Life has never been better for San Francisco Giants fans. Beautiful stadium. A fresh banner flying over McCovey Cove. Every single game accessible online regardless of where you live. A 2012 squad recently picked by Sports Illustrated to win the NL pennant.
How do sports fans choose their teams? Usually it's geography. Or the team your Dad likes. Sometimes it's finding the right bandwagon. Like the Atlanta Braves fan from Wyoming or the New York Yankees fan from Palo Alto.
In any case, there's something about our teams that keeps us coming back. What is it?
It's not wins. If it were, explain to me how the Chicago Cubs and the Yankees have equally passionate fan bases.
And it's certainly not stadium food, or Dodger Stadium would have cleared out years ago. We pay money, tune in and spend ridiculous amounts of our disposable time with our team.
What do we hope to get out of it?
The Giants' community of fans is as strong as any in baseball. Giants hats can be seen across the country as Bay Area faithful continue to support the home team.
What are the things that keep us coming back?
Here are 10 reasons why being a Giants fan makes spring and summer the best time of year.
Before the 1993 season, the Giants were on the brink of packing up and moving to St. Petersburg, Fla.
It didn't happen, Barry Bonds came to town, AT&T Park opened and the baseball world was blessed with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays franchise.
Until Peter McGowan swooped in to keep the Giants in the Bay Area, fans were faced with an unappetizing possibility. Root for the A's? Like, as my No. 1 team?
No real Giants fan hates the Oakland Athletics.
They are like your next door neighbor's new puppy. Fun to see once a week, interesting to view from afar, but with no responsibility for feeding or washing. Being an A's fan would present difficult issues: Could I find them on the radio? Who's playing first base?
"Bet you didn't know that All-Star was an A's prospect before he was a Colorado Rockies prospect, did ya?" #a'sfantriviagames.
Who is your favorite pitcher on the roster? I'm sure that Timmy, Cain, Bumgarner and Wilson would all garner major votes. Can you tell something about a person based on their choice?
When I was younger, and I knew I had tickets to an upcoming game, I would count ahead the days to figure out which pitcher would be on the hill that day.
I had a one-in-five chance of seeing Schmidt, Estes, Livan or whoever the ace was that season. If it landed on Jamey Wright? Or Ryan Jensen? Well, it was better than not being there.
Not so with this Giants squad.
It's never been more fun to root for pitching. The Giants are in every single game. Apparently it's contagious too—see Ryan Vogelsong. When Brian Sabean opened the checkbook to sign Barry Zito five years ago, he surely envisioned a dominant pitching staff and a World Series title. Like clockwork.
About that Sabean guy...
File in the category of "love to hate."
Sabean blew into our consciousness in 1997 when he pulled off a blockbuster deal with the Chicago White Sox that brought the Giants Wilson Alvarez, Roberto Hernandez and Danny Darwin. All three played integral roles in a pleasantly surprising NL West title.
Sabean can be counted on for deadline deals just about every season, pulling off some winners (Ellis Burks, Kenny Lofton, Andres Galarraga) and some losers (Joe Carter, Sidney Ponson, Shea Hillenbrand).
Not to mention the spectacular failure of the Liriano/Nathan for A.J. Pierzynski debacle.
Much mockery is made of Sabean's fascination with over-the-hill veterans, and the Barry Zito contract is an anvil on Sabean's popularity. However, Giants fans are quick to demand that similar money be thrown at Matt Cain.
Sabean just can't win.
Anyone who's watched or listened to a Giants game in another market has learned not to take the hometown announcers for granted.
Duane Kuiper and Mike Krukow are approaching their 20th season in the Giants TV booth while Jon Miller enters his 16th on the radio side. Relative newcomer Dave Flemming rounds out the foursome.
Kruk and Kuip take some heat for being Giants homers, and they are. However, for the most part this just adds to their beloved place in the Giants community. When the Giants won the World Series, I was legitimately happy for these guys I've never met.
Miller remains one of the best in the business.
Giants fans were the only ones who didn't lose when Miller parted ways with ESPN in 2010. All those years carrying the insufferable Joe Morgan on Sunday Night Baseball could only have helped hone Miller's broadcasting skills.
I continue to pay the premium price for MLB TV in order to get access to the home broadcasts. Giants games are not the same without it.
Always considered one of the more prickly personalities in sports, Barry Bonds' super-villain status reached comic book proportions through last decade's steroid scandal and subsequent home run chase in 2007.
Baseball fans and journalists everywhere were baffled by the continuing love and admiration poured upon Barry by the San Francisco faithful.
Balco, Greg Anderson, the obstruction trial and Game of Shadows may have diminished Barry Bonds the person. But they don't erase the memories.
From 1993-2007, every Barry Bonds at-bat was must-see entertainment. The Candlestick and AT&T faithful rose and fell with every pitch. If watching on TV, you didn't leave the room if Bonds was due up.
Fans follow sports to get exactly what Barry Bonds gave Giants fans every day: suspense, anticipation and the opportunity to see something amazing.
Cognitive dissonance? Yes. Denial? Yes.
On the other hand, I can't un-experience the countless glorious moments that Bonds provided my childhood and adolescence. Our grown-up, cynical brains tell us that Barry's transgressions cheapen his accomplishments.
Our memories tell us otherwise.
This one originated before any of us, and is one of the few long-standing rivalries in baseball. The Giants currently have the upper hand, though the Giants' biggest asset the last few years—Dodgers owner Frank McCourt—is now out of the picture since the team's been sold.
Having seen Giants-Dodgers games in both cities, I'd have to say that Giants fans take it much more seriously. Fans at AT&T chant "Beat L.A." and pronounce unspeakable curses on Matt Kemp.
Dodgers fans bust out a few more beach balls and go home in the eighth instead of the seventh inning.
But they still show up in the fourth.
Yes, I know we love to complain about Candy Maldonado, Salomon Torres and Scott Spiezio. But it's the disingenuous kind of complaining that actually makes us swell up in pride for our fanhood.
You don't think being a Boston Red Sox fan lost some of its luster when the team actually won? Where would Cubs fans be without the lovable loser tag, the curse of the Billy goat, and the Bartman saga?
A World Series victory turns tortured fan bases into Miami Marlins fans.
Oh, how we used to love to roll our eyes together in memory of '62, '87, '89, '93, '98, '02 and '03. Earthquakes, 103 wins, Neifi Perez, Benny Agbayani and Jose Cruz Jr.
Giants fans relished the re-telling of these stories. It made us feel like more of a loyalist. When ESPN's Bill Simmons named Giants fans the No. 6 most tortured fan base in sports a few years ago, we all groaned in mock rage.
And then forwarded the article to every friend we knew. You know, to make sure everyone knew we were part of such an infamous group.
Of course, all the fun and games ended in 2010. The pain is now somewhat hollow. Now we demonstrate our loyalty by complaining about those fair-weather schlubs with panda hats who didn't properly pay their dues.
Grounders bounced the right away. Line drives found the gaps. 3-2 pitches hit the corner.
For a few weeks, the narrative did a 180 and the 2010 Giants somehow found themselves at the top of the heap. For several years, Giants fans wondered what could happen if the all-world pitching staff was allowed to flex its power in a short series.
Now we know.
The 2010 Giants produced a high volume of very unlikely playoff heroes: Cody Ross...Juan Uribe...Freddy Sanchez...Brian Wilson...Pat Burrell...Aubrey Huff.
After a decade in which the Giants produced five MVPs and two Cy Young winners, it was this group of misfit toys that brought the banner to San Francisco. Interestingly, not one of them outside of Wilson produced substantially in 2011.
It was a special month of October, and worth a million seasons full of Mark Carreon and Randy Winn.
Candlestick Park holds a special place in the hearts of Giants fans. Foggy nights, bitter cold that was impossible to fend off and hot dog wrappers swirling in the concourse like one of those cash-grab booths.
It's hard to believe AT&T Park is in the same city.
A New York Times study of Yelp ratings placed AT&T Park third in the majors. Admittedly, the park is built for Yelp ratings. Spectacular views, great food on every level and plenty to look at when the kids get bored in the fourth inning. AT&T is the only park I know of where it's worth getting there early just to walk around.
For diehard fans, baseball is baseball, and the new digs and higher ticket prices have certainly gentrified the average weekend crowd.
However, AT&T Park is also largely responsible for pushing the Giants into the ranks of MLB's premier franchises. In 1999, Candlestick's final season, the Giants ranked 18th in attendance and 17th in payroll.
In 2011, they ranked third and eighth in those categories, respectively.
Yeah, I know I used this one already.
But at least 20 percent of my happiest moments as a Giants fan happened during that stretch. And I forgot to mention Brooks Conrad and Edgar Renteria in the other slide. I didn't expect to see either of them in October; now they are both legends.
It was that kind of year.
If there's anything I missed, let me know in the comments. Go Giants.