I’m a life-long Giants fan. My father grew up in Northern California and fondly remembers listening to Mays and McCovey on the radio. When he moved to Wisconsin, married my mom, and had kids, he passed his love of baseball and of the Giants on to his kids. I knew my baseball teams before I knew the alphabet. As a toddler, I was a vocal and proud Dodger hater. My family was once at F.A.O. Schwarz in Chicago and saw Orel Hershiser. When my dad asked if I wanted to get his autograph I responded, "He’s a Dodger. Why would I want his autograph?" Long story short: you and I are probably pretty similar when it comes to the Giants.
Currently, I’m living in South Korea. I’ve been here on and off for around three years and love it. The food is excellent, public transportation is crazy efficient, it has an entertaining baseball league, and the culture supports bad decision making past midnight. Sounds good, right? You might be thinking, "This sounds like the perfect country. I’m going to move there just as soon as things cool down with that crazy Kim Jong-un guy. Didn’t I hear he and Mat Latos are best friends?" Sadly, this is not quite true (except the Latos part), because South Korea has one big problem. They are in love with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
They are obsessed. Like Robert de Niro in the 1996 classic movie, The Fan, obsessed (other than the fact that de Niro is obsessed with a San Francisco Giant and not a Dodger in that movie, this is probably the best simile I’ve ever written). Everywhere you go, the Dodger logo and that stupid watered-down Dodger blue are there waiting. I would blame this on Hyun-Jin Ryu, but really it’s all Chan-ho Park’s fault. Park, as the first great Korean player to make the transition to the MLB, really laid the groundwork for Ryu and the current Dodger fanaticism going on here. I would be angry about all this if I didn’t sort of think that it was all one big cosmic joke. Just think, two years ago I was in Korea, happy as Michael Morse at an A-Ha concert. Little did I know that all of my happiness was an illusion. Chan-ho Park saw to that twenty years ago. If I did the math correctly, that means that I was nine years old when Park unknowingly (or knowingly because who’s to say, right?) tainted a huge chunk of my adulthood.
Anyways, here’s some of the crap I have to put up with.
Seriously, this stuff is everywhere. Little kids are covered in adorable dogs with Dodger hats. Old ladies are shuffling down subway platforms in Dodger slippers. Psy is probably sleeping under a satin Dodger comforter as I write this. It plagues me. I’m surrounded by people who honestly think Los Angeles is a desirable place to live. Maybe that seems like it would be tolerable to you, but keep in mind that this is an entire country that genuinely thinks Tommy Lasorda is a human being and that Dodger Dogs are high-quality stadium fare. It’s hard to fathom but it’s true.
If that weren’t enough to make life in Korea hard on a Giants fan, here’s another hard pill to swallow.
See what I did there? Guys? Get it, guys? Guys, where are you going?
But seriously, South Korea is a bizarre world where Brett Pill is a superstar. He’s batting .320 and has hit thirteen home runs so far this year. Entire stadiums chant his name. It’s as if the Belt Wars never really stopped. Instead of a peace treaty, the Giants just signed a cease-fire agreement, declared the Pacific Ocean the DMZ, and I ended up on the side where Brett Pill is an everyday player.
Want more? Well, did you know that South Korea has a baseball team called the Giants? They do, and they’re my favorite team. Unfortunately, they’re essentially the Chicago Cubs of South Korea. Although the Lotte Giants are one of the original six teams in the Korean Baseball Organization, they haven’t won a championship in over twenty years. That may not seem bad, but the KBO is only about thirty years old. Also, of the original six teams, only three remain: the Samsung Lions, who have won the league three years running, the KIA Tigers, who have the most championships in league history, and the Lotte Giants, who exist solely to ruin my evenings and weekends. The Korean Giants have the most rabid fan base in the league, which translates to big ticket and merchandise sales. Unfortunately, it also means that the owners don’t particularly care about building a contending squad.
And their bullpen sucks. Oh god, how it sucks. Also, one of their foreign pitchers, Chris Oxspring (historical side note: Oxspring threw the first pitch in the Australian professional baseball league. So, yeah, he’s like a big deal.), got thrown out of last night’s game for beaning a hitter in the head.
For all that, though, I can’t really say that being a Giants fan is a bad thing anywhere right now. With the season we’re having, being surrounded by Dodgers fans has actually been pretty enjoyable. That first series against the Dodgers where the Giants killed Ryu with bloopers and bleeders was particularly satisfying. And it’s hard to complain about living in a place where baseball is popular with such a huge swathe of the population. Even if they are Dodgers fans, it’s fun to be around.
In a lot of ways, baseball is my strongest connection to home in a very foreign place. Modern technology is a crazy thing. I can video chat with my family anytime I want; I can text with friends an ocean away; I can even listen to Jon Miller call a game as I’m hiking a mountain in Asia. But for all of that, it can’t offer any substitute for the feelings that my home gives me. Only one thing does that: baseball. I’m grateful that I can wake up each morning, watch Sandoval swing at a few nose-high fastballs, and make a connection with my old man who’s watching the game from his armchair in Wisconsin. Now if I could only pass out after these ninth inning collapses instead of having to stew about it all day long, life would be perfect.