Nothing makes you dislike a team you normally barely notice than being surrounded by a surfeit of its followers. Who knew the San Francisco Giants had enough followers in New York to constitute a dislikable surfeit?
It must be because every 23-year-old from the San Francisco Bay Area packed his or her belongings and moved to New York in the weeks following the Giants’ victory in the 2010 World Series. Now 24 or 25, each of these Northern California expats bides his or her time for 361 or 362 days a year until the Giants arrive at Citi Field. Then every goddamn one of them crowds into our ballpark and annoys the hell out of me.
That has to explain why there are approximately a jillion times more Giants fans — young Giants fans with (I would guess) little or no working knowledge regarding Willie Mays or Will Clark or William VanLandingham, even — at Mets games these last two seasons than there ever were before the San Francisco club won a world championship. It’s either that or the most massive case of front-running since the Kenyan contingent lined up to start the Boston Marathon.
Except for an extra layer of smugness, nothing glaring differentiates these twentysomething Giants fans from the flocks of Cardinal fans or sloths of Cubs fans or herds of Brewers fans who have invaded our ballpark(s) en masse in recent decades. While none of them is as bad as the murder of Phillies fans or yoke of Yankees fans — you can check the collective nouns here — the ostentation of Giants fans has the capacity to nibble on your nerves because they’re not supposed to be among us New Yorkers in such great numbers.
Not anymore they’re not.
The New York Giants were born in 1883 and lived to play 75 seasons in the National League. I’m fond enough of their legacy to attend regular meetings of the New York Baseball Giants Nostalgia Society at a church in the Bronx (of all places), most recently Thursday night. I make these sojourns because for two hours three times a year, I’m in a room with guys wearing New York Giants caps like they did as kids going to the Polo Grounds, as if the New York Giants didn’t quit the neighborhood in 1957. The New York Giants live a 76th, 77th and so on season in that room when those caps adorn those heads in full force.
The New York Giants would be in their 130th season if they hadn’t been lured to another coast. They’d laugh at any other New York team claiming to be the avatar of tradition. They’d see a hundredth-anniversary commemoration at Fenway Park and wonder what the big deal was. If New York Giants fans congregated at the Church of the Mediator in Kingsbridge on a Thursday night, it would be to ask a Higher Power to imbue our boys with good fortune in their weekend series against the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Yes, our boys. As mentioned now and then in this space, I consider myself a Mets fan at heart yet a Giants fan in my soul — a New York Giants fan, that is. It’s a whole thing with me. But because there was nothing after the 75th season, there was no reason for me to do more than barely notice the San Francisco Giants when I was a kid. I had the Mets. I have the Mets. That’s what makes it a little uncomfortable in that church meeting room when the nostalgists on hand reveal themselves as very much San Francisco Giants fans in the present day, leaving me to realize I joined a group essentially to be its nominal outcast.
The group’s ethos is really extraordinarily inclusive, except when the big Giants-Mets/Mets-Giants series approaches and we’re all going the next night on our annual group outing to root for…
Well, they root for the Giants, just like they did before Horace Stoneham ignored their anguished cries of “STAY TEAM STAY.” I root for the Mets, the team born to right the 1957 historical wrongs of Stoneham and Walter O’Malley. Say what you will about various Mets ownership groups since 1962, the one thing you can’t carp about is municipal delineation. They’re the New York Mets all the way. Nobody here needs to stay up late to watch the first inning of their home games. Nobody here has to seek refuge capwise in a house of worship.
My Giants compatriots don’t seem to mind the odd hours or their odd status in a city with two extant major league franchises, or at least they’ve grown used to it across more than a half-century of bicoastal insomnia, what with their baseball awake when they themselves should be asleep. Since their team won the World Series less than two years ago, they’re feeling pretty good about themselves, actually. Maybe even the slightest dollop of smugness has slipped into their fandom, too, but unlike the 24-year-old San Franciscans that were everywhere at Citi Field Friday night, I can’t begrudge my Nostalgia Society brethren. Their team was pried from their warm, live hands 55 years ago. They should enjoy everything about the technology that brings them their team live and in living color late at night and relish their opportunities to see it play in their midst a precious few times a year.
Doesn’t mean I have to like that they received what they consider a likable ten-inning result against the Mets. Doesn’t mean I like seeing people of any vintage in San Francisco Giants caps celebrating in a ballpark I finally consider home now that it contains a human-sized blue left field wall amenable to long fly balls jumping off of bats that belong to lefthanded home hitters wearing blue caps. Kirk Nieuwenhuis became the first Met to fit that description Friday when he homered to the opposite field. It hadn’t occurred to me it had never happened before, but it hadn’t. When Kirk hit one out to left, it not only served to tighten the score, but it helped hush the buzz of the visiting fans for a spell.
There isn’t supposed to be enough noise from the visiting fans to require hushing, but the San Francisco buzz was unmistakable as it was unmistakably annoying. Kind of like the way the game didn’t end in the bottom of the ninth and went to blazes in both halves of the tenth.
That part, sadly, was impossible to not notice.