National Commentary

Giants Versus Giant Killers

bentonmugAh, baseball!

The San Francisco Giants won the World Series last week, bringing the City By The Bay its first-ever world championship since major league baseball came there in 1958. Something else happened last week as well, but I can’t remember.

bentonmugAh, baseball!

The San Francisco Giants won the World Series last week, bringing the City By The Bay its first-ever world championship since major league baseball came there in 1958. Something else happened last week as well, but I can’t remember.

That’s one of the beauties of this best sport of all, the fact that it is not really a sport, but a “pastime,” the “national pastime.” Plenty of time to escape, but not into a brutal world of bone-crushing, brain-rattling tackles, thugs duking it out on ice, relentless soccer-field monotony, or the kind of physical behemoths almost no one really knows in daily life.

But unlike, say, golf, it is interactive and not a guaranteed cure for insomnia. Tennis is nice, but that net keeps the competitors too neatly separated from one another.

Baseball is the most democratic of sports, as well. Anyone who works hard enough at it can play, no matter how large, small, fat, skinny, tall, short, fast or slow. If you have basic hand-eye coordination, you can learn how to hit, and if you hit, you play.

Take the San Francisco Giants. They have one of the skinniest kids – the phenomenal Tim Lincecum – and one of the portliest, the immensely popular young man known affectionately to his fans as The Panda, Pablo Sandoval.

Despite all the doping scandals, outlandish salaries and teams that simply buy, instead of develop, their talent, major league baseball is irresistible, especially when it comes to upsetting the apple carts and the predictions of all those pompous dolts known as sports pundits and commentators.

For the record, this writer seldom watches any sport on TV without the “mute” button activated. I find I miss almost nothing that way. The next-best option is to listen to the radio broadcast of the game while keeping the TV on “mute.” Radio announcers have much less time to irritate you with their blather because they have to work harder to give the listener a good visual image of what’s going on.

But, as the movie line goes, “baseball has been very, very good to me” more personally, as well. Not only because I’ve enjoyed watching it all my life, but because it paid for my college education by way of a sports scholarship. I was pretty good.

Last week, I was delighted by the Giants’ victory because of the archetypical “David Vs. Goliath” imagery of the series, and of the Giants’ entire post-season. The primary symbol of the Giants is the “very San Francisco” two-time Cy Young Award-winning hippyish hurler Timmy Lincecum. His toothy grin, skinny frame and, especially, his really long hair constitute about as unconventional a look as possible.

The San Francisco Chronicle, on its first page after the Giants won it all, showed beneath a big black headline, “Giants Win!” a full-page-wide photo of Lincecum riding on the shoulders of his teammates, hollering, with an arm extended and pointing his forefinger to the sky, with his long hair flowing and pennant flags waving behind him. It was a scene right out of some revolution.

Lincecum was David the giant-killer, the guy nobody believed could do it. In the post-season, he beat the Braves’ ace Derek Lowe, then went up against what all the pundits declared were baseball’s two mightiest forces – both very high-priced pitchers who were purchased by their new teams to deliver a world championship.

Lincecum proceeded to vanquish the Phillies’ Roy Halladay (just after Halladay had pitched the first post-season no hitter since 1956) and then the Rangers’ allegedly unbeatable Cliff Lee. He beat Lee not once, but twice!

There was the magnificent symbolism of, on the one hand, the Texas team, with some of their fans bad-mouthing the Giants as “faggots” and its highly-visible front row guest President George W. Bush, pitted against, on the other hand, the counter-cultural spirit of San Francisco, where fans have never had a problem running completely counter to the rest of the nation, as when they continued to hail their much-maligned Barry Bonds during his final season.

It is ironic that the San Francisco players are known as the Giants, because last week it was they who were the giant killers. It was grand.

 


Nicholas Benton may be emailed at nfbenton@fcnp.com

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