You can’t spend 20 minutes in San Francisco’s downtown and not see someone — or more likely several someones — touting a stylish shopping bag — or several stylish shopping bags — from Bloomingdale’s, Victoria Secret, Louis Vuitton, Diesel or the telltale bag of the all, the little blue bag from Tiffany. This city we love is known for many things, but we all know that shopping reigns supreme. Ugh.
So it’s no surprise this morning on my jog around AT&T Park a certain bag today topped them all. They were EVERYWHERE! The bag? The orange and brown bag of The Dugout, the official San Francisco Giants swag store.
Less than twelve hours after our miracle hometown nine wrapped up its third National League Pennant in five years ( and it’s second walk-off clinching homer and subsequent “The Giants Win the Pennant! The Giants Win the Pennant” radio call in sixty years) San Franciscans were doing what they do best: They were shopping. Lines at The Dugout in Embarcadero Center were still requiring red rope type security at the entrance late in the Day. By early afternoon, the World Series T-shirts were sold out.
The massive store at the ball yard itself had folks waiting before it even opened.
In short, this town’s gone mad for its Orange and Black Boys of Summer. How do we express it? We shop till we drop, apparently.
What’s all the fuss, you might ask? The million-dollar boys club of professional athletes and the American Idol-like worship of these often flawed heroes is in many ways as superfluous and surfacey as TMZ and reality TV.
True, all true. I often ask myself why — after finding so many other interesting and productive things to do with my time — why, why do I still get wrapped up in something like a Pennant Race.
It’s an intriguing question, one The Bride and I both have revisited often this past year. We’ve loved the 49ers since before we met (we jumped on the 49ers in 1980 and didn’t find each other to jump on until 1984) but the team sold its sold for a billion dollar stadium in the burbs that nobody wants to go, the league is wracked with violence, especially against women, and we know its stars are killing themselves with concussions. Why contribute to that? Honestly it gets harder and harder, which is why the 49ers are now about the only football team I’ll watch. The Bride is still protesting the stadium, but she’ll come around by the playoffs I’m guessing.
I gave up basketball more than a decade ago.
But baseball, well, that’s something all together different for me, and few teams I have ever cheered for have ever so embodied what it means for a city to be in love with its team. This overachieving bunch of transplants that have so little in common with the city’s ethos, have come to embody us with its togetherness, teamwork, genuine affection for each other and defiance of the highest bidder franchises like the Yankees and the Dodgers.
Watching them play baseball is like watching something so ugly and odd that it becomes its own work of art. Timeless and memorable. It’s the art of this team — teamwork — I celebrate today along with thousands of other orange and brown Dugout bag toting fellow fans.
I’ve watched baseball ardently for forty years. I can’t recall a team ever — EVER — that was as unlikely to win as this group. Some playoff teams have holes. Some get hot and overcompensate. But if these Giants had Swiss Cheese like weaknesses its safe to say they were more hole than cheese. They just shouldn’t be winning. In one clinching game they started four lefties and a right-handed batter hitting .160 and a pitcher against a lefty pitcher. They shouldn’t have scored a run, yet they won. It made no sense. Still doesn’t. Yet game after game they had no business winning, they did just that.
They won and won and kept on winning.
All year long the team’s slogan as been “Giant Together.”
Watching this team, I see it’s true. Baseball has brought my entire family together many times. We cheer together go to games together, text back and forth during games together and get pissed together. It’s the one game we all love. I have memories at ballparks across the country with my kids. I proposed to The Bride in a ballpark on the big screen. It’s just our place and it means so much more than professional athletes and professional sports and all that is wrong with both.
But when a team in a city comes together and transcends all that professionalism, well it doesn’t get any better than that. These Giants do that. This season has done that. It’s been wonderful and delirious and unexpected and victorious by our team in our beautiful ballpark in a game that is largely unchanged from 100 years earlier. It’s the game of my youth. A game of symmetry and beauty and balance with no clock and yet its ageless.
I love the game. I love this team. I even bought The Bride a sweatshirt, doing something I never do: shop… and stand in line to do it no less. Why not? The Giants won the pennant!
It’s just one of those things you can’t explain, just like our National League Champion San Francisco Giants.