Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Take That, Red States

The rest of the nation might have been ambivalent to the 2010 World Series, but in San Francisco they believe that order has been restored. Hope springs eternal.

While cops were running around the city to put out various unnecessary fires, the residents of San Francisco were raising their glasses to the biggest band of unheralded misfits and morons to ever win a Major League Baseball World Series. That's right folks, the 2010 San Francisco Giants have done the unthinkable. At least that's what you'll be told when you read the papers, but in truth, it's not so surprising that they won.

Sure, the Giants were kind of an unlikely bunch if you looked hard and close at their batting lineup. They were full of castoffs and retreads, waiver wire pickups and guys who'd spent more than half the year on the disabled list. But at their core, the Giants had a 'one for all' mentality that made their collective effectiveness astronomically better than their individual statistics could have ever predicted.

As Texas manager Ron Washington said in his post-game interview. It's not always the best team who wins, but it is always the team that plays the best that wins. The Giants were that team more than anybody else in baseball since September began, and because of that there will be a huge parade on Wednesday celebrating San Francisco's first World Series title since the Franchise's moved SF in 1958.

It's a magnificent story, one of perseverance and one that is also steeped in magic. For those in search of inspiration, look no further. It was the perfect example of how life can be perfect if you let it. It was intractable proof that there are destined to be times in life when you simply can't be denied. And it's our responsibility to be present - so we can capitalize on those opportunities when they arise.

If there is anything that a single individual can learn from watching the 2010 SF Giants, it's that you never know when you might catch lightning in a bottle, and reach a level that you never thought possible. If it's not happening now in your life, be patient -- it took the Giants more than half a decade to get it right.

In their march to the title, the Giants have proven that it's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog. They've shown that in life it's not what happens to you, but rather how you react to what happens to you.

This was a colossal victory for an organization and a city that badly needed - and sorely deserved - a reward for all the sacrifices it has made to the game. For a time - especially after the late collapse to the Angels in the '02 World Series - it seemed as if it simply wasn't in the cards for the Giants. And that was alright for the fans. Unlike fans in other type-A cities, this mellowed out blue state crowd would never blame it's players for not going all the way, or label them as chokers or bums for coming up short.

Perhaps the easygoing support of the fans played a small role in the clubs obvious looseness as well.

The Giants have been in this buoyant zone, this unpressurized vacuum of confidence for several months now, and when they finally stepped up beneath the spotlight a nation's watching eyes, they didn't freeze up. Instead, they got better. Watching them, one got the impression that no single player was operating under the belief that if he didn't perform on a given night that the team would lose because of it.

I believe this to be the single most important element of the Giants chemistry this season. The fact that they were free from fear of failure (because they knew that if they failed, inevitably one of their teammates would pick up the slack) left them open to be ready for success.

The World Series matched the all-time low rating of 2008, which is interesting simply because the two lowest all-time television ratings have come in the last two years.

Is there a problem with baseball? Are the wrong teams winning, and if so, why?

It sure doesn't feel that way in San Francisco, where an improbable run to the cities first World Series ever has catapulted baseball to the forefront of the public psyche. People don't know when it's a good time to hit-and-run in San Francisco - I can attest to that - but they do know a good time when they see it. If you provide the people with a legitimate excuse to let their hair down and party their asses off in San Francisco, especially when their fun will come at the expense of a bunch of oil-peddling Bushies, why not jump on board, color a fake beard charcoal black, and get stomping?

As Jerry Garcia once famously said, "Don't tell me this town ain't got no heart."

A baseball franchise known more for its stars, its steroid scandals, and its downright frigid weather, will now be known for the things that every baseball city wants to be known for: Getting done in the clutch and playing loose and free under pressure. Oh, and pitching. What incredible pitching!

This was a team that embraced pressure unlike any other team I've ever seen. While the whole "torture" theme became a playful joke that many quick-to-fetishize San Franciscans claimed to embrace without really truly understanding, the truth of the matter was that Giants baseball wasn't torture at all. It was "hope." But unlike the today's political players, the Giants didn't claim to be anybodies savoir.

No, these Giants let the scoreboard do the talking. They just played. For themselves, for each other, and for their manager. And when their city started to catch on, they played for the liberal left leaning panda-wearing beard-coloring masses as well.

In the end this was more than a monkey being lifted off a shoulder.

It was baseball the way it should be. Old-School to the core. You pitch, you play defense, and however many runs you need, you get them.

And now we can all rejoice. Score this one for the new-age liberals, the hippies and the weirdos, the beards and the freaks. Without the pervading ethos in and around San Francisco contributing to the experience, the Giants magic might not have been as potent.

It may have viewed ambivalently by the rest of the nation -- Fox reeled in its worst world-series ratings in history -- but to the collective psyche of San Francisco, and to the people who've been patiently their time to come, it meant so much more.