Previous month:
September 2010
Next month:
November 2010

three games to one

Right after the game ended tonight, my daughter asked if we’d ever been here before, “here” being one win away from a World Series championship. I mentioned 1962 and 2002, which both went seven games … and that says something right there, that in the 53 seasons the Giants have been in San Francisco, they’ve only made it to three World Series wins twice. This is the first time they’ve had a 3 games to 1 advantage, though, and a cautious optimism is trying to squeeze its way past our congenital pessimism.

I know this: when the Giants still had that 5-run lead in Game Six in 2002, I found myself wondering how my life might be different, once the long-awaited championship had finally arrived. We’re still waiting. And I won’t allow myself to start wondering again until it has actually happened. Which it hasn’t, not yet.


Sometimes I see something that says what I want to say, better than I can say it, and I post it here. Sometimes my efforts are already posted, and after the fact I read something that says it better. And so, Howard Bryant:

In many ways, the city of San Francisco and its baseball team share important personality traits, traits which are being forced to the surface by a ballclub making a sudden and unexpected championship charge. Each is a fragile coalition of disparate constituencies, possessors of unparalleled history yet fraught with conditioned, learned insecurity; international yet prone to a curious parochialism. …

[A]s the Giants have neared a World Series championship that has never been theirs, the sounds at the ballpark, in the clubhouse and in the street have changed. They represent a growing vindication and a weariness of being second, of being unnecessarily underestimated … of being viewed for what the franchise in San Francisco hasn't been instead of what it has. And perhaps most damningly, the people of San Francisco still chafe at being judged nationally for not turning on their greatest player locally, Barry Bonds. That perceived persecution for their refusal to turn on Bonds has emotions simmering and bubbling, waiting and swelling, demanding a release that can only be granted by finally winning the final game of a baseball season.

The Giants hadn't won anything and yet the fans were sending the same unheard message that the least-heralded World Series team in San Francisco Giants history had been sending on the field for the better part of a month: They belonged.

i just don’t know what to do with myself

One thing I hate in movies is cheap emotional appeals. You see a sick doggy in a movie, of course you’re going to get tears in your eyes, but that emotion isn’t really earned. If, however, you watch Fred and Ginger fall in love during a dance, the tears are earned … the filmmakers have done more than just zero in on lowest common denominator parlor tricks.

When you attend a sporting event, there are plenty of cheap appeals to your emotions. Hell, pretty much the entire play list of music you hear at a game is designed solely to elicit an emotional response. There are classier ways to do this … when the Giants had Tony Bennett wander out onto the field early during Game One to sing “I Left My Heart in San Francisco,” that was meant to grab us, but in a different way from just playing Zombie Nation on the PA system:

Like I say, I hate cheap emotional appeals, and the idea that a sporting event can bring a community together has always struck me as a bit of an exaggeration … the Giants might win the game, but California is still going to be broke the next day.

But I can’t help myself … I’m being won over by the fans. In my personal version of what is happening, we are letting the country know that we don’t suck. I’ve always had an irrational notion that everyone outside of the Bay Area hates us … now we’re capturing the country’s attention, and not by toning it down. No, we’re being the same as always … “they’re smoking weed!” Fans of every sports team go a bit loony at times like this … Panda hats and fake beards and t-shirts proclaiming “Let Timmy Smoke” aren’t all that unusual. Except the reputation of San Francisco as a continuing hotbed of bohemia adds just the right kind of local color, so you think “of COURSE everyone thinks we’re pot heads … we ARE!” Perhaps my favorite part of the now-viral video of the Dallas newsman commenting on the weed smokers is when he notes that the cops aren’t doing anything about it. That’s one of the things that explain what this World Series seems to be about: we are San Francisco, and we are allowed to be San Francisco, and for once, the rest of the country sees lovable instead of goddamn hippie homosexual commies … even though we continue to be exactly those things.

I swear, at this rate, I’m going to start loving Steve Perry. Because, whether I like it or not, Steve Perry is a part of San Francisco, and right now, the door is open to anyone who wants in:

random friday, 2002 edition: johnny cash, “hurt”

Bare. Raw. Basic. Cash's version of "Hurt" is almost impossible to listen to … it’s hard to imagine someone putting it on a mix CD for a long car drive. It’s hard to imagine playing it at all. But once it starts, you can’t turn away until it ends.

When Rick Rubin, hip-hop pioneer, suggested that Cash sing “Hurt” on his latest produced-by-Rubin album, which would be the last Cash released before his death, he must have known something … not necessarily that he had a hit on his hands, but that a seamless blend was possible. Johnny Cash, rockabilly original, country music legend, singing a Nine Inch Nails song produced by a hip-hop legend … what seemed to the song’s composer, Trent Reznor, to be a bit gimmicky became something else entirely.

And the video? Simply one of the handful of greatest music videos of all time. When Reznor saw it for the first time, he was blown away: “Tears welling, silence, goose-bumps.” Don’t hit the play button on this video unless you’re prepared to watch it all.

And, for documentary purposes, the Nine Inch Nails video:

welcome great pumpkin

Longtime Giants fan Jim Jividen has some very interesting personal thoughts about the Series:

Why I don't want the Giants to win the World Series (with the caveat being I do want the Giants to win the World Series) is Steve vs. Joe.

I wanted the Niners to win Super Bowl 29 … but it was mitigated a bit with the "Steve v. Joe" storyline that had mushroomed in the build up - that a Niner victory would be a victory for Steve Young - and therefore a loss for Joe Montana.

And I'm a Joe guy.  So the portion of that win which was framed as a defeat of Joe was not my friend; it took a percentage of the wind out of the win, and given that it's now 15+ years in the past (with no Niner SB seemingly on the horizon) I would have liked to have enjoyed it fully.

The Steve v. Joe story emerging about this team is the 2010 Giants v. Barry Bonds. …

[O]ver and over and over again, the storyline is being written that the 2010 Giants are the anti-Bonds team; selfless and clean and morally upright.  We can proudly take our children to these games, wear our orange and black in front of our co-workers, and not feel the terrible shame that we must have endured in that corrupt bargain Giants fans made to root for Barry Bonds.

It's horseshit.  Just something to write. …

Bonds = steroids and steroids = bad are the equations that have been firmly calculated by the sports media industrial complex - and there is just no way to avoid a SFG win being framed as a Barry Bonds loss.

And I'm a Barry guy.  I feel a strong sense that the media stole his two home run records, and I'm uninterested in the 2010 Giants being used to further chip away at his legacy.

the sound of the city

I hesitated before posting “stranded in the park,” partly because I was still working through my thoughts and emotions, and partly because I knew that meant I’d do a poor job of explaining myself.

The point wasn’t to denigrate so-called bandwagon jumpers … they’ve added so much to the local environment, who could complain? The point was one of self-criticism, if not self-loathing … when you can pretend you are one of a few, you can pretend you are special, but when it’s obvious you are one of many, then you are just like all the rest, stranded in the park, and forced to confess to hiding on the backstreets. I detest nostalgia, and when it rears its ugly head from within my own being, I hate myself for it. That I waste even one second of my current joy wondering about the guy on the street with the fake beard disturbs me … and it’s not the guy with the beard that makes me uneasy, I am making myself uneasy.

To say that I am a long-suffering Giants fan is to give in to nostalgia, for I can only be long-suffering if I look into the past. To say that I suffer more than other fans because I got Orlando Cepeda’s autograph at Seals Stadium is to wallow in the good old days. I don’t like that about myself.

And yet … maybe this is why I worry so much about nostalgia getting the upper hand, because the older I get, the easier it is to fall into its trap. I posted the following video on Facebook. It has gotten a couple of replies and “thumbs up/like this” votes … interestingly, all from cousins of mine. It is, for people of a certain age who grew up in the Bay Area, a guaranteed trip down Nostalgia Lane. I mean, no one who hears this and remembers it can resist its call. But also, no one who isn’t of that age and from that place and time will understand the emotions this elicits from us old-timers. When I hear this, I get nostalgic, whether I like it nor not. When I post it during the 2010 World Series, here or on Facebook, I am doing what I detest, drawing a line between those of us who remember and those who do not, who can not because, for whatever reason, they weren’t “there.” It is a covert attempt to make myself special again, to allow me to pretend I am one of a few. In the immortal words of Robot Monster, “I cannot - yet I must. How do you calculate that? At what point on the graph do ‘must’ and ‘cannot’ meet? Yet I must - but I cannot!”

stranded in the park

Eight years ago, as the Giants began the heartbreaking 2002 World Series, I was interviewed by somebody at the Contra Costa Times who was working on a piece about longtime Giants fans (at the time, it had been 44 years since the team came to San Francisco, and, of course, 44 years of no World Series championships). That article is only available through a pay wall, so I can’t quote it, but what I had to say (something about not wanting to watch close games … I wanted to see blowouts in favor of the Giants) is less important than the gist of the thing, that it was a good human-interest story, the tale of the aging Giants fan.

I haven’t read every article this time around … it’s impossible, there are so many … but when the talk gets around to the fan experience, my sense is that the guiding concept is that San Francisco is delirious about the team, and that people are doing goofy things like spending $1000 on a nosebleed ticket or wearing Panda hats in public. There’s a feeling that the bandwagon jumpers are the story … isn’t it great that San Francisco has a team worth rooting for, even if you are usually just a casual fan.

I am all in favor of bandwagon jumpers. Why wouldn’t I want to share my joy with others? And there’s no question, the atmosphere is enjoyably goofy, with the Brian Wilson videos and all the people with fake black beards. But … and I can’t believe I’m writing this, but I’m writing it because I’m thinking it … it makes me yearn for the days when only a handful of us lived and died with this stuff. I finally understand the mentality of those who hate musicians after they become popular.

When Bruce Springsteen parlayed Born in the U.S.A. into an enormous stadium tour, I was glad, partly because he deserved the fame, partly because the shows were good, and partly because I liked sharing my joy. Thinking about it now, I realize it’s similar to what’s happening with the Giants: they could fill three stadiums right now.

And I realize something else: while I can’t say I’m dying to go back to 1985 so I could sit at Candlestick and watch David Green ground into a double play, I do have a fondness for a time when I was special because I was a Giants fan. I’m not special, now … at least around here, we are all Giants fans. After all this time, to find I’m just like all the rest, stranded in the park.

tricia and katee, hog-ridin’ fools

In a few hours, I’ll ignore everything non-Giants related, so I should get this out of the way while I’m thinking of it.

Tricia Helfer and Katee Sackhoff, best-known as Six and Starbuck from Battlestar Galactica, are long-time BFFs who share a love of motorcycles. As Acting Outlaws, they have been biking across America (L.A. to New Orleans, at least), raising awareness of two organizations dedicated to ecological issues related to the Gulf of Mexico (the Gulf Restoration Network and the Gulf Coast Fund for Community Renewal and Ecological Health). As part of their journey, they have been hosting live video sessions each night where they talk about their day, read and answer questions from folks who are watching and posting in a chat sidebar, and generally act about as goofy as any of us might if we’d spent the entire day riding a motorcycle without much sleep.

It’s hard to explain why the video chats are so delightful. It helps if, like me and a lot of other people, you are fans of the actresses, and it is true that many of the fans’ questions are about their acting careers. But what takes it up a notch has little to do with their “stardom” and a lot to do with their "bff-dom.” They come across like sisters as much as like friends. Tricia is the bigger sister … physically (she’s about half-a-foot taller than Katee, and you can see the difference even though they are sitting) and in age (she’s 6 years older). She’s also the more adult member of the pair, although she also gets silly and Katee is often a grownup, so I don’t want to exaggerate that angle. Katee is the one who cusses a lot, who admits that when she is tired and/or hungry she turns into a condescending asshole (her description, not mine), who seems a bit like a troublemaker. I don’t know how long they’ve known each other, but however long it has been, they are extremely tight, finishing each other’s sentences when they aren’t just saying the exact same thing at the exact same time.

Katee’s mom, Mother Mary, has a part in all of this, as well … she calls Katee on the phone (“I have to get this, it’s my mom”), she has her own fans in the chatroom, and she gets to pick a fan of the day who wins a free t-shirt. When she calls, it further emphasizes the feel of siblings.

The subject matter of the sessions isn’t particularly noteworthy … we rode here, someone was nice to us there, our hotel sucks … although it has some of the pleasures of cinéma vérité, if not reality-show television. It doesn’t hurt that we’re looking at two gorgeous women … and it’s not just guys noticing this, gay women are in love as well. We’re seeing the “real” them, though, usually without makeup, often before they’ve showered after a long day on the road, drinking and eating (one night, when they stopped at Olive Garden for takeout before the session, the two of them, especially Katee, spent a lot of time stuffing bread sticks into their mouths) and, in Katee’s case, burping.

I really can’t put this into words … you should just watch one of the archived videos on the Acting Outlaws site, you’ll know quickly enough if it’s your cup of tea (I can imagine it will seem pretty boring/silly for most people). For now, I’ll offer this screen capture, from last night’s session:


Doesn’t seem like much, I know … an explanation is in order. The sessions consist of the usual person-looks-at-webcam-and-talks, with the two of them squeezing together so they both fit in the picture. A few seconds before this capture, that’s exactly what we saw. Katee stared into the monitor and read something from the chatroom. “’I have eleven bike-ons back home.’ I don’t even know what that is.” Tricia reads the same thing and points out the person was talking about their bichons. You had to be there, I guess … except once they realize how silly Katee was to say “bike-ons,” they fall into a fit of laughing that goes on for at least three minutes (again, I fully understand how boring it might seem to watch two people laughing hysterically for three minutes), punctuated by Katee’s blurting out “I’m so tired!” In the picture above, you can see Katee’s mouth and a bit of her left arm … the thing is, they are laughing so hard they roll onto the floor, off the screen. Once they pull themselves up, they still can’t quit laughing, and Katee says “I’m gonna pee my pants!” When someone on the chatroom asks what they’ve been smoking, Katee replies, “Nothing, sadly. You should see when we do!” I guess you had to be there … if you want to be there, check out the video for 10/26, just past the 22-minute mark.


I admit, it’s been kinda nice to have the rest of the country think the San Francisco Giants are lovable. I mean, they are lovable, as far as that goes. But Joan Walsh gets at the real point behind all that lovable talk across the nation, and since this blog has no intention of forgetting the greatest Giant since at least Willie Mays, I’m going to give a shout out to Joan for her piece, “The Giants would be lovable even with Barry Bonds,” as we prepare for Game One of the World Series. She describes

[A] national media obsession this postseason: explaining to the world, and San Francisco fans, why our team this year is so much more lovable and fabulous and deserving of glory than earlier Giants champions, particularly the 2002 team. And you know why.

Led by Bonds, the surly steroid-tainted superstar with the big head (literally), the club of eight years ago was Barry's team, the national scribes report, not ours. Those guys may have had more talent, sure, but they had much less heart. The point's been made so often in October, and so repetitively, you might find yourself wondering if there's an iPhone app that lets you make lazy Giants-team comparisons. …

[T]he worst came from AOL Fanhouse, whose Terence Moore suggested that the delirious standing ovation Bonds received from hometown fans at the first game of the NLCS last week meant "Giants Fans Glad to See Him Gone."

I don't know a single San Francisco fan who saw the outpouring for Bonds that way, but I am glad Moore came along to tell us what we really feel about Bonds, whether we realize it or not.

She then quotes Jeff Passan, whose screed I luckily escaped, about the ovation Bonds received: “San Francisco deserves a hero worth cheering about, not some narcissistic, disgraced attention whore whose bounding out of the dugout to throw out a first pitch last week was greeted with an enormous ovation.” As Walsh noted, “God, we suck, Giants fans! Who knew?”