An Opening Day like no other.
I have been to many opening days for my beloved San Francisco Giants. I was there last year, flipping through my opening day calendar as I rode up the escalator to my seats. Scrutinizing and criticizing every fiber of the Giants lineup -- with no clue about the joy that would come in October, or the dramatic walk-off victory to come just hours later. I have witnessed many great and historical moments in recent Giants history: Rod Beck clinching the NL West title in 1997, Barry Bonds final game, and several dramatic playoff victories. But nothing would mean more than this day.
Lucky to score tickets to the biggest Giants party so far this year, I thought of nobody else to take but my father. I come from a Giants family. We bleed orange and black. There we were, driving up 280 on a crystal clear day, a World Series champions license plate frame in place, talking baseball. The excitement was palpable. The closer we got to the ballpark, the more and more the nation of Giants fans came into focus. A mosaic of orange and black. Some pointing their index fingers in the air, others were waving flags while declaring as loudly as possible that we are indeed the World Champs.
The scene was spine-tingling. In my lifetime, I have never seen such a swagger from the Giants faithful. This was our day, the day we cried and suffered for. It was one Giant family. People tailgating everywhere, nearly everyone inviting you to join their party and offering you a beer. I met one group who didn’t even have tickets. “We just wanted to be here,” they said nearly in unison.
Two beers, two dogs please. We take our seats. More fans begin trickling in. My father and I sit there, telling stories only a lifelong Giants fan could relate to. Crews make the final preparations on the field. I can’t stop smiling.
The red, white and blue bunting was hung with care. The trophy perched just so that it was almost as if the entire stadium were about to drop to their knees and worship it. Then it happened. The team was introduced. “Your World Champion San Francisco Giants.” The outfield walls open up, the team walks in as one while sparks fly all around them. The crowd simply erupts. No need to describe that moment further.
You have to hand it to the Giants: they know how to put on a show. But all of the festivities a mere build up. Being there on opening day means a lot. It’s a rite of passage of sorts to be a Giants fan. But on this day, it was all about one thing: that World Series flag being hoisted high above.
As Bruce Bochy walked out of the dugout with the flag, the buzz began. One by one, the players touched this sacred flag, and passed it down the line until it reached Brian Wilson. Let the weird begin. After a surreal run through the outfield and into the stands, the flag approaches its new home. It was surreal. “Finally,” someone shouted. It was at that moment, we all felt like the torture and agony was being exorcised.
After more than 50 years by the bay, we are having our day in the sun. Somewhere before I have dreamt of this moment. The flag slowly begins its climb, as Queen’s “We are the Champions” blares across the open air. It’s happening. I have never sung so loud in my life. There was barely a dry eye in the house. My father and I embrace, smile and high five, wiping away tears. We turn and say “we’ll never forget this.”
To not understand how important that moment was, is to not be a Giants fan. The unbelievable pre-game ceremony and torturous history punctuated by a 12-inning nail-biter won in dramatic fashion. Of course they would do it that way. That’s how it’s done at China Basin. The perfect end to a perfect day.
I was also lucky enough to go to Opening night and see the ring ceremony too, another momentous event capped by a bottom of the ninth comeback victory. I’m emotionally drained.
And as the fans left both games, you felt as if you were dreaming. Fathers and sons bonding over America’s pastime, friends but more like brothers laughing and remembering all of the good and the bad over the years, a nation of fans coming together.
Isn’t this what baseball is all about? Isn’t this why we care? Isn’t life just grand? If you’re a Giants fan, then right now, it most certainly is.