Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The Night of The Living Dead

By Scott O' Malley

Since no sport lends itself to down-home colloquialisms like the game of baseball, you might say the 2008 San Francisco Giants are eating soup with a fork. Their expectedly punchless lineup has lived up to billing thus far, so heading into this afternoon’s duel between Matt Cain and Greg Maddux, I was tempted to dust-off the 2007 boilerplate: Cain battles valiantly, but suffers another hard-luck loss as Maddux once again handcuffs his feeble adversaries. Not so however, as Cain surrendered five early runs, and at least for one day, appeared insistent not to reprise his role as Team Martyr. Surely there’s no joy in another loss, but sometimes it’s important to lose differently.

It can be a tricky thing to endure losing without tolerating it, without succumbing to apathy. As the son of a Padre fan, I know this. I sat next to my dad for several years, many of them lean as the Padres were concerned, smugly wondering how he had the fortitude to stomach 162 games of futility. As a foil of sorts, it was maddening that he never lost interest. He knew as well as I did that it was only a matter of time before Sean Bergman or Brian Tollberg took a match to the gas-can, but it never stopped him from tuning in.

I could only conclude that he wanted to be there when it turned around. Sure, there seemed to be a perpetual vote of zero confidence, but the patience was admirable. During my time in post-college limbo, I hoped my parents could employ a similar measure of patience with myself. "You know, maybe Scott didn't get that one big job, but at least the gangrene's healed, the charges were dropped, and he's over his 'smearing' stage.” It never came to that thankfully, and it wasn’t long before our respective teams had switched places.

.500 ball for the Giants is a pipe dream this year. The Padres may have cornered the market on advanced mediocrity, but it’s a mediocrity I’m deeply envious of. I don’t want for the Giants what I saw for so many years in San Diego – a daily struggle to ward off apathy. When the Giants hired Bruce Bochy last season, what Padre fan didn’t feel like the cat that swallowed the canary? A nice man, to be sure, but apathy personified.

Harry Edwards once likened the culture of losing to an epidemic of somnambulism. Losing becomes a force of habit, and soon you feel the life running from the bottom of your shoes as you wait for the disease to run its course. One week into the 2008 campaign, the Giants may be on the precipice of contracting that sickness. My dad is too decent to gloat about this, as the mutual perspective of losing has made our rivalry more civil. Nonetheless, I want this probable sweep by the Padres to be something I should fear. I want it to hurt me deeply and ruin at least one day this week. Only Cubs fans think losing is cute. Though I’m loath to give the Padres credit for anything, they’ve taught me that some things are worth waiting for. Even mediocrity.


Joe said...

Well said, Scott. I will say there was something fun about those years of awful. They didnt' feel terribly different from what we endure now, limping towards a meaningless NL West title. It was almost more fun to heckle Ruben Rivera, or as Nick used to call out "You hit like a Padre."

Dave H said...

Haha, the Giants hella suck!