Wednesday, March 21, 2007

They Might Be Jints

Hope springs eternal -- as in spring training. Or at least temporarily eternal. Or maybe not at all. This unreasonable, illogical, and typically futile springtime hoping began for me sometime between the winter of 1954 and the spring of 1955. I had asked my brother, Richard, whom he rooted for. The New York Giants, was his answer. And it's been my answer from then until now. I kept a scrapbook in those Polo Grounds days; it consisted of pasted-in news clippings and baseball cards, including the card of my beloved Willie Mays and even Johnny Antonelli, who threw left and batted right and had a unibrow, all just like me. (Note the "pasted in"; that means the Willie Mays card is decidedly not worth hundreds of dollars, not that I'm selling any of it.) (Another time I'll write about my Willie Mays hero worship: trying to call him when I was 10 years old; how he influenced my attitudes toward race; how I imagined I was number 24 in the field.) I stuck with the Giants even when they left New York and abandoned me, left to listen to corny (but believable to me) re-creations of games by Les Keiter on WINS 1010, as a tickertape fed his contrived play-by-play backed up by sound effects; stuck with them despite a three-hour time difference owing to San Franciso's distance 3,000 miles away (I sent away to the Chamber of Commerce ask information about this place (they obliged by sending a brochure); remained faithful largely because of The Say Hey Kid, and all the elan and verve and reckless fun and drama he brought to the field and beyond; even remained faithful after my moving back to the NYC metro area, when the Mets were there to watch in person, or on TV, or on radio. I admit to having flirted with fan-adultery then (fantasizing an affair with the Mets), but whenever my boys came into town I could not root against them, especially after meeting Nick Harrigan on the No. 7 train after a game at Shea in 1979 or 1980 (Nick who had seen every Giants game in New York since the 1930s if memory serves); nor could I in 1978 after wearing an SF cap on my head at a game in Pittsburgh where I had a press pass and got to interview the likes of Vida Blue and Willie McCovey and John Montefusco -- with a Giants cap on for heaven's sake.

It would be easier to give it all up. Especially after the nightmare of 2002, which bears no repeating here.

The skin is thicker; the passion has waned; the naive optimism tempered -- for the Giants at least.

I rarely see them in person; it's been years. The Internet has replaced those days of dialing in games from as far away as Pittsburgh, Saint Louis, Cincinnati -- even Chicago or Atlanta on a night with a rare, good skip with little static.

The gods have left Mount Olympus, and all the seams are worn.
The hero's in the grandstands with all his memories torn.
I can hardly find the paper's box score
With all the news of war.

And as for this year's Giants, they've put me in a downright subjunctive mood. (I was indicatively captivated yesterday, browsing at Borders, by Michele Morano's winning essay on the subjunctive mood; I would check her out if I were you, before our language loses the last of this dying breed, the subjunctive.)

Might is the operative word.

Might be pretty good; might be mediocre; might even be awful.

But I most likely won't fret much, no matter which way it all goes.

After all, Willie's on the sidelines -- and he's coaching Mr. Bonds.

(See, can't help it. Just checked. The boys lost today, 10-9. Could, might, would, may be a harbinger of things to come.)

P.S. Sorry, my friend, Michael Christelman. Still can't stand the Dodgers, even though you have a better team this year. Up for a friendly wager?


Michael C said...

This was a really good post! It makes me want to wax nostalgic about my Dodgers in a future post. I emailed you a wager...
Ahhh, no time like Spring ;-)

Glamourpuss said...

The whole men and sports teams thing utterly mystifies me - if only they put as much effort into worshipping the women around them...

Sheila said...

great post. Hope that you have a great weekend!