Thursday, November 18, 2010
Through a Fence, Brightly (part 4)
Comparing our earthly existence to the next life, my namesake Saint Paul famously wrote, at least according to the King James Version, "For now we see through a glass, darkly." Well, the so-called Knothole enabled me and the other chosen few there to see through a fence brightly: the celestial dazzle of Game 1 of the 2010 World Series. The Knothole is simply a free viewing area behind right field of AT&T Park in San Francisco. Even the name evokes sentimental, Norman Rockwell-ish scenes of kids peering through a hole in a wooden fence to catch a free glimpse of baseball.
The Giants, at least theoretically, let in 100 to 125 people who stay for three innings and get shuffled out. So as I waited in line, I became part of a small community; you get to know a few folks. Some stayed; some bailed. Before the game, we saw the antics on McCovey Cove and then got soundly jolted by the roar of jets zooming by closely overhead as a part of a pregame display. Someone tossed a football from the Cove to us -- great arm, "sign 'em up for the Niners!" -- and and it went back and forth, with dramatically good tosses, until it landed a second time in one of the upper pews of the festive baseball cathedral, and remained there. We heard bits and pieces of John Legend singing the National Anthem. In the early innings, I heard Tony Bennett -- really? in person? yes! -- singing "I Left My Heart in San Francisco," a song that left me quietly sobbing with joy last year after our first game at AT&T. I was on the verge this time, but held it off. In the line, I met Dennis and Linda from Modesto in back of me, and we learned about some similarities in career paths and our shared Giants passion. (They later skipped off to near the Willie McCovey statue, but it was a treat to get a call from them when we Won It All.) Others, who were nameless, shared reports from transistor radios, supplementing the information we gleaned from crowd silence or roars. It was like the 1950s with radios sneaked into school, hidden in desks. A gray-haired guy perhaps a few years younger than myself reported on the Giants falling behind in the early going, 2-0; scared looks crossed our faces.
The line shuffled along, very slowly, almost imperceptibly at times, or not at all. I left the line briefly at one point -- my place held for me by my new friends-- to walk toward the front just to see if anyone was selling tickets. Nope. I traded calls and texts not only back East but with San Francisco-area contacts and friends. Others in the line scouted ahead more toward the center field section, along our waterfront promenade, only to report ominously that people were being allowed in to the Knothole from that end. Confusing. Chaotic. A bit dispiriting, which is why some bailed. Such as the stolid guy in front of me, such as Dennis and Linda, and the relative of the fellow directly in back of me (they got separated, one without a phone).
Our hope perked up when the Giants tied it at 2, and soon we had moved up close enough to catch action on TVs we could watch through windows that appeared to be in luxury boxes within the stadium. But as we moved toward the middle innings, there we were still in line, not really knowing for sure if we would ever get a free glimpse, feeling too much like herded livestock -- but eager and relatively happy livestock. I read later in USA Today that the Giants gave out wristbands for those awaiting free viewing. No such thing for Game 1. And as Freddy Sanchez, Aubrey Huff, and Cody Ross propelled us into a solid lead, exuberance rebounded. If the scheme of Knothole viewing were to hold true for us, we would view in the under-the-stands cubbyhole for the last three innings. But it really began to look iffy. I figured: hang in here; stay with it. And when Uribe's ball sailed out of our view, accompanied by raucous cheers and water cannon, we knew he'd hit a homer and we high-fived anyone we could reach, maybe twice.
Then we found ourselves in a railed in area, within a gated barricade. Good sign. Maybe there is some order to this. Then the guards were checking bags and seemingly ousting some people. One guy who was clearly on the promenade (but not in line) was now in the Knothole! Hunh? It appeared that he had cut in. So, our mini-community was encouraged when they started shuffling out the previous Knothole gang of 100 or 125. I confess I got a little nervous. I walked up to the security gatekeeper who was trying to keep order. "Hey, look, I came here all the way from Syracuse, New York, and..." "Don't worry; y'all will get in. Stop pushing, people. Hey!" It was a little frantic, not riotous but tense. But by the top of the 8th inning (alas, we did not even get in by the "allotted" 7th inning), our batch was filing in. "Hey, let those kids in first. Syracuse! Hey, you, Syracuse, come here." In. I texted my daughter. "In the Knothole."
I'd have to say the wait was worth it. You're in a cavern looking through a chain-link fence, so you're drenched in game light. As far as I can tell, you are at playing-field level. Exactly. You cannot say that about the most expensive seat in the house. You are directly in back of the right fielder and gain an unparalleled glimpse of the spatial challenges any outfielder must face. You get a tremendous sense of that difficulty. Nevertheless, as rough as it was, I had to laugh when someone in our group yelled to Vladimir Guerrero, "You'll always be a Montreal Expo!" Ouch. And he proceeded to make two errors. Vlad looked tired and beat. The Rangers looked tired and beat. But although we rejoiced in some more scoring we also withstood some customary "Torture" in the 9th, as the Giants' season has been termed.
And when victory was finally, inexplicably, and outrageously ours, our little family down there hugged and fist-bumped and high-fived (more than once, thanks) and howled and screamed and cried gloriously: the kid formerly on his father's shoulders right at the fence (from Reno?) (watched by a "stranger"); the Asian woman my age; the mother and daughter (or were they friends?) who teared up when the heard my little story; the young lady who is an architect, originally from Canada, I recall, who fed me game updates from her ear buds, thank you; the graying guy my age with the baseball cap; the young Latinos and Latinas; the young and old; the men and women and boys and girls; the single and married; the black and white; the Orange and Black.
We won Game 1! We beat Cliff Lee! We can win the World Series.