“Sometimes you wonder why the only luck we have is bad luck. But you move on.” – Bruce Bochy
Pass out the blood pressure meds … it appears that some Giants fans are ready to either have a heart attack or jump off the Golden Gate Bridge. The majority of our relief pitchers have fallen into a pattern of entering the game in the later innings and blowing the lead, enough times where if this weren’t the case, we would be far ahead of our biggest rivals the Dodgers instead of trailing 6 games behind them, our chances at the postseason dwindling every day. Last night was such a game when, after a pitching masterpiece by Madison Bumgarner, the bullpen** stepped in and quite simply, blew it. That loss “awards” the Giants their 30th blown save of the season, something that just doesn’t happen too often in baseball (and that’s NOT a good thing). Some Giants fans are acting like the final days of this torturous season is the end of the world as they know it. Yeah, it totally blows (no pun intended), but it isn’t life and death.
I can feel the ire already emerging in some circles of fandom for making such a bold statement, can see the smoke coming out of the collective ears. I have visions of the townsfolk up in arms coming to hunt me down with their torches and pitchforks. Angry fans have been awfully, well, angry about just how unhappy they are with the Giants, and they will not be silenced! The same fans that praised the genius of manager Bruce Bochy in previous years are now the equivalent of the Queen of Hearts to Boch’s Alice in Wonderland, crying “Off with his head!”. Sure, 30 blown saves is crazy…totally crazy. Would those blown saves have made a difference in our standings and our shot at another World Series title in 2016? You bet your ass they would — 100 percent. Feeling intensely frustrated and deeply disappointed in “what might have been” is only natural and totally understandable. However, what I am left wondering is: how much do these fans really love their team (and I mean really love them), or how much do they love what the team can do for THEM?
Recently I posted a comment on a Giants news feed about loving one’s team for better or for worse, an attempt to counterbalance all the negativity I was seeing tossed around. I mentioned my father, the terrific example he set for me as a fan, and how he still loved his team through thick and thin during a 56 year World Series drought (and even during the nightmarish ’85 season when they’d lost 100 games). Tomorrow was another day, I said. Take the pressure off and love your team anyway! Many appreciated the sentiment, but the haters also came out in force; I got about as much love from them as a Stark at a Lannister family reunion. All that anger they were feeling was quickly redirected. My brief mention about bandwagon fans and the sense of entitlement I’ve seen in Giants fans of recent years likely didn’t help the situation, as the term “bandwagon fan” was met by some with as much offense as a suggestion that we burn the American flag. My older sister happened to see one of the threads show up on her Facebook feed and said, “Damn, people were vicious.” Fortunately I wasn’t too fazed one way or another–I knew that their anger said more about them than it did about me–but it was an interesting phenomenon to witness. (“Welcome to being a writer!” I thought. “People will love you or hate you; get used to it.”) I don’t necessarily blame the angry fans. It’s no fun to see your team go from being the best in baseball to a shadow of their former selves. It can get dismal and discouraging, and as deflating as a pin to a balloon. The thing I find interesting however, is how many fans just claim to LOVE this team, but in actuality, they only love what the team can do for them. They don’t care about the feelings of the players, the frustration of the management, or the exasperation of Bochy (because after all, it’s all HIS fault anyway, right?) Love doesn’t mean that people never get angry at each other, but once the realm of abuse is approached, you can pretty much be sure there’s a lack of genuine love. Disappointment, even anger, at the downfall of something one loves is natural, I’m sure, but this venomous vitriol I’m seeing from the certain factions of the fan base causes me to shake my head.
“But I pay damn good money to go see these guys!” one might say. “I’m not here to love them, I’m here to see them win”. I will say, if the sport and your team are only a vehicle for you to get what you want when you want it, then fine… just don’t say you love them, because that isn’t love. Look, I’m not trying to incite a riot with my fellow fans who feel passionately about the season’s demise (although it’s not over yet), because I understand (although the all-too-common “you-OWE-me-another-damn-world-series” mentality is one that I honestly find just as maddening as the blown saves.) I’m not trying to sit on my lofty perch and point fingers at those who haven’t achieved a certain level of baseball zen. I remember all too well the days in 2012-13 when I used to scream at Jean Machi (both the live and televised version of him) whenever he would come in to pitch… and usually blow it. The years have simply taught me that a baseball game isn’t a matter of life and death (ha… tell that to Red Sox fans!) These days, I talk to the players (like they can hear) in soothing tones when they come up to bat and I want them to do well; “C’mon baby, you got this”. When they make a great play or hit a home run, I get loud, in a celebratory way. (On that note… thank you Brandon Belt for JUST now hitting that home run that gave us an extra advantage in the 9th inning. Apologies to my neighbors for the noise.) And then there are the times when I am reduced to a beggar, asking the players “Please, please… don’t blow this”. Can the games be upsetting, and unbearable to listen to when another blown save is coming to pass? They certainly can be. Are they still exciting (albeit torturous) to listen to? Hell yes. Are they life and death? Hell no.
The one year anniversary of my father’s death is coming up on Sunday. I’ve been near tears a lot today, and it’s not because the Giants lost last night. Exactly one year ago today, I saw my dad alive for the last time. I hand-wrote a whole other post about that this afternoon, and perhaps I’ll type it up tomorrow and share the story about that time, and the Giants game that went with it. We got a win that day, and I believe that we will get another win tonight. Even if we don’t though, and they blow another save in the 9th, life isn’t going to end. I’ve had a lot of experience with life and death this year. Last week it was my mother’s best friend to kidney disease. Last month, it was my sister’s best friend to cancer. A friend used to tell me (more often than I wanted to hear) that “This too shall pass.” Everything passes through, whether it is people, moods, or pitchers. Tonight, as I type these words and listen to a game that I am certain we are going to win, I am glad for another day of life. I am sad because I miss my father deeply, but I can smile knowing that I had the best dad ever to inspire me to love my team for better or for worse. And you know what else? I don’t care what anyone says; the Giants don’t owe me a damn thing. Tonight, I hope they win for themselves.