Friday, June 08, 2007

What defines a true fan?

Yesterday was my annual trip to see the A's play the Boston Red Sox. I go each year with my friend Peter Shwartz, a die-hard Red Sox fan. You can read about our 2005 outing here.

The weather was great--sunny and warm, which was a change from the chilly temperatures of the first three games. I could also be somewhat relaxed about the outcome. The A's had already taken the first three games, so while a sweep would be nice, going 3-1 against the team with the best record in Major League baseball would certainly be no disgrace.

It was a great pitching match-up; Curt Schilling against Joe Blanton - a veteran ace against a young up-and-comer. They both lived up to their billing. Blanton gave up a first inning homer to David Ortiz--no shame there, as Ortiz is one of the league's best hitters and was due to knock one out. Blanton and the A's bullpen allowed only 3 more hits, with no Sox player getting past second base. Unfortunately, Schilling was that much better--he just stifled the hitters.

I often bring a radio to the ballgame, but this time, thankfully, I left my radio home. The only commentary I heard was from the fans sitting around us. It wasn't until about the 6th inning that I realized that Schilling had a no-hitter going. I nudged Peter and pointed to the scoreboard. He took a breath and said, "We're not going to talk about this until it's over."

The game went into the ninth inning with the score still 1 - 0 Red Sox with no hits by the A's. Schilling gets two quick groundouts to Mark Kotsay and Jason Kendall. One out to go--and Shannon Stewart hits a clean single to right on his first pitch. The Red Sox win; Schilling gets a one-hit shutout instead of what would have been the first no-hitter of his career.

Curt Schilling pitched a magnificent game. Not only was he one out away from a no-hitter, but the game would have been as close to perfect as you could get--the only A's base runner was due to an error by the shortstop. It would have been cool to have been there to witness this milestone in his career.

Towards the end of my drive home I listened to KNBR sports radio. I guess some callers were talking about the game. When I tuned in, Ralph Barbiari was carrying on about some A's fan's disappointment about the missed opportunity to see a no-hitter. "No true fan wants to see a no-hitter pitched against their team, especially in their ballpark. Anyone who is disappointed about this is not a true fan."

Now, I have no doubt that I am a true and loyal fan, especially when it comes to the Oakland A's in baseball and the New York Giants in football. I may not be happy when my teams are in the dumpster, but I don't bail. I've been a Giant fan for over 40 years, and if you know anything about the Giant teams in the late 60s through the early 80s, you know I had little if anything to cheer about. And while the Super Bowl wins in 1987 and 1991 were very sweet, the 1997 playoff game against the Minnesota Vikings in which the Giants were ahead by nine points with a minute and a half to go--and then lost--was extremely painful.

You only feel those highs and lows when you are a true fan. Yet I still would have liked to see Schilling make his no-hitter. My team played well, the pitching staff allowed only 4 hits, and taking 3 out of 4 games against a really good team is a fine showing. I could concentrate on the excellence of a talented player and applaud his effort. I see nothing dishonest or disloyal in that.


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