Hitting ’em Where They Ain’t

As of this writing the San Francisco Giants are the baseball champions “of the world”, which means that there is not a single nine-man squad on the entirety of the planet which is capable of beating them. It also means that a rather large monkey is finally off my back. Rooting for the Astros and the Giants over the course of my adult life has been an exercise in two things, futility and heartbreak, and I get plenty of that from my love-life, thanks. For decades the Astros were one of baseball’s sad-sack asterisk teams: participants in two of the great league division championship series of all time (’80 and ’86), they lost both in agonizing fashion, and when they did finally reach the World Series in 2005, they were asphyxiated and left for dead by the nine-minute wonder Chicago White Sox. Meanwhile, the Giants made it to the World Series in ’89, only to be overshadowed by the Loma Prieta earthquake and the Oakland A’s, and when they made it back in 2002, they couldn’t hang onto the late five-run lead that would’ve given them the trophy. (Now, that was brutal.)

So who needs it, right? I’d basically checked out on baseball, partly because I was tired of the disappointment and mortification, but also because the constant shuffling of free-agents made me feel like I was rooting for corporate flavors, and because I’d grown weary of following the achievements of people who I don’t know and probably wouldn’t like much if I did. This year’s Giants club snuck up on me, though—in fact, they snuck up on the world. A team of misfits and castoffs, as the press keeps reminding us, but with a staff of homegrown starters and a cross-eyed closer who signals his thanks to Zardoz after getting the final out, the whole pack of them is impressively aware of the Giants’ long drought. (The team’s last championship came in 1954—the year I was born, for crying out loud—when it was still located in Harlem.) A lot of the already heavily-qualified pleasure of the A’s success in the ’90s was undercut by the personalities involved—Tony La Russa, Jose Canseco, and Mark McGwire being pretty damn far from my idea of heroic material—and it wasn’t much easier to cheer on Barry Bonds in 2002. Whatever his gifts as a player, Bonds was never relatable as a man.

That isn’t a problem with the current Giants, whose acknowledged leader is a 26 year old pot-smoking longhair. Timothy Leroy Lincecum is pretty far out of the mainstream, as they say, and that’s an especially pleasing look on a public idol today of all days. Even as I write this millions of people are donning their tricorn hats, shoulder holsters, and chastity belts, and lining up to refudiate that elitist Kenyan conman in the White House. It was only two years ago we were all singing “Hey, hey, I saved the world today” in a classic underestimation of the American people’s capacity for self-willed ruination, and whatever blows befall us at the polls are sure to be magnified when the media runs down “what it all means” in the aftermath. Ah, well…One monkey off and another back on.

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