9 games left of the 2011 season. It has been a season of celebration for Giants fans, and one of self assurance for the players. But it sure hasn't felt that way the last 2 months.
I think what happened over the course of 56 years without a Championship, obviously there was a hunger and desire for a Title, but also much like the Red Sox and Cubs fanbases, San Francisco became used to being the Bridesmaid. Because of all the near misses and good but not great, great but not greatest teams, it was such a surprise, and downright shocking to win. I truly think most fans felt that way.
It took a while for the realization of 2010's magical season to sink in. I still get goosebumps when I think about it, or watch footage from last year. I may be a 28 yr old macho man, but mutiple times during the run I cried like a baby. Cried for my Dad, Grandfathers, Uncle, their friends, former ballplayers, and for the Bay Area itself. There's only a handfull of places that can relate. East Coasters might not want to hear it or believe it, but the Giants mean as much to the city of San Francisco as the Red Sox mean to Boston. As much as the Cubs mean to Chicago. And yes, as much as the Yankees mean to New York. Along with the Phillies and Cardinals, I think that is the handfull of areas that has formed a unique bond between fan, city, and team, all mishmashed into one emotion. And it is hard, nearly impossible, to explain. Its just a feeling. An emotional feeling.
So when the unthinkable happened, the final out was recorded, and the Giants players were jumping up and down in Arlington, there was a giant sigh of relief within the fan base. We were validated as fans. We finally have our Champion. But with triumph comes challenge. Where do we go from here? Certainly, we can no longer play the Bridesmaid, since we have been the Bride.
2011 began with a feeling of entitlement and expectation. One great thing we had working for us was that no one outside of the Giants fanbase thought we could repeat. They still considered our Championship season a fluke. Well, the month of August seemed to prove all the nay-sayers right. Our offense was simply not that of a Championship, or playoff-caliber team. It was almost discrediting what we had worked so hard to achieve, and the sportswriters could label it as an "I told you so".
Slowly the flame of 2010 was fading. You could see it from the players body language and frustration, to the fans discontent. Over the past few weeks, attendance numbers fell shortly, but more importantly what was a roucus crowd all season turned into typical baseball stadium noise.
I went to Tuesday, Sep 12's game vs. San Diego, and the fans were nowhere near as intense as they had been in my April game vs. LA, or May game vs. Oakland, or August game vs. Philly. Season is over, so why bother screaming our lungs out? That seemed to be the mindset of most fans.
Our expectations changed because of the 2010 season, and if we weren't going to be a winner, then we didn't want to try. Its a bad attitude, a childish attitude, but I guess that's what happens in the wake of a long awaited Title. You lose your hunger, and that chip on your shoulder is gone. We had it early in the season with all the doubters, but without Posey, without Sanchez, with no hitting and an 8 game deficit, all those great emotional feelings had reverted to circa 1992, or 2006, when things couldn't have looked any dimmer.
However, suddenly, out of the ashes, with fresh new faces, and 8 game win streak has imerged. Its not so much the consecutive wins that has energized a fan base as much as the way the wins have come by. Come from behind, extra inning, and smashing the cover off the ball wins have kept a small flicker of that fire alive. The feeling is slowly coming back, perhaps for 1 more roar.
Tomorrow night is the NL's Cy Young front runner, Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers vs. Tim Lincecum. Every game from here on out is game 7 for the Giants. It would take a 17 game win streak to give the Giants a chance at the playoffs, and we are only on game 9. But the thing is........ there's a CHANCE. In all 57 years of San Francisco Giants baseball, all we have needed and wanted was a CHANCE. Here it is.
In a way, this season may be even more important than last. Just getting into the playoffs would require completing one of the greatest comebacks at the end of the season of all time, and perhaps validate what took place last year. But perhaps even more would be required. After all, a team with a 17 game win streak is awfully dangerous. Especially one who has already proven to step up for big games.
I am not going to admit it just yet.... because I told my wife 6 weeks ago that the season was over and there was no point to hoping for the playoffs (secretly inside, I have always still had hope and believed). Its more of a broadcasters jinx than anything. You say its over because you don't want to be set up for disappointment. Well, here is your chance, Giants. Lift this city on your back one more time, and you will truly be ingrained as immortals in this area. This would be a story told to grandchildren 50 years from now, and I want to be the one telling it. Come on fellas.