World Series 2010: 5 Ways To Spot a Bandwagon San Francisco Giants Fan
The San Francisco Giants are four wins away from their first World Series victory since the move west, and playoff fever has infected millions of Northern California inhabitants. One may hear the din of excitement growing louder as the already-overflowing bandwagon lumbers through the City streets, every minute absorbing new supporters.
I stand in awe at the vast number of fans who have come out of the woodwork, eager to prove their allegiance by donning their favorite item of Giants-related paraphernalia. Several are quick to identify me as a kindred spirit and salute me with a friendly smile, a thumbs up, or a simple “Great game last night!”; and not a one will hesitate to include himself among the exclusive brotherhood of diehards.
But which of these so-called supporters has suffered and rejoiced through all the many ebbs and flows of this tortuous, torturous Giants season? How can we separate the real from the fake, the “all-seasons” from the “fair-weather,” the winnow from the chaff?
Here are five sure-fire ways to spot a bandwagon Giants fan.
5. They Misremember Details about the Giants' Last World Series Appearance
This first screening will weed out all those supposed fans who follow the Giants so passively, and so sporadically, that they are able to pick out sparse significant moments from the franchise's rich and storied history, and nothing else. Like leeches, they latch onto the team's bygone success, using terms like “epic” and “sublime” to describe only those occurrences that have survived Time's scourge—those great monuments of Time which, though carved out in mere moments, stand for all eternity.
I have encountered those who readily concede that the Giants fielded some “pretty good” teams in the early 2000s, but still stand convinced that the last World Series in San Francisco happened in conjunction with that massive '89 quake that put the baseball world on hold.
I grant that a disaster that shakes the lives of millions of people is a bigger deal than any sporting event. But if one wishes to be counted among the loyal Giants' fan base of today, I insist that person at least be well-versed enough in team history to have some small sense of the scars left by the crushing loss to the Anaheim Rally Monkeys in 2002.
4. They Loved Barry Bonds Throwing Out the First Pitch of NLCS Game 3
The Giants’ organization is heavily steeped in a tradition of nostalgia. And so, from time to time, I find myself getting caught up in Giants historical minutiae. And sometimes, I will admit, I even lose myself in reveries remembering the man Duane Kuiper so fondly referred to as “The Big Fella.”
Yes, steroids or not, the Barry Bonds Era—marked by mammoth home runs, superhuman feats and the man’s uncanny ability to always find a way to one-up himself—is a treasured part of Giants’ lore. But the 2010 version of the Giants has come to be defined by an incorruptible selflessness, a quality diametrically opposed to the egoism that encapsulated Barry’s tenure.
That stark contrast makes Barry’s self-indulgent return appear all the more awkward and incongruous. For a few brief moments, Bonds stole the spotlight and relived his glory days—and a healthy portion of the AT&T Crowd allowed him to do it, cheering and fawning just as if it were still 2007.
I’m not saying fans should never applaud Barry Bonds; but no true Giants diehard would ever allow him to get away with overshadowing a team whose spirit is characterized by qualities he himself so notably lacks.
3. They Had No Idea Who Cody Ross Was Before the Playoffs Started
Now we’re beginning to discover who truly bleeds orange and black.
Sure, it would be very easy to excuse self-proclaimed Giants fans for not knowing intimate details about Cody Ross—who he is, how he was acquired and what role he played prior to the postseason—since most of his tenure as a Giant was defined by obscurity.
A man hits a few home runs in some very big games, and thereby establishes himself as a hometown hero. This phenomenon is not strange.
But a real Giants’ fan remembers him before he became a beloved rock star and the subject of every third fan-made sign at AT&T Park.
They remember the peculiar circumstance in which he was acquired; how the Giants scooped him up off waivers from the Marlins to prevent the Padres from snatching him; how the recent acquisition of Jose Guillen squeezed him out of a starting role right at the outset; how Andres Torres’ appendectomy finally afforded him the opportunity to strut his stuff; and how Bruce Bochy gave him the ultimate vote of confidence by choosing him instead of the aforementioned Guillen to fill a coveted outfield spot on the playoff roster.
The true Giants’ fan remembers all of this. He even, perhaps, could foresee a little of the magic that was to come when Bochy honored Ross with that final nod.
2. They Believe ‘Kung Fu Panda’ Is the Giants' Biggest World Series Key
Even while the franchise languished through a playoff drought from 2004 to 2009, the loyal fan base was rewarded for its faithfulness with exciting young players whose strong play and electric energy brought a taste of hope for the future.
If Matt Cain was the appetizer and Tim Lincecum the entree, then Pablo Sandoval was the dessert.
When Sandoval burst onto the scene towards the end of the 2008 season, he was as a decadent calorie-laden morsel, delicious on the palate and delivering ample short-term happiness. The hype grew in 2009 as Sandoval put up All-Star-caliber numbers in the first half, and San Francisco took notice, gorging itself on large amounts of panda paraphernalia. The casual fans fell in love with his spunky personality and made him a main attraction.
Although the Panda is indeed quite likable, no fan who has followed the Giants since Opening Day can honestly say that Sandoval has played a huge role in this team’s success. The Giants have more than compensated for his sophomore slump in other areas, and this team is fully capable of winning the World Series without his bat.
For any “fan” who still holds onto Sandoval’s great 2009 season as evidence he’s about to go off, let your delusions go. This is not to say Pablo won’t ever regain that old form, but it’s foolish to rely on something that this team has come so far without the benefit of.
1. They Can't Recite from Memory the Giants’ 2010 Opening Day Starting Nine
The ultimate fan test. Can you do it?
Take a moment to think about it with Timmy...
Here's The Answer:
P Tim Lincecum
C Bengie Molina
1B Aubrey Huff
2B Juan Uribe
3B Pablo Sandoval
SS Edgar Renteria
LF Mark DeRosa
CF Aaron Rowand
RF John Bowker
The mark of a true fan is the quality of perseverance. Following a team from the first pitch of spring training to the last breath of life in October is its own reward—it’s a personal journey, characterized by a feeling of empathy for all of the players, as well as the opportunity to share in the joy of each victory and commiserate with every defeat. We welcome each new player with open arms and send off each departure with a tearful goodbye. And because the universe enjoys irony so much, in some cases an old friend even ends up playing for the last team standing between us and the promised land.
In sum, we feel all of the ups and downs and experience both the expected and the unexpected, just as the players do.
This season was no different. More changes than usual, to be sure, and so, more emotion. The true fan religiously followed all of the comings and the goings; he grew fond of Torres, Burrell, Posey, Bumgarner and Ross as their several contributions pushed the team towards the playoffs; he has witnessed all of the wheeling-and-dealing, torture and pure heart that went into putting the City of San Francisco on the cusp of its first World Series; and he is as justly appreciative for it as he has become invested in it.
And we don’t hate the bandwagoners either.
We just want that species of fan to understand the beautiful torture and torturous beauty this season has provided for the rest of us.