The Most Sincere Pumpkin Patch

I spent the night thinking about all the Giants fans in my life over the years. And this morning, I'm thinking about Charles Schulz. We did it, Chuck! Charlie Brown snuck up on Lucy and kicked the stuffing out of that football!

Eight years ago, I was also thinking about Charles Schulz. An excerpt from A Classic Fall: The Journal of a 2002 Giants Fan

"There was a general feeling around the neighborhood that Linus always acted a bit peculiar during the month of October..."
  -- Charles Schulz, "It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown"


It was less than two weeks ago that we brought our goddaughter a copy of "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" when we visited her parents before Game One of the World Series.

I briefly wondered how appropriate the book was for a two-year-old. I love the story, but I've always found it to have an uneasy edge. There are the usual sad failures of Charlie Brown, who butchers his ghost costume, gets rocks in his trick-or-treat bag, and, of course, never gets to kick that football. Snoopy, meanwhile, cannot even prevail in his own fantasies, as he is once again shot down by the Red Baron and stranded behind enemy lines.

But none of those scenes are as haunting as the image of Linus waiting for the Great Pumpkin to appear in "the pumpkin patch that he thinks is the most sincere." This is dark and disturbing stuff, and the story doesn't feature the typical "maybe all that tree needs is a little love" redemptive ending. Instead, we watch as the innocent Linus is consumed by a relentless madness that leaves him cold and alone in a barren field, clinging to a tattered security blanket and "shaking all over" in the darkness.

Charles Schulz was a Giants fan.

No, it's true. He spent much of his life in the Bay Area and was a Giants fan. "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" was written in 1966, in the midst of a decade of frustration for Willie Mays and the never-quite-good-enough Giants. Just four years earlier, Schulz wrote a memorable Peanuts strip that contained only one line of dialogue. Charlie Brown lamented to Linus, "WHY COULDN'T MCCOVEY HAVE HIT THE BALL JUST THREE FEET HIGHER?"

It's tempting to think that Schulz's classic Halloween tale was about the Giants, and I'm almost self-absorbed enough to pull it off. (I once was certain that an entire R.E.M. album was about a girl I had a crush on in college.) But Giants fan or no, I would imagine that Schulz has more perspective than that, and has a grander and more "sincere" message in mind.

The story is about faith, of course. Charlie Brown and Linus are heroic characters instead of just losers because of their admirable faith. Charlie Brown truly believes that he's going to kick the football this time, and Linus truly believes that the Great Pumpkin will show up. Linus even speaks on the importance of faith itself.

He told Sally that a person had to be very sincere in his waiting and never say, "If the Great Pumpkin comes," but always, "When the great pumpkin comes." "One little slip like that," declared Linus, "can cause the Great Pumpkin to pass you by!"

It is with this in mind that I will finally wrap up this 61-day journey. I want to thank those of you that have kept coming back here over these past two months. I imagine that some of you must be pretty deranged yourself; I hope you were able to find some comfort in my lunacy.

No, the Great Pumpkin didn't show up for Giants fans this year. Or, for those of you morbid types out there, the Great Pumpkin did show up, only to beat us over the head with a sock full of nickels and steal our wallets. But rest assured, I will return to the pumpkin patch next season. My sacrifice will not be as pure as Linus', of course. He passed up Halloween candy to spend the night alone in a freezing field, while I will be watching the world's greatest hitter play the world's greatest game in the world's greatest ballpark. Still, it takes discipline to remain faithful and give your heart unconditionally to a team. I will continue to do so. I will do everything I can to make Pac Bell Park the most sincere pumpkin patch in the world, even if all the fair-weather fans out there will think I'm being stupid.

"Stupid!" shrieked Linus. "What do you mean, 'stupid'? Just wait until next year. I'll find a pumpkin patch, and I'll sit in that pumpkin patch and it'll be a sincere pumpkin patch, and the Great Pumpkin will come! Just you wait and see! I'll sit in that pumpkin patch, and I'll see the Great Pumpkin. Just wait until next year!"


Today, in 2010, we are all Linus.

And I just noticed thatdog's updated comic strip. Brilliant.

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