I have been a San Francisco Giants' fan for 28 years and for 26 of those, the Giants did not win the World Series. As I write this in mid-June, the Giants are in 4th place in the NL West and just one game above .500, but hey, they are also only 1.5 games back from the top spot because the division is all bunched up this year. Having won just 4 of their last 10 games, the Giants now have a few fans with glazed eyes and a lingering hangover. I thought I'd write this for them.
There are plenty who would say that Giants' fans have no right to feel down, what with having won two of the last three World Series. That point in understood. Still, coming down from such a tremendous emotional high to now watching a good but more average team (albeit due partly to injuries) can be a letdown.
Over the years, I have learned - as others have before me - how to be a fan regardless of my team's win-loss record. Maybe some of these might work for you ... or you might have a few of your own to share.
1. Print out the "Year-by-Year Results" page from the Giants' website and pin it to your wall to keep perspective. In 1985, my first year as a fan, the Giants won 62 and lost 100. Use that for a baseline.
2. Change the way you follow a game. If you always watch it at home, go to a sports bar that carries the game. If you always watch it at a sports bar, hang out at a friend's house. Turn off the sound and watch it in silence. Turn off the television and listen to the radio. Switch from English to Spanish (or vice versa), even if you don't know the language. Periodically mix it up and experience the game in a new way.
3. Have a favorite player. Pick one to watch, to root for, and to study regardless of the score. Anticipate his at-bats and cheer loudly. When he leave the team - and they all eventually do - say a word of thanks and select another favorite.
4. Watch the defense. While most casual viewers that I know predominantly pay attention to pitching and offense, fans learn to deeply appreciate great defense too. In almost every game, there are a few amazing catches or throws that make you think, "Wow, I am so glad I am here and got to see that!"
5. Track one the stats on an ongoing basis and/or count up to a milestone. While the biggest milestones garner media attention, the smaller ones can be quite enjoyable too. "Will a certain player get his 200th hit today?" Sweet.
6. Look for your own choice for the "play of the game." Every inning brings a new opportunity for that play. See if others agree with you.
7. Go to the ballpark and watch them play in person if you can - not just to see them win, which is an iffy proposition, but because you get to see your Giants.
8. Keep score on a baseball scorecard or, in this day and age, on a scorecard app. It's not for everyone, but worth trying at least once. Tracking the score requires staying alert and engaged.
9. Listen to the Giants' announcers in terms of how they find something in each game to keep it interesting and entertaining regardless of the score. Not always an easy task. Kudos to them.
10. When the team falters, and periodically it will, recall that there is a major distinction between: (1) feeling disappointed, frustrated, annoyed, sad, etc., which comes with fandom, and (2) being a fair-weather friend, which does not. I confess that in one of my darker fan moments - and I'm looking at you, 1992 - I had to retake my "I will not be a fair-weather fan" pledge.
11. Wear old team gear if you've got it. It makes you remember how long you've been a fan and how Giants' fans used to say, "It's better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all."
12. Wear new team gear emblazoned with "World Series Champion." Putting it on can brighten your day and make you feel a wee bit smug. Bliss.
13. If that doesn't work, close your eyes and picture yourself walking around in public wearing another baseball team's shirt and cap in vivid colors. How's that feel? Alrighty then.
14. Watch a baseball movie, whichever one reminds you that baseball is both a game and so much more than a game. For me, it's usually The Field of Dreams, The Rookie, or Moneyball, but there are other contenders as well.
15. Go play catch in your backyard, or at the park, or on some field. It will remind you how fun it is to play catch ... and how hard it is to play at the professional level.
16. Watch a good high school game. It reminds you why you love the game and how lucky you are to follow some of the top players in the world. In the world!
17. Take a break and follow another professional sport - football, basketball, ice hockey, etc., depending on the time of year. Appreciate the talent, skill, and athleticism. If you are fulfilled, stay there. Otherwise, it's just a matter of time before you start thinking, "Yes, but it's not baseball," and come back.
18. In a pinch, it's okay to periodically use one of more of the following phrases if applicable, "There's always tomorrow," "There's always the next homestand," or "There's always next year." And then enjoy today.
19. Take no win for granted. We've been happily spoiled over the last few years. In 2010, I was stunned silent; in 2012, ecstatic. Two of the highlights of my life. More often than not with the Giants, as with other professional sports teams, it's "win a few, lose a few." Sometimes it's even, "win a few, lose a lot." Celebrate each win.
20. Share your passion for the Giants with someone who reciprocates the feeling. Share in person, via text, on a blog, whatever fits your lifestyle ... and be part of the community. Together we're Giant.