Jim Jividen thought he had it figured out. Then his beloved San Francisco Giants went and won the World Series, and he went and got married. All this, plus weekly football picks!
My longest uninterrupted relationship has been with the San Francisco Giants. I’m not entirely sure why.
I think I’m a San Francisco Giants fan because when I was seven years old, my grandfather took me to Candlestick Park and I saw the Giants lose to the Reds.
I finished third grade in the spring of ’79; now, I don’t know which year of school you consider your favorite—maybe 11th grade when you lost your virginity after the junior prom…or your sophomore year in college when you lost your virginity after a particularly inspired coffeehouse reading of “Sailing to Byzantium“…or maybe it was the morning you were supposed to defend your Master’s thesis on civil disobedience (“I Don’t Believe In Beatles, I Just Believe In Me”) but instead drove to Tijuana and lost your virginity in a back alley to a twenty-dollar pre-operative Latina hooker who kept screeching, “Chu better pay me, Yim Yividen!
Me? My favorite year of school was third grade. Feel free to draw your own conclusions.
I’m not really sure why; my teacher, Mr. Callan, gave us candy for good grades and I still have a weathered certificate as evidence of a victorious class election; but that really doesn’t explain why, as I walked home after the last day of school with the sing-song sounds of my classmates…
No more pencils/No more books
No more teacher’s dirty looks
… ringing in my ears, I began to weep uncontrollably. As I reached my house I was stopped by my grandfather:
“What’s the matter?”
“Third grade is…gone.”
I was just about to start the third grade when I went to that first game at Candlestick Park in the fall of 1978. My grandfather took me as would he throughout the season. Giants vs. Reds! Knepper on the mound! Hot dog in my hand! Cap on my head! Blanket across my lap! We lost 5 to 2!
I vividly remember a McCovey pinch-double and, earlier, my absolute shock at seeing a man in a Cincinnati cap shout with joy, “The Reds are runnin’!” as the not-as-Big-as-they-used-to-be-but-still-Bigger-than-us Red Machine strung together a few extra-base hits.
I thought everyone was a Giants fan. Well, every adult, anyway; I didn’t really have any friends who were Giants fans (and I was the only ‘Niners fan in four counties, so a little perspective is a good thing). My grandfather said that was because my friends were just kids and their skulls hadn’t fully hardened yet.
I think that’s why I’m a San Francisco Giants fan.
But there may be another reason.
You know the Great Pumpkin? Charles Schulz was a Giants fan, and there’s a theory that the Great Pumpkin which rises up out of the pumpkin patch that it finds to be the most sincere, was a Giants allegory (Halloween, like the Series, is in the fall—the Giants, like the pumpkin patch, are orange).
Linus is never going to see the Great Pumpkin. He’ll hope every single October, but it’s never going to happen.
A Giants fan of another era was discussed in the fabulous opening chapter of Don DeLillo’s book Underworld:
“He knows how to find the twisty compensation in the business of losing, being a loser, drawing it out, expanding it, making it sickly sweet, being someone carefully chosen for the role.”
I don’t know why we become the sports fans we become. But for most of my life a portion of my brain believed I was a Giants fan because I knew that we were never going to win a World Series and that meant I could sit with my blanket in that pumpkin patch every autumn taking comfort in that familiar pain of disappointment. The losing made me feel like me.
The Giants clinched the NL West this week, meaning we’re headed back to the National League Division Series. I’ve attended four playoff games in my life; in neither of my two stints living in the Bay Area did the Giants make postseason, so all 4 games were in Miami. The Giants against the Marlins. Let’s go to the videotape.
- One: September 30, 1997 was 5 days after my 27th birthday and Game One of the NLDS. It was our first postseason game since the Earthquake World Series sweep by the A’s 8 years previous and only our 5th playoff appearance in the 40 years since the move west. We got just 4 hits all night, but took a 1-0 lead with a Bill Mueller homer to lead off the top of the 7th. At that point, a group of fans a few rows behind began to throw popcorn at me as I shouted “Bill Mueller! Bill Mueller! Bill Mueller!” Verbs, apparently, were not permitted into the stadium. Our win probability after Barry followed with a double was 70%, but we stranded him there, and the Marlins tied it in their half of the inning. In the bottom of the 9th, with 2 outs and the bases loaded, future Giant Edgar Renteria singled to walk us off. I slumped from the stadium. Thanks Roberto Hernandez!
- Two: October 1, 1997 was 6 days after my 27th birthday; I got stuck sitting behind the Marlins bullpen, got heckled all night, and was in a slapfight in the parking lot after the game. We scored in each of the first 4 innings (Barry doubled twice) but were still down 6-5 going to the 9th inning when two Marlins errors tied the game. In the bottom of the ninth, future Giant Moises Alou singled to walk us off. I slumped from the stadium. Thanks Roberto Hernandez!
- Three: October 3, 2003 – a half dozen years later and 8 days after my 33rd birthday I sat with my mother behind the Giants bullpen for Game 3 of the NLDS and saw us tie the game at 2-2 in the 6th, then leave 2 on in the 7th, leave a runner at second in the 8th, leave them on the corners in the 9th, leave two on in the 10th, take a 3-2 lead in the 11th and put men on 2nd and 3rd to reach a 90% win expectancy…but leave them stranded and then Bleeping Jose Bleeping Cruz dropped that fly ball in the bottom of the inning. I felt like I was the only one in the stadium looking dead at him the whole way; you know how on a routine play your eyes can leave the ball – for whatever reason I looked the ball into…and out of Cruz’s glove, and had a singular sensation like I was a split second ahead of the entire stadium in recognizing what had happened. With the bases loaded and 2 out, Pudge Rodriguez hit a 2 run single to walk us off. That slumping walk up the aisle and out of the stadium was among the longest of my life. Thanks Roberto Hernandez! (Roberto Hernandez was long gone, but I hold a grudge). The Marlins did a fan vote for their 10 greatest moments to commemorate their move to the new ballpark; during the game I attended in 2011 (which we lost, 2-1) they showed one of those moments on the big screen. It was the Rodriguez single – the second the clip started, I turned to my mom, “that’s the Jose Cruz game.” She pointed down the third base line behind our bullpen “we sat right down there.”
- Four: October 4, 2003 – This was on the MLB Network list of the greatest games of the TV era; 9 days after my 33rd birthday we were down 5-1 after 4 when Jerome Williams (we started Jerome Williams in an elimination game?) got bombed. We got them all back in the 6th, and took a 5-5 tie into the bottom of the 8th when Felix Rodriguez, just a year after his role in our blowing a 5 run Game 6 World Series lead gave up two to put us down 7-5 going to the 9th. We quickly cut it in half, and had the tying run on with no one out in the 9th – two outs and a hit batsman later, JT Snow got thrown out at the plate trying to score on a base hit, maybe the only postseason series ever to end on a home plate collision. It was the last game I ever got to see with my dad; on the drive back, I said we were never going to win the World Series.
7 years later, turned out I was wrong. I turned 40 and we won the World Series.
And I was wrong about the other thing too. Not being disappointed isn’t so bad. Sometimes things work out.
The Giants clinched the division this week three days before my 42nd birthday.
Which was also three days before I got married.
The Great Pumpkin showed up after all. Glad I was still waiting.
I had my best week of the season last week and am now 27-25-1 overall.
Stan -6.5 Wash
Ball St. -1 Kent St
Baylor v WVA under 80
Penn St +1.5 Ill
UCF -2.5 Missouri
Purdue v. Marshall under 64.5
LA Tech -2.5 UVA
SAlabama +10 Troy
Cincinnati +7.5 VT
Rice +5 Houston
Ariz St. +2.5 Cal
WKY -2.5 Ark St.
TTech -2.5 ISt
TCU -16.5 SMU
Tex v Ok St under 66.5
Tex SA +3.5 NMexSt
Louis -10.5 SoMiss
Seattle -3 StL
SD +1 KC
NYJ +4 Niners
Mia +6 Ariz
Buff +4 NE
Jax +2.5 Cincy
Philly -1 NYG
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