Last Thursday, I let my gaze wash down a river of people who ran from Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk’s Coconut Grove all the way to the wharf. I felt impassioned — my fellow Giant fans were wasting their time waiting in line to get a picture taken with the World Series trophy.
I had urges to play Moses and berate them for their idol worship.
I know I have my memories of Pacific Avenue exploding with every run and every win. I know that Tim Lincecum’s hair, Brian Wilson’s beard and Matt Cain’s striking resemblance to Bobby from “King of the Hill” will forever be burned into my mind. I felt it dishonest to pose by a trophy that could never encompass the magic of a season.
I’m a Giants fan, which means I’m cynical, yet painfully loyal. My relationship with the team is a haphazard clip-show of defeats grasped from the brink of victory. I still can close my eyes and see Scott Spiezio’s three-run homer in 2002, or José Cruz Jr. dropping the can-of-corn fly ball, or J.T. Snow getting thrown out at home plate.
The fact that the team won this year still boggles my mind. It’s the only incongruity in a history of heartbreak.
I’m a Giants fan, which means I felt certain the team would get swept in the final series against the Padres and miss the playoffs. It means I gripped tightly to a whiskey double during every playoff game to ease my nerves. It means I believed no lead was large enough, that Brian Wilson would blow every save.
Perhaps it’s this same mentality that made me doubt the trophy celebration.
But halfway down the line of fans, I met Larry Werner and John Means, and I started to believe there might just be some value to this event. The two 40-something-year-old men were grinning and giggly, and they wore matching T-shirts. The front said, “The Negative Brothers.” The back explained: “Two Negatives Make a Positive.”
Werner and Means are Giants fans, which means they are cynical, yet painfully loyal. They watched every game along with Werner’s brother-in-law, and they have nicknames for each other.
“Our names are Bitch, Whine and Moan,” Werner said, chuckling. “So we were pleasantly surprised this year.”
We stood reminiscing, laughing at tears gone by. Means remembered Willie McCovey’s line drive not quite clearing the leaping Yankee shortstop in Game 7 of the 1962 World Series. I mentioned Steve Finley’s grand slam that knocked the Giants out in 2004. Werner recalled the Loma Prieta earthquake that helped the Giants get swept in the 1989 World Series.
I respected the men, so I had to ask why they would spend hours in line. What did the trophy really mean to them?
“It means a lifetime of waiting for it,” Werner said. “I was 10 years old, and my father was taking me to Seals Stadium in San Francisco. I’ve been around for a long time.”
At first I was confused why these self-proclaimed Negative Nancys would spend their afternoon waiting for a cheesy photograph. But then I started to understand that the draw was less about the gold and more about finally owning a tangible representation of something we’ve always lacked. The picture was a guarantee against forgetting, a safeguard against ever losing sight of the fact that in 2010 we really did win.
“Don’t Stop Believin’” played through the speakers as I walked back towards my car. The music was loud, but I could still overhear a man standing next to a stroller say, “He’s two years old. I felt like I needed the picture. This could be his last chance.”
I realized that every person in that line was a Giants Fan. They were cynical. But they were also painfully loyal.
The scene was festive, with music blasting and every fan wearing their colors proudly, but what really led them to spend an afternoon in line was the nagging thought that the Giants might not win for another 56 years.
Yankees fans don’t wait three hours to take a picture with a trophy. They don’t need a photograph as a safeguard against time. They can rest assured that their team will win again soon.
But we are Giants fans. We know what it feels like to wait 56 years. We’ve watched a team blow games in every conceivable way. We are cynical, yet painfully loyal.
So why not spend a mid-winter afternoon waiting for a photograph and basking in the victory?
Who knows when it will happen again.