Cheering From Afar

Published by Rick on Tagged Uncategorized

             Whenever I mention the

World Series over here, I’m immediately greeted with the skeptical question of “Why do they call it the ‘World’ Series when only two countries are involved?” My answer is because that’s what the Major League Baseball hierarchy decided to call it when they first introduced the concept 109 years ago, when there weren’t even Canadian teams (or foreigners or non-whites) involved. Nobody has dreamt up a better thing to call it, so it’s stuck. I understand the Brits’ feelings, too, since World Cup is truly an international derby centered around the sport most commonly played worldwide. The US didn’t invent soccer, even choosing to opt its common name, football, for another sport, which, like baseball, was adapted from other European sports. I’m long winded, yes, but back to the point, the current participants in this year’s World Series are two US teams (and since 2006, there’s only been one Canadian team after the Montreal franchise moved to Washington) with rosters coming from many parts of the world.

                When the San Francisco Giants last won the series, they were the New York Giants, sweeping four games from a highly favored Cleveland Indians team in 1954. Had they not won that one, their championship drought would be 77 years instead of the mere 56. That would have been the second longest drought, as the Chicago Cubs 102-year futility run seems likely to add several more years. Since the Giants beat the Indians that year, Cleveland hasn’t won it since 1948, though they came very close in 1997, losing the seventh and final game to the Florida Marlins on a 9th inning hit by Edgar Renteria. Renteria is now with The Giants, so maybe some karma? Also, The Giants franchise, since the World Series was initiated in 1901, has won it only five times out of 17. If they win this one, they will have won 6 out of 18, exactly the same numbers as their chief rivals, the Brooklyn/LA Dodgers. 

                    It has been frustrating being a fan, not only for being 6000 miles away, but with there being no televised coverage available except for pay channels. Worse than that is the fact that the games don’t start until 1:00 AM London time, so it’s a matter of finding an all-night sports pub in London that would cater to the mild interest further tethered by the disproportionately low number of West Coasters or Texans living here. Not the most likely of prospects. For that matter, because there’s no East Coast team in the Series this year, perhaps ESPN won’t be saying much about it in America. The last two times the Giants were in it, they played the LA Angels in 2002 and the Oakland Athletics in 1989. TV ratings were horrible for both, except maybe in California.  

                     I have fond memories of the 2002 Giants. After a then-31 years of being a fan, and seeing them look awful in almost half of those years, the 2002 team looked like they had the momentum. The most exciting game I’ve ever been to was what turned out to be the deciding game against the Cardinals. The Giants had a 3 games to 1 lead, and had they lost this one, a trip back to St. Louis might have been an omen. Instead, they tied it up in the 7th inning, then with two out in the 9th and the score still tied, consecutive singles by David Bell, Shawon Dunston and Kenny Lofton won the game and the pennant. The sound of 40,000 people screaming was the loudest noise I’ve ever been a part of. The omen sadly proved true, too, as in the Series, they had a 5-0 lead in the 7th inning of the 6th game, Series victory just 7 outs away, but couldn’t close the deal, and wound up losing the game and on the next day the Series. Thank goodness the pain has only lasted 8 years before they got another chance to redeem themselves.

                       So as the Series opens tonight in San Francisco, I can only hope that The Freak pitches like he did against Atlanta, and that inspires Matty, Johnny, and MadBum to follow suit; that Texas fears the beards and that a new offensive hero emerges each day, and it doesn’t all fall on Cody Ross’s shoulders. Sorry if none of this makes any sense to the British readers. My career is so in state of flux that the vicarious thrill of seeing my favorite team advance this far for only the 3rd time in my 39 years of being their fan makes me temporarily forget the troubles I’m having over here. Another reason to be happy we have the Internet, so I don’t have to wait two days to find out the score that the daily papers here might mention in very small print.    

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