The Monday Mouthoff with Doug Spencer is a weekly column on BayAreaNewsTalk.com.
People have a lot on their minds these days. Ebola. The volatile stock market. Snoop Dogg’s feud with Iggy Azalea. (Is Iggy Pop aware of this young upstart?) So it’s understandable if folks hadn’t noticed that we are in an even-numbered year. That may not mean much in Missoula, Montana. But here in the Bay Area, what is quickly becoming a decade-long tradition continues as the San Francisco Giants are amazingly in the World Series yet again. Heck, an even-numbered year in this decade has thus far guaranteed the Giants will take the title home. Will they keep batting a thousand? Or will they soon be embodying that unforgettable Meat Loaf lyric: “Two outta three ain’t bad” ?
Besides the obvious question of who will win, the Giants third trip to the World Series in five years also presents a superb opportunity to examine a phenomenon known as “Bay Area baseball fans”. First, a little historical perspective. For youngsters like myself who grew up a couple hours north of the Bay Area, and who learned America’s pastime on Sutter Little League’s uneven, gopher hole-filled Perry Field, you had two distinct choices: Giants or A’s. The division was clear and the lines never got blurred. You chose one or the other and stuck with that team. (For purposes of full disclosure, I grew up, and remain, an Oakland A’s fan….and only an Oakland A’s fan).
These groups of fans didn’t hate each other, but neither did they, under ANY circumstance, cheer for the other fan’s team. The very idea was as foreign as reading Mark Twain in Mandarin. But, after nearly three years living in enemy territo–err, San Francisco, I have learned that “Bay Area baseball fans” see things quite differently. The best I can codify their thinking is as follows: ‘I feel so lucky and blessed to live in an area with two major league teams. I hope both do well. I am going to cheer for both. Whichever team makes it further in the post-season, I will be equally happy to urge them on with the same passion, enthusiasm and devotion. Oh, and I will also buy various items of clothing from both teams….you know, just in case.’ (This excludes fashion abominations like the infamous Giants-A’s split baseball cap. Be forever banished!)
I have heard this line of thinking professed repeatedly. I have seen it in action. I have gone to games (A’s games, of course) with these fans – and I am still at a loss to fully understand it. I do on certain levels. For instance, we all like to see the area we are from well represented on a national stage. The pride, the bragging rights, and the boost to morale, both individually and community-wise, can be both exhilarating and intoxicating. But sooner or later, there will come a time of reckoning where such egalitarian fans will have to make the same choice I made as a kid. In fact, for the Bay Area, that time did come 25 years ago when the Giants and A’s met in the World Series. The universe could not have devised a better litmus test. One had to win and one had to lose. If you were here then, who were you really pulling for, in your heart of hearts?
This is not to point an accusatory finger. On the contrary, I am motivated by a deep compassion and desire to help these fans find their identity and to finally FINALLY be at peace with themselves. As those great American orators Abraham Lincoln and George Costanza both reminded us: “A (fill in the blank) divided against itself cannot stand!”. That blank should also include ‘baseball fan’. Trust me, your life will be simpler, your priorities well-ordered, and your sports fashion choices will finally all match.
So, on the eve of this World Series, I tip my cap to the San Francisco Giants. Their accomplishment is worthy of praise. But I do not — repeat: do not — hope they win. I long ago picked my team. Through good and bad, up or down, thin or flush, they will always have my full measure of support. In other words: GO ROYALS!