Colorado Rockies Resurrect Jason Giambi: The Long Goodbye

Ian CCorrespondent IAugust 25, 2009

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 16:  Jason Giambi #16 of the Oakland Athletics motions towards the dugout against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on June 16, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. The Dodgers defeated the Athletics 5-4 in ten innings.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

"Forever doesn't mean forever anymore." —Elvis Costello

"Marlowe: So you used me.

Lennox: That’s what friends are for.  Nobody cares.

Marlowe: Nobody cares but me.

Lennox: That’s you, Marlowe. You're a born loser.

Marlowe: Yeah, I even lost my cat."—From the film The Long Goodbye

Last Friday, they gave away Jason Giambi, in bobblehead form, at the Oakland-Alameda County Memorial Coliseum. A day later, the Rockies scooped him up, in the form of the actual player, his head bobbling up and down in agreeance to a minor-league contract.

The fact that the A's were giving away Giambi bobbleheads after they had unceremoniously released him just weeks ago was odd enough. 

What would it look like? 

Would it show him walking out a door, a Billy Beane shoe print left on his posterior?  Maybe he would be sitting in an easy chair with a robe on, a cold brew in one hand and a television remote in the other?

A day later, when news emerged that the Rockies, a team contending for a playoff spot in the other league, would sign him, that made the giveaway seem even odder in retrospect. 

At least if Giambi had stayed out of baseball, the figurine giveaway could have been one last tribute to the man's playing days.

It was odd for me, especially: I'm the same guy who attempted to grandly eulogize Giambi in this space only a little more than two weeks ago.

If Giambi were within earshot (or rather, eyeshot), he might have felt like Tom Sawyer listening to his own funeral.

And now, I feel like Phillip Marlowe in, yes, The Long Goodbye when he finds the friend who he thought had committed suicide actually lives in Mexico under a new, assumed identity (apologies after the fact for spoiling a 56-year-old book).

Giambi, the player who I so fondly remembered, now played for the team trying to knock the Dodgers off from the top of the NL West.

On a much-smaller and idiosyncratic scale (that is, my particular form of sports bigamy that has me rooting for both the Athletics and the Dodgers), my feelings are not dissimilar from what Green Bay Packers fans must be feeling about The Quarterback Who Shall Not Be Named now playing in Minnesota

On one hand, they can't just forget the contributions of an individual who was once the face of their franchise. 

On the other, that individual is standing in the way of possible championship glory.

Without ties to individual players and their accomplishments with our chosen teams, we are, as Jerry Seinfeld once noted, just rooting for laundry. 

Given the last few decades of fluid player movement, though, it's the fan's commitment to that very laundry that is one of the constants of pro sports.

It's that kind of commitment that is the lifeblood of sites like the very one you're reading right now.

As fans, we have to realize that players are like facts: sometimes they don't do what we want them to. 

Even while we lionize them as avatars of our grandest hopes and desires, exult when they triumph, and despair when they come up short, we must still realize that they are but human beings. They are subject to the same vices as we—a desire to cash a regular paycheck (especially one so sizable), professional pride, and all the rest.

As much as we'd like to think of ourselves as the guardians of the legacy of players like Giambi or The Quarterback Who Shall Not Be Named, ultimately, as long as there are teams willing to sign off on those regular and sizable paychecks, you cannot blame them for trying to wring out one last squirt from the tube of toothpaste.

In some sense, I'll be rooting for Giambi to do well, even though I have a feeling opportunities for success will be limited considering that he bats from the same side of the plate and plays at the same position as the superior Todd Helton. 

I also have my doubts about how his golden thong and his specific brand of joie de vivre will play in the Rockies' traditionally conservative—and quite Christian—clubhouse. 

Still, I'll be rooting for him to do well.

Just not so well so that the Rockies actually catch up to the Dodgers.

You see, if I've learned anything about being a fan in this modern era of sports, it's easy to hate players hard, but not for very long. 

Unfortunately, the same goes for loving 'em.


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