November 1st, 2010

All In

As my partner the native San Franciscan pointed out to me this morning, now is the time that Giants fans have learned to dread, that moment when sweet release is so close and yet still far, far away. I have to say, though, that this season has felt different to me for a long time.

Like lots of the team's fans, I started following this season with an extra boost of interest after they brought up the rookie catcher Buster Posey. Then, as they added a series of cast-offs to the roster, most of who just seemed peculiarly right, and also brought up their highly touted pitching prospect Madison Bumgarner, I began to regard them as one of those greater-than-the-sum-of-the-parts deals. They had some bad slumps, sure. But they also had streaks in which they kept winning games that they shouldn't have.

The statistically minded will tell you that teams like that will eventually come back to earth. And the Giants probably will next year, unless they find a way to get more consistent and youthful hitting. But there have been plenty of cases of overachievers beating the odds for a decent stretch and this may well be one.

ESPN's Rob Neyer has been blogging about the postseason in a way that has raised the ire of many Giants fans, because he keeps insisting that the team's success against outwardly better teams is an aberration rather than writing Romantic paeans to its special qualities. He hasn't bothered me, for the most part. His account of the World Series's third game, though -- the first one which the Texas Rangers won -- did get under my skin a bit, because he seemed pleased that something had finally gone according to form. And his write-up of last night's contest rankled me considerably, since he appeared a little too eager to count the breaks the Giants had gotten instead of focusing on what they'd done well.

Still, I understand his plight. On paper, this Giants team has never looked capable of winning it all. And it could be the case that the gap between their performance and capabilities, at least in the arena of hitting, will catch up with them in the remainder of the World Series, with psychologically devastating consequences for their fans. Like my partner, I worry about that possibility. You know what, though? My deeply ingrained sports pessimism is getting harder and harder to sustain. I keep watching this charmingly dorky video, made just to celebrate the team's last-day-of-season making of the playoffs, because it captures the way I and so many others have come to feel about this team:

I'm sure that the original song's revival by Glee last year has contributed to my sense that it's more stirring than sappy. Not that Glee steers clear of kitsch, mind you. But I guess that the refusal to stop believing goes hand in hand with openness to sentiment that one would otherwise reject as naïve or manipulative. Given the way my 2010 has gone, however, and, more specifically, how trying the past month has been, I've already reached the point where staying "collected" is no longer possible. I've pushed off into the tide of sentiment and will just have to wait and see whether it washes me ashore in a good spot. In the interim, "Go Giants!"