Interleague play brings out the Rowand in all of us.
I used to have a weird fascination with long-suffering franchises. After several sessions of therapy, we figured out that it had to do with my obsession with a long-suffering franchise. Who knew? Best $15,000 I ever spent.
But when the Giants were good in the late-’90s, early-’00s, I was terrified that the Giants would go to the NLCS and have to get through the Cubs to get to the World Series again. It would have added guilt to what should have been a pure experience. The thought seriously bothered me. Thinking about ‘89 kind of bothers me because it’s not like the Giants did anything with the chance.
And as the Giants went through the playoffs last year, I kept twitching as a Giants/Yankees match-up kept becoming more and more likely. The thought of the Yankees celebrating their 548th championship as the Giants slinked off the field ... it kept me up at night. There’s some weenie part of my brain that believed in the Greater Egalitarian Theory of Championship Distribution, and New York having a bazillion combined championships while San Francisco didn’t have one felt so, so wrong.
The team I least wanted to face in the World Series throughout the Barry Bonds era, though, were the Cleveland Indians. They’re like the Cubs, but they aren’t all in your face about it. They never made up some silly reason why they were cursed. They just sat quietly in the corner and looked at their shoes when you talked to them.
More than that, though, the last time the Giants won a World Series before 2010, it was against the Indians. That resonated with me for some reason, like ‘54 was some sort of bracket where the winner got a weekend furlough out of purgatory. The Giants won, and for 50+ years they were able to look back at the Indians and say, "Boy, those poor saps don’t even have the memories of that weekend to keep them warm," and they’d remember the winning fondly before they resumed not winning anything.
Then last year happened, and it was like Morgan Freeman hugging Tim Robbins on a beach while you were drunk and rolling around in a pile of poker winnings. Everything about it was great, except for the things that weren’t, such as when I dropped my hat while walking to Game Two. That was horrible, but I picked up the hat and dusted it off. Other than that, everything else was perfect.
Here’s the thing, though: now that the Giants have won a championship in San Francisco, you’d think that I’d feel even more guilty about succeeding against long-suffering franchises. That if the Giants met the Cubs or Indians in the playoffs, I’d be more apt to say, "Jeez, we already have one, and they look so forlorn, oh, and now they’re looking at us with those big ol’ (ursine/indigenous) eyes. Great. Now I feel like a jerk."
Nope. That whole thing is gone. Don’t care about the Cubs. Only slightly care about the Indians. If those two teams are playing against any other team but the Giants in the playoffs, I’ll surely root for them. But the winner’s guilt that worried me so? Gone.
It’s strange because I really, really, really want the Giants to win it all again, and I really, really, really don’t care whom the Giants trample to get there, which was actually a consideration last time. Again, the taste of winning is like human flesh. One bite, and there’s no going back, so you might as well embrace it. And apparently, it makes you a compassionate jerkface who forgets his or her roots as a beleaguered franchise. And that feels fine.
This newfound arrogance and lack of empathy reminds me of a song:
Good times never seem so good/Oh, I've been inclined to believe it never would
And after the "so good" part, you’re supposed to repeat it back a couple of times. We should all sing this song at Giants games. Took a Giants/Indians series to accept this.
Hitter to watch
Sweet, sweet Asdrubal. You don’t return my calls anymore. Did you get the chocolates? The picture I drew? The stained-glass window with a picture of you holding hands with Bruce Bochy? Please return my calls.
Pitcher to watch
Joe Smith. If I were a manager, I’d try pitching him twice in the same game. Put him in as a mop-up man in the fourth, take him out in the fifth, and then put him back in for a hitter in the eighth. And when the umpire or opposing manager complained, I’d say, "He hasn’t been in this game before. You’re just racist against people with really common, nondescript names." And then they’d feel really guilty before relenting. Then I’d feel smart and manipulative and proud of myself. I’ll bet Manny Acta tries it at least once this series.
Someone links to this beautiful poster, possibly in this very post.