Tuesday, October 7, 2014

A Question Every Sports Fan Must Ask: Is it Worth it?

Exhausted after watching the longest post-season baseball game ever—the National League Division Series Game 2 featuring the San Francisco Giants vs. Washington Nationals in 6 hours of ball—I finally admitted something to myself. I am in a relationship with the San Francisco Giants.
Brandon Belt's HR in the 18th inning ended the madness.
I have spent an inordinate amount of time, money and energy on this Major League Baseball team. I have traveled near and far to see them in action. Their schedule all too often determines mine. I watch them on television, I listen to them on the radio. I wear their colors and refuse to sport those of their opponents. I seek the company of others who are in this same relationship for advice and insight, to share stories and to learn more about these Boys of Summer and now Autumn. And, like any relationship, it hasn't always been easy.

This team that barely made it into the post-season somehow managed to beat a team that was picked by Sports Illustrated (in their baseball preview) to win it all in four games of the 2014 NLDS. Never in my wildest dreams did I believe they would find a way to continue playing in October after what was a painful and pathetic June and July. I guess #ChampionshipBlood is real.
The Reverend. Preacher Man Hunter Pence.
Sometimes what makes relationships work is synchronicity. What I mean is that the right things fall into place at the right time. Post-season play for the Giants at home for me as a fan was no exception. 

A friend bought tickets to Game 3 at the conclusion of the regular season. I never even thought we would attend this game. The G-men played the Pittsburgh Pirates in a one-game wild card playoff. The Buccs had the winningest record at home of any MLB team. Bumgarner shut them out 8-0. 

NLDS is a best of 5 series.  The Giants headed to our nation's capital the next day and my fears worsened. I thought I would see the elimination game for the Giants. After winning the first two games on the road, I was privy to the opposite.
Mad Bum was elevated to SuperHero Status.
Originally Game 3 was scheduled to start on Monday, October 6 at about 5:00 pm. For television purposes, it started at 2:07 pm instead. The Giants haven't had a post-season day game on a weekday since 1989. Fortunately, I don't teach the last class of the day so it was easy to go. Apparently it was easy for 42,000 others to do the same. 

I drew closer to AT&T park, excited by the sea of orange and black, I began to sweat literally and metaphorically. As I began to wonder where I could leave my car for under $40, a parking spot miraculously opened up. It was if the skies open and a dove was sent down from heaven as I saw the charge was all of $5 on the meter for four hours; I pay that much on the street where I live for one. I left my blanket, down vest and running shoes in my car and headed to the yard in a skirt and flip flopsA slave to warm weather, I couldn't believe the temperature at the start of the game. Summer comes to San Francisco in October; so does baseball!
But committing to someone for better or for worse is part of the gig. Unfortunately, the Giants lost 3-0. We had such high hopes; the ace of the pitching staff Madison Bumgarner didn't get any run support. We exited the park in silence. The good news however, was that we had been there before. This relationship knew what to do. 

And as witnessed in the 3-2 defeat of the Washington Nationals, they did it. Glory Be! The Giants are now headed to the National League Championship Series...Maybe even the World Series...I cant' believe it! They continue to inspire and excite me. Their success feels great. But if you were to ask me what I have enjoyed the most in all of this, it's something quite unexpected. Anyone in a relationship will understand what I am about to say.

When I got home after Game 3, crestfallen and a little bummed that I didn't see a division clinching moment, my roommate asked me "Are you glad you went? Was it worth it??" It's an honest question and it's a worthy question. My answer was and is, unequivocally "yes."

I say that because in spite of the outcome, when you genuinely care about someone or something, being there...being present...sharing in the moment is what it's all about. You go because it's what you do. To not go would feel, well, like part of you is missing.
At some point, we have to inquire about his leadership. #Excellence.
Being in a relationship for years now, means that when they succeed, you can't help but feel it deep down. It means that when they get to the postseason, you know something very special is about to happen. I absolutely love play-off baseball; it is just so much fun. The atmosphere at the ballpark was electric. Fans stand at every 2 strike count. All eyes are on the field during the game. In between innings my buddy Kevin and I stand, we can't help but dance to the music, or laugh as we look at the signs made by fans—it's awesome. 

And it's all part of the story that is ever being written. For me, it was one that really began in 1987. There were highlights in 1989. 2002 is still painful, but the magic of 2010 has made that much easier.

Pedro Arrupe, SJ has a beautiful prayer that speaks of the relationship that God seeks with us. One that is akin to falling in love. In it, Arrupe writes:
What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, whom you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in Love, stay in love, and it will decide everything. 
Right now, it feels a lot like my relationship with the San Francisco Giants.

I told me students today, I hope regardless of what happens in any relationship you have—good or bad, past or present that you can look back upon it and recognize it's worth it. This one sure is. Go Giants!

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