so i wrote this a while ago, but i'm a sentimental idiot.
a few days ago it was a year ago. the numb anxiety that over the course of a few weeks managed to be coerced by anticipation, resulting in the culmination of two decades of anger, depression, joy, and embarrassment being exorcized in the dramatic finale of an indian summer.
a few days ago, it was frigid and raining. two decades from now, it won't ever have been the same. a year ago, it was the once in a lifetime experience. no one needs to say, "it's just a game". aside from being an annoying cliche, it's painfully obvious.
but this game is beautiful to me. it is a common thread that ties my childhood to my present; it turns the calendar better than any holiday can. the season brings, as it always has, 162 chess games on a board of painstakingly manicured green grass, dirt and chalk. endless stats meld with polarizing personalities as i do the math on both fronts from the comfort of my couch, a cold beer in my hand and a late-setting sun in the open window. it brings walks to the ballpark and drunken cab rides home, remedial radio broadcasts while planting the latest nursery finds, familiar faces of the dad-funny broadcasters, and an hour-long conversation with strangers at the bar about shortstop prospects.
it brings that seminal afternoon where the san francisco giants, one of the oldest franchises in the game and with pedigrees the likes of willie mays and willie mccovey are poised to do something san francisco has never seen.
i can still sense kevin arnold riding bitch between jean and me as our cab barreled down franklin st on an unusually warm night in november. the giants had just won the world series and my ears were still ringing from the euphoria of the final out. try as i might, i could not for the life of me avoid some surreal slow-motion effect narrated by his soothing commentary.
burned in my memory are those seconds of weightlessness as the car sped over a crest on franklin, all four windows rolled down, jean and i leaning out to our waists as we scream at the top of our lungs. i notice a huge knowing grin through the cabby's beard before my buzzed eyes shift to the euphoric passers-by on the sidewalk. somewhere along the way, a stranger reaches out for a high-five at 30 mph. ouch. looking straight ahead, alcatraz and the lights of the north bay shine across the water and i can't prevent an enormous, stupid smirk from spreading across my face. this isn't happening.
bottom of the ninth inning. i nervously stroke my facial hair as i stare at the tv and share nervous smiles with jean and paul, who got us front row seats at the tempest's weathered bar. a stranger in a snappy suit, likely about 65, has been sharing handshakes and high-fives with me for the last 3 hours and stands next to me, his fingers a vice on my shoulder in nervous anticipation. i pound the bar to keep my shaking hands from being too obvious to the excited mass pushing up behind us. there's too many thoughts to process for these final three outs as the sound in the bar reaches rock concert decibels. i love this game. i love this team.
i want to pause the entire moment and explain to jean, to my family and friends about all of the reasons i can feel my pulse through my face right now. all of the personalities, all of the heartbreak for the last 56 years, all of the history. for one utterly unforgettable second, one of my life dreams hangs on the precipice of reality as brian wilson rears back, one strike away. the crowd falls momentarily silent as wilson's beard whiplashes and the seams are hurled at human capacity toward the plate. this is it.
I imagine pre-pubescent me was a "cute", if not interesting little kid. those must be popular adjectives when the first things to develop are your exceptional height and ears. "my, you must be a basketball player!" nope, just gonna awkwardly retreat to the backyard with my bat and dog and pretend i'm a major league baseball player. mimicking the batting stances of every starter in the '92 giants lineup in the backyard, my golden retriever would serve as the "umpire" with a tight zone. the small, decorative river rocks i used for baseballs would carom into the hill behind my house for ringing doubles and walk-off homeruns. at some point the thought of cheez-its and apple juice would become too much and i'd retreat to the family room to watch the actual giants settle into a familiar place: last.
i don't actually remember seeing the final swinging strike three - i'll take the internet's word for it - but i remember utter chaos as my eyebrows went to milhouse heights and the bartender, standing on the bar, handed jean a bottle of jack which was promptly poured into my waiting mouth like a victorious baby bird. if this was an 80s movie, the credits would roll at this point, with "we are the champions" building in the background. im fairly certain i did not give molly ringwald a high five in the bar or on the street that night, but i lost track after going high with half of the city of san francisco. the night would devolve into an amalgamation of street closures, high fives with firemen and cops, drunk chicks, and brain-dead chants of "let's go giants" by inebriated thousands. you know, the kind of night dreams are made of.
i'd wager there's very few nights we go to sleep with a wide smirk plastered on our face and everything's a-ok. tonight, that was because the jints won it all. oh, and some jack mixed in there.
2 years ago