Loyalty is a funny thing.
We go through our spring and fall, facing our fellow fans at work and among our friends bolstered by our records in winning streaks, and in skids only by our loyalty; and it is by the latter we judge ourselves either fickle or ‘true’ fans.
True fans swallow bitter pills and ask for nothing sweeter.
This is the torture we signed up for after all; and it is this concept that forces our attention on the positives from a game’s outcome and keeps us impossibly optimistic at nearly all times. It is this idea which convinces us that although we squandered golden opportunities with men on third and second, we got to see Pablo’s face shining as he gave fans their first opportunity in far too long to chase a splash hit into the cove. And it’s hard getting around the simple fact that we have no right to complain as loudly as we’d like to about recent stumbles while our team sits on top of the NLWest.
None of us feel this way with our whole hearts. Seriously. I mean, they have the nerve to leave guys stranded at second and third with one out? Again? After the week we’ve had? How exactly is it that we happily take this disappointment? It’s a pretty weird way way to relate to a team of men we pay to win - just letting them perform however they like without giving up on them. And yet, we don’t. We take it as a mark of pride that we won’t. Why? Is there anything in the makeup of our loyalty aside from the idea that this is the only team we’ve got?
Certainly geography plays a big role in the shaping of our loyalty - we belong to a place and to a people. (The first phrase I thought of and immediately discarded was ‘Bay Areans’ - dropped in consideration of obviously, terrifyingly racist implications.) We clearly want the world to know how rooted we are in Northern California, and an affiliation with a franchise gets the point across easily. Our team can certainly symbolize our membership within a community. But if this thought was the only consideration in deciding loyalty, doesn’t that predict us all becoming A’s fans at some time or another - if only to try out something different?
At this point, our loyalty is certainly at least bolstered by - and at worst based on - the recent memories our team has given us; and do be fair, if that’s the the arrangement, it’s a bargain. The least we can do is suffer through their missed opportunities after the September they gave us last year. And yet we know that memories of triumph is not the only thing that builds our loyalty. After all, with the exception of last year, the sum total of seasons I’ve followed have seen the Giants fail to win a World Series, and loyalty has nevertheless endured.
The one thing loyalty does is give us the impression that we are contributing something to the process besides providing strong tv ratings and soaring ticket sales. And we need this. We need to feel that we’re doing more than sponsoring their expenses. We do more than pay their salaries, we there to catch their falling numbers and averages and to clap when we see them. We’re not Phillies fans, we’re not going to boo Burrell in strikeout-anticipation when he walks up to the plate. We need to feel that we’re instrumental in the successes they do manage to pull through; that while they can give us thrilling wins and restore our faith that baseball can be a venue for miracles and not just rigid, statistical reality, we can in turn forgive them and support them when the season’s record turns against them.
The only thing is, it looks like the Giants are aware of this need that we have to be involved, and are systematically testing our ability to remain supportive while most of them slump their way through might-have-been evenings.
But that’s the thing with loyalty. It’s nearly impossible to turn off, and chances are we will continue to prove that the stubborn love of fan loyalty can endure worse than they could ever dish out.
Trust me. I know. I’m a 49er fan.