Friday, November 05, 2010

on baseball, dreaming and loving

A few weeks ago, one of my girlfriends asked me what was it about baseball specifically that created such die-hard fans. Why was it that when nine players take the field, people from all walks of life cast aside their differences in the ballpark or in a sports bar and form a camaraderie under the colors of their team's uniform?

It's the dream, I told her. Baseball is not just our national pastime, but it's also the American Dream. Our heroes on the field pull us out of our daily routine once a year from late spring to early fall, and with them we must hope and we must believe that our dream of winning it all against the odds becomes a reality.

We step on the roller coaster ride with them in April and we live their drama, sometimes with all the twists and turns of a Hollywood screenplay - though when we buy our tickets, we don't know if we're off to see a comedy or tragedy, if our team will give us the feel-good movie of the year, or if it will end in bloodbath and we must close our eyes because it's too painful to watch. Or maybe, just maybe, the final scene will leave you crying tears of joy.

When my favorite player steps up to the plate, I can imagine it's me. I visualize smacking that ball far into the outfield. I hear the crack of the bat. I watch the ball soar past the outfielders' reach... long, far and uncatchable. I am running the bases. I am sliding home. I am listening to the cheers and applause. I am hi-fiving my team mates.

Baseball is such an American icon that its significance goes beyond the sport itself. Baseball is inherent in the American psyche. In budding relationships, holding hands brings us to first base. Kissing brings us to second. Then there's the joke about how men fantasize about hitting a home run while having sex. We refer to our boyfriends and girlfriends as a good catch.

We make pitches in business meetings. We expect people of integrity to step up to the plate. When we're in a sticky situation, we're in a pickle. We strike out if a guy that we fancy doesn't call back. Life throws us curve balls almost daily! Something unexpected in life is out of left field. We hit it outta the ballpark when we've done a great job. We can even order a grand slam breakfast at Denny's if you choose to visit that establishment. We live baseball at home, in bed and at the office. In America, the baseball analogy touches our lives whether we're fans or not.

And so I go to the ballpark already speaking the language of baseball. It's a metaphor that my heart and mind are already pumping through my bloodstream and nervous system. So when I watch a game live, my emotional and physical reaction naturally is extreme. The cheering doesn't stop. The adrenaline surges. My stomach gets tied up. And in the ninth inning of Game Five of this World Series, I got choked up. When Wilson threw the last pitch, and the dugout ran onto the mound to smother him in hugs, my friends and I followed their lead.

It's at that very moment that baseball becomes love itself. My girlfriends and I all picked our Giant boyfriend early in the season. But late in the season, after I had gone yard with the Giants, I was caught repeating over and over how much I loved this entire team. I took to wearing Orange and Black even on non-game days - always wanting to show my unconditional support and send my good vibes, showing them that I was thinking of them always, especially when they were away. And I was not alone. San Francisco loves this team. I talked Giants with everyone I encountered - the cashier at Trader Joe's, my shoe repairman, my bike mechanic, the farmer at the Ferry Plaza market, the gal at the pet store, the barista who made my cappuccino. San Franciscans embraced these players as a team and as individuals as much as they embraced us as their fans and their City. The love was reciprocal, as if we had the right chemistry.

Love makes you do crazy things for your lover. Aubrey Huff reached into his pants and pulled out his thong for his fans.

Love makes you steadfast and true. Buster Posey committed himself to doing it all over again for San Francisco next year.

Love makes you come to your senses. Freddie Sanchez publicly severed his allegiance to the hometeam of his youth - the Los Angeles Dodgers - and forever devoted himself to their rival San Francisco. 1.5 million euphoric fans can have that effect on you.

Euphoria feels like falling in love. Brian Wilson, while marching to City Hall to receive the keys to The City, described the energy as electric.

I rode away from City Hall filled with this powerful sense of love and passion for where I'm from. I owe that feeling to The Giants. I owe that feeling to baseball.

From the pit of my heart, Giants, THANK YOU for making me dream and love again!

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