Atlanta Braves, I became a die-hard fan. It also helped that the Giants had heart. They came from behind, played exceptionally well, and had so many colorful personalities: “Beard,” “Panda,” ”Freak.”
My mom got a real kick out of my enthusiasm. Every night when I called her, I’d start the conversation with yeah or boo, depending on whether they had won or lost. She laughed and said: “Did you ever dream we’d be talking about baseball together?”
No, I didn’t.
I’ve never had the patience to sit and watch a boring baseball game where nothing ever happens. As a fourth generation San Franciscan, I heard my grandfather, father and brother talk about the Giants, but I never felt any personal connection. When I was growing up, I used to go trick-or-treating at Willie Mays’ who lived just around the corner. But that was the closest I came to knowing the players. In half a century of Giants history I’ve only attended one game at Candlestick Park and one game at AT&T Park.
But this season things got interesting. I learned all the players’ names and felt euphoric with each victory. I cheered for those incredible pitchers, starter Tim Lincecum and closer Brian Wilson, and jumped off the couch when Cody Ross hit a home run. I actually cried when Edgar Renteria hit his home run in the final game to beat the Texas Rangers. I was talking baseball to my butcher and to the checker at the Safeway. I watched the entire victory parade down San Francisco’s Market Street and felt a sense of pride as my team took the stage in front of City Hall.
The night after the Giants’ victory, I wore my orange t-shirt to my Toastmasters meeting and swapped stories with another Giants fan. A club member from Germany said she finally understands how Americans feel when Europeans go crazy over the World Cup. She doesn’t have a clue what baseball is all about nor does she have any interest in it.
I had to laugh at myself. Some people are born sports fans and others come around later in life. I’m not sure how I’ll feel next baseball season, but I sure had fun rooting for my team this year.
Way to go, World Series Champions Giants!