The worst birthday I've ever had

Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

In 2002, I turned 21 the day before Game 6. That weekend did not go well.

October 25, 2002. Giants up 3-2 in the World Series. My 21st birthday.

When your 21st birthday lands on a Friday, the universe is telling you to party. When you're 21st birthday happens to fall during the week of the World Series and your team is not only in it but winning it, the cosmos have basically granted you a ticket to Heaven via Ascension or alcohol poisoning. I'm the anxious sort, actually, and am still nervous that MLB could somehow reverse 2010 and 2012 due to PEDs or the discovery of Cain's cybernetic shoulder or that Pablo is actually a giant robot vessel with four midgets running the controls inside him. But we had Bonds and Kent and Schmidt and Woody and Nen. And we were up 3-2. And I could finally buy beer without worrying that I'd be carded for the first time since age 17. (Being able to grow a beard in 10 minutes flat and dressing like a soccer mom had its advantages, the most important of which was looking 30 at age 20.)

Game 6 is scheduled for Saturday afternoon. Game 7, if necessary, for Sunday. ("If necessary": two glorious, harrowing words.) Friday, no game. We drink. We drink we drink we drink.

The plan for Saturday: drive to Reno. Place week's worth of tips on the Giants. Play craps. Drink. Celebrate a championship for the baseball team I've loved since I first saw Robby Thompson get caught stealing by 10 feet. (I guess eight-year-olds appreciate a very specific brand of swagger.) I really loved two teams in adulthood: the Giants and the Sacramento Kings. I'd been burned badly months earlier: the Kings were f--ked sideways one series, one game, one whistle, one shot, one FREE THROW from the NBA Finals in May. They had been up 3-2 against the Lakers with a late lead in Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals. Then the Lakers shot 27 free throws in the fourth quarter. That happened to be enough to win Game 6. Then they won Game 7 in overtime in Sacramento two days later.

For some reason, this five-month-old catastrophe never crossed my mind as we barreled up the mountains toward Nevada.

We ended up at Boomtown, Reno's little brother. I hit the sportsbook. A week's worth of wages serving tables, half down on Game 6, half down on the Series. I hit the craps table and get some free drinks. I decide if I ever become poor, I will move to Reno, play craps very slowly with very small bets to ensure maximum free drinks, and eat $3.99 steak and eggs every day. (This plan seems less brilliant than when I stated it loudly 11 years ago.) Craps went as well as craps can go for someone who doesn't actually know how to play craps: I broke even. Then the game began. Back to the sportsbook.

Russ is dealing. The Giants break through in the fifth. Glee. It's happening. This is what it feels like to root for the best team in the world! Those free Jack-and-Cokes are adding up. I mix in a beer or two, because, HEY, I'm 21, I know what I can handle, and guys, THE GIANTS ARE WINNING THE WORLD SERIES.

4-0. YES. 5-0. YES. I'm back at the craps table for a couple rolls while luck is on my side.

"He's pulling Russ."

Two singles. Dusty pulls Russ. I actually didn't see him give Russ the ball. I'm not sure I really saw anything after Spiezio's bomb, either. The drink hit as the dread hit. I swore for days all six runs happened in the 7th. Just like that, the two days and 6-1/2 innings of anxious glee were destroyed, replaced by the sinking feeling that we'd been tricked into believing. And also, two days of drinking caught up with me. My stomach and soul were in equal amounts of despair. Shortly after the official end of the game, the sober driver indicated it was time to head back down the hill.

You can tell the non-sports fans in a group. "Well, they could still win Game 7 tomorrow, right?" Uh huh. Sure. On the horrible 3-hour ride home -- the one time in history an inebriated me couldn't sleep -- is when I remembered May, remembered that Game 7. Uh huh. The Giants still have a chance. Sure.

The celebratory weekend was cut short. I watched Game 7 by myself. I knew what was coming, and I couldn't bring myself to depress everyone else before the game. And so it went, ending with the longest, most painful six innings of futility in Giants history, ending a powerfully bad weekend.

***

I didn't drink during the 2010 World Series. I held my one-year-old daughter for most of it. When Nelson Cruz whiffed to end it, I yelped. My daughter yelped. And all the glee I left in Reno eight years prior came rushing back.

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