If you held a gun to my head and said I had to define myself in one word, I'd apologize for the hyphen and say: Art-fag.
I'm a poetry & music kind of guy, and visual arts always butt into my life, mostly photography and design, but also discussing the visual. I've had a lot of friends that were sculptors, painters, dancers. I moved to San Francisco first for its art scene, and second for its politics.
Politics is more an addiction for me than anything else, but that happens when you grew up during the slow-motion disaster that was Richard Nixon and saw first-hand what the roll-back of the "Reagan Revolution" actually did to people (gays, blacks, women, the middle class, the poor...pretty much everybody but rich white people who went to good schools), rather than bloviated about it on television or, in Rush Limbaugh's case, radio. Or much worse, lived through it (or didn't), and sentimentalized it later. I saw the Reagan economic recovery for what it was, a gigantic and mostly pointless military build-up financed by deficit spending.
But I also love my baseball. And I love my San Francisco Giants. And I am so fortunate to live right here, right now.
I didn't grow up a Giants fan. I didn't move here till 1989. I was born in Baltimore, but my time there was so brief, it didn't even mark me with it's pee. Nonetheless, as a youngster I was all Orioles. And Colts and Bullets too; they still play there, don't they? I know more about Baltimore through the HBO series The Wire than anything I experienced there. I don't believe in god or heaven, but if you planted me face-down in a bushel of Chesapeake Bay blue crabs and Old Bay, I wouldn't really need a heaven. Just serve me a National Bohemian Beer. I'm good for eternity. Or however long that bushel of crabs lasts.
There was also the transistor radio. In 1947 Bardeen, Brattain, and Shockley invented the first bipolar point-contact transistor. Just kidding, not going there. The radio brought me The Beatles and Motown and the voice of Chuck Thompson, play-by-play announcer of Baltimore Orioles games. It's a cliche to say the radio was under your blanket, but it really was under mine. Thompson wasn't Vin Scully, but he was close enough for a kid who wanted to know the narrative of the game, the emotion of the game, the flair of its phrases and rhythms. He poured the whole field and all its possibilities into my ear late at night, and I dreamed them and woke up wanting to scream, "Davy Johnson hit a home run to beat the Angels last night, and he's now hitting over .280!" But I couldn't, because then my parents would know. Like they didn't know.
The legends of my youth were Frank and Brooks Robinson, Dave McNally, Boog Powell, Jim Palmer.
I lost baseball for a while. For almost the whole of the 1980's, I lived in and around Norfolk, Virginia, and was not in close proximity to a major league city. I did see some good Mets players come up through the Tidewater Tides, but that was a farm team, and the ballpark was ugly and hard to get to.
I came to the Giants out of the 1989 earthquake, my first earthquake. Holy shit, are they all like this? It's dumb the stuff you cling to when you're scared. Watching the Giants lose that World Series bonded me to Giants fans that weren't even born yet. I didn't have Willie Mays, Juan Marichal, and Will Clark in my blood yet, but I soon would.
One of the first things you will notice about Giants fans is that they are unusual. They are not vociferous in the way Mets, Phillies, or Red Sox fans are. Obnoxiousness here is more an art than heated partisanship. The bleacher folks have a tradition going back to Candlestick of razzing opposing outfielders, and we have seen meltdowns of Colby Rasmus, Gary Sheffield, Milton Bradley, and so many others. It's not personal, it's gamemanship: if you're giving the finger and yelling, "Fuck you!" at fans, we have taken you out of your game. Or if the scent of marijuana bothers you, Josh Hamilton. Let's see how you do in your next plate appearance.
Giants fans are also clued in and unresistant to re-thinking things. Sure, it's about the Oakland A's, but I rarely interact with a Giants fan that hasn't read Michael Lewis's Moneyball, and for many of us, our one paid internet subscription is to Baseball Prospectus. When it was OPS-time, we talked OPS. VORP-time, VORP. Now it's WAR and OPS+ and ERA+ and FRA. We discuss the imperfections of the latest fielding metrics. We think Pitch/fx is a cool new toy. We embrace the new.
We like to read about baseball, and we have some fine writers to read. Grant Brisbee writes the blog McCovey Chronicles, as well as for Sports Blog Nation. Henry Schulman is the beat writer for The Chronicle. Until recently, Andrew Baggarly wrote for the San Jose Mercury News, and now writes for Giants Talk on Comcast Sports Network.
The crown jewel of the Giants is its fine broadcasting team, no matter how good or bad the team on the field. If you know baseball, you know Hall-of-Famer Jon Miller, one of the great announcers of his era, who also does a witty and dead-accurate impression of Vin Scully. In 1997, he became the voice of the team, replacing Hank Greenwald, who was outstanding himself. We also have Mike Krukow and Duane Kuiper, who are "homers," they actively root for the Giants, but in a far less annoying way than say, Hawk Harellson, who thinks an umpire's every close call has just been a terrible injustice against his team. Kruk & Kuip look at the replay, and they'll tell you, "the Giants caught a break there." Or "the Diamondbacks have a legit beef, bad call." They can also break down the mechanics of a swing or a wind-up, and tell you why a player is struggling. As former players, they can tell you about the mental side of the game. And they're funny, particularly Krukow.
I listened to the radio broadcast of a spring training game last Sunday. In the second inning, there was a 41 minute "bee delay." A swarm of bees appeared in center field, causing the players to run off in all directions. The grounds crew was called in to wrangle the bees, not an area of their expertise. Miller, Kruk and Kuip were so entertaining describing this catastrophy, I couldn't stop listening. They were hilarious. For 41 minutes. It was a tour-de-force of sports broadcasting. The teamwork and chemistry of these guys is pretty special. It's a shame it wasn't a regular season game so more people could have heard it.
Like all baseball fans, we worry about our Free Agents to be: Lincecum, Cain, Sandoval, Bumgardner, Posey. The one I worry about the most is announcer David B. Flemming.
Flemming is best known nationally for having his microphone go dead when Barry Bonds hit his 715th home run, thus blowing the radio call. He is a very special young broadcaster. He understands the all the narrative aspects of doing a game, but also embraces the new statistics. He understands that ballplayers and ex-ballplayers have a lot to offer in the story of each game, but that's not all there is. My fear is that he will be given a job far away, leading a broadcast team with the new knowledge, the new thinking. I hope he gets to do that with the Giants, eventually, but we may just be holding him back. I think he's going to be a great one, and I don't want to miss it.