Batting fifth, and playing third base, number twenty-six: Dave Kingman.
Hulking, cavernous, windswept Candlestick Park, gray, dank, dreary, and cold as death.
Candy Maldonado botching that crucial fly ball in right field. Atlee Hammaker giving it up to Jose Oquendo. The most one-sided four-game slaughter in World Series history, sandwiched around a catastrophic earthquake.
Now, to this sad list, we must add a new member to our Hall of Shame: the ninth-inning meltdown to end all ninth-inning meltdowns.
You’re a fan. Fans don’t decide to root for their team. Being a fan isn’t something you choose to do. Either you are a fan, or you aren’t. Anyone who quits on his team when it’s down, who deserts them at their darkest moment, is not a fan.
A fan is always there. A fan suffers with every loss, aches with every missed opportunity. A fan stays true when the slumps grind on. A fan stays true when the leads get blown.
A fan doesn’t choose to pay this price; this is the price that a fan is compelled to pay. There is no fairness to it, no symmetry. It doesn’t have to “even out.” The price is paid, whether it’s redeemed or not.
No doubt there are rewards in being a fan, great rewards. No one, save an athlete himself, appreciates the joy of victory more deeply than a fan, because no one understands the preciousness of that joy more than a fan. The sweet nectar of success tastes best to those who have known the bitter pill of defeat, and the harsher the bitterness, the sweeter the joy.
But there’s no law that says the joy will be tasted on schedule, or indeed be tasted at all. The dues are paid, with no guarantee that the accounts will be settled.
None of which fazes a fan, of course. A river of red ink in the fairness accounting book changes nothing. A fan is there regardless, always there, enduring disappointment though to do so builds no character, savoring elation though to do so reflects no accomplishment.
It doesn’t make sense. It isn’t smart. All in all it’s a silly and pointless thing for a reasonable adult to do. But a fan does it anyway, because – well, just because.
As a Giants’ fan, Saturday’s debacle could get little worse. But lest one think things could possibly get no worse for this particular Giants’ fan, think again … my second-favorite major league team, the team I’ve pulled for second only to the Giants, ever since I can remember, is – that’s right – the Red Sox.