Friday, October 26, 2012

Game 7

I bitch a lot about San Francisco. We have a difficult relationship, this city of my birth and I. But sometimes, the stars align and it can be one of the most amazing places in the world. That happened Monday night, as I attended Game 7 of the NLCS between the Giants and the Cardinals.

The first part is not really my story. It's my dad's. See, he has a much different relationship to SF. And to life in general. Things just sort of work for him. A natural flow. A mind boggling ease. Man downright skates through life. It can be infuriating to watch. It can also be amazing to be part of.

I saw, while doing my morning perusal of facebook, that he had posted about looking for tickets to Game 7. I thought to myself, "Of course he's gonna go to the game. Jackass. But no, really, he loves the Giants and deserves it, good for him," and went about my day. I didn't give it a second thought.

I went to the gym in the early afternoon. My awful bunker of a gym where I get incredibly limited cell reception at best and mostly none at all. Which is fine. It's the hour and a half of the day I just zone out and do my thing. The few times I have used my phone to play music instead of my iPod, I've serendipitously received messages I needed but mostly I don't bother checking my phone.

I leave the gym and as I pull up to my house, I can hear my phone beeping in my gym bag. I pull it out and see I have a message from my dad. I'm still not really thinking anything of it, considering maybe he's calling me about work stuff or my ailing grandfather. In actuality, he was calling to see if I was in for that night's game 7, as he had tickets. I called him back and was gonna say, "That was a really dumb question. Of course I'm in!" I got his voicemail instead and left a quick message. I'm still in the kitchen, drenched in my gym gear (I'm not gonna pretend I'm one of those girls who doesn't sweat), talking to my mom, playing with my new James Bond nail polish (I really like the Live or Let Die, I thought the Casino Royale would be more purple), when he calls me back. It's a quick exchange, just a "Hey, I got tickets, you're in, yes? Meet me at the station."

I hopped in the shower, threw on some vaguely Giants themed clothing  (blue jeans, black t-shirt, orange accents) (the orange shirt I usually wear to games was dirty, and likely too thin for what I expected to be a fairly cold evening at the park). I don't own a black or orange all purpose coat. My favorite all around coat got left in the hotel room of an Ohio State alumn a couple years ago. I'm still annoyed by this. So I grabbed my purple jacket (color of which most of my wardrobe is comprised) and put that on, much to my mom's chagrin. "Don't you own any Giants stuff?" Not really, no.

Weather digression!: we're having a weird October. It's been raining. Which is not, to my mind, the norm for October. But it's almost Southern rain. It rains, sure, but then it gets clear and warm. When I left my house near West Portal there was a smattering of puffy clouds but it was warm out, the sun was shining. As I made it to the top of Market, the rain started. By the time I turned left on Franklin, it was raining in earnest and I thought, "I'm not dressed for this at all! Where the hell are the 20 rain ponchos I know I have from LSU games?"

I made it to the police station, which was a hive of activity as there were a bunch of cops all heading off to work the game.

Finally my dad emerges and he lets me know that we're getting a ride down with Tommy and John, who will be working the game, that Angela, her brother, and 23 year old coworker will be at the station shortly getting a ride to the game with another cop and he leaves tickets for them with him. He says something vaguely about needing to be in our seats 20 minutes before the game starts, that our seats are in club level but the other 4 tickets (of which we have one extra) are in the 300 level.

Tommy & John are hysterical. John is a good looking cop who I never thought was good looking which is fine because he thinks he's good looking enough for the both of us. But listening to him on the drive down made me laugh. He had worked the previous night's game, the Lil Wayne game, and had been in charge of taking care of Mr. Wayne all night, which I found hysterical. He said he was really nice and incredibly polite. When he mentioned Lil Wayne, my dad and Tommy, the older gentlemen in the car, both said, "Lil Who?" Exact reaction I expected. John also air horned a girl on Broadway who was stopped at a red light next to the police car texting. He wagged his finger at her and told her to stop. In all her blonde glory, she dropped the phone and held her hands up. "But she was cute!" exclaimed Tommy. Ah, pretty girls, you get away with. so. much. shit. I couldn't help it, "That doesn't mean she's allowed to do it!"

To get from Central Station, on Vallejo at the edge of Chinatown, to the ballpark in SoMa, the fastest way is along the Embarcadero. But as what seemed like half the city was trying to get to the same general area, the Embarcadero becomes a parking lot. Unless you're in a police car. Not that they have to go Code 3. They just drive on the Muni tracks behind the trains. Some things about the way things are done by the police department, and other city agencies here, are pretty freaking awesome.

In the back of the police car is where I hear the typical my dad story of procuring tickets to the game:

He went to work that morning determined to go to the game. So after doing his usual putzing around the station thing, he went online and discovered that he could buy one ticket right then. He then considered that, since I guess Angela and her smartassy coworker had spoken up about going, he needed more than one and if he bought one at a time and paid service fees, it'd be easier to go to the box office. So he hopped in his police car and headed down to the box office of AT&T Park around noon. There were three ticket windows open and no line. He talks to the one cashier and no sooner does the cashier see a ticket pop on the screen than it is gone again. He finally purchases one. As he does, the other cashier has another 2 pop up, and then back to the first cashier for the fourth. He's now gotten 4 tickets in the 300 level, pretty near each other, for game 7 just by walking up to the ticket window.

Before heading to the park, my dad had sent out a few texts to contacts that he has, as he knows most of North Beach. Sure enough he knows a guy who knows a guy who gets us two club level seats. Comped.

For those not in the know: the club level is a glassed in, full bar service the whole game with TVs, carpeting and the need to show your ticket to access it. It has regular seats for the game, but a, well, club like feel to the concourse as opposed to the concrete of promenade or view level. Because I am a snobby, entitled jerk, I prefer club level.

John pulls the police car to the reserved police parking right across the street from Momo's and dad and I wander off to get rid of his now one extra ticket. He sells it for a loss to a nice enough lady at the Willie Mays plaza side of the stadium.

Entrance to the stadium was not without its hiccups. The crush of bag checks to get into the stadium left me feeling claustrophobic. I don't know if it's because there are more gates with wider ramps or a general lack of sobriety upon entering but it never ceases to amaze me that LSU with a stadium holding 90k plus feels way less crowded and awful than the 42k at a Giants game. I was relieved to get to the second escalator and inside the door of club level.

Here's where the story gets weird: through some of my dad's excess of magic, they aren't just any club level seats. At every Giants game, shortly into the game, they put up on the big screen Seat Upgrade Fans of the Game, two people they have plucked from their lowly average seats and upgraded to two recliners on the club level. The seats are in their own sectioned off platform at the back of section 213, next to the press box.

They are super sweet seats. That we had to wrestle from two teen boys who had just plopped themselves in them hoping no one would say anything. I admired their bravado.


I hate real life attention. I like to blend. And there's no doing that in these seats. Mainly because halfway through the first inning we're surrounded by the orange promotional people. And at the end of the 1st, we're told we're going to be on the Jumbotron for "like ten seconds" as the seat upgrade of the game. I'm not sure there is anything more terrifying for me than being on the jumbotron. Especially for that long of a period of time, being all awkward. Even my dad, who never ever shies away from attention says, "Well this is embarrassing." And it was. Though even I told myself, "Oh, whatever, just go with it." It also dawned on me that no one really cares. We're a blip on the screen for ten seconds and everyone is there to watch a baseball game, not pay much attention to what's going on on the scoreboard. If it even registers, they'll make some snarky remark and go about their business. At least that's what I would do. "God! That lady isn't even in Giants gear and she gets to sit there!"

So, thanks to one of my dad's coworkers that was at the game, I'm gonna do something I never ever do and share an actual picture of me, and my dad, in the upgrade seats taken of the Jumbotron:

I actually don't hate this picture of me
Try not to look awkward!

Yep. At game 7 of the NLCS, I was on the jumbotron for what felt like an extremely long time in front of some 42k people. The Orange girls, who spent a half an inning by us, were really nice (we had a conversation about my bracelets and the one girl took pictures of them) but before they left I said, "That was the longest ten seconds EVER!" The one girl laughed and agreed. 

The guys sitting a row in front of us were huge fans of ours. AT&T Park notoriously doesn't replay close plays on the Jumbotron. A fan in the stands is left guessing as if it was really a strike or not, if the runner was safe or out. But we had a TV at our seats with the Fox feed. They'd look at us, we'd see the replay, and we'd let them know the call. People would walk by, as a lot of them had to because of the location next to the press box and all the sections to get to seats in front of there, and nod and smile and say something. At one point I'm sitting alone, fiddling with my phone, waiting for my dad to come back, and this guy says, "Do you need some company?" Apparently all you need to get attention is have the recliner chairs at AT&T Park. I do have to add that they aren't that comfortable to sit in. I mean, they're comfy recliners but I'm 5'7" and if I sat back, the batters box would disappear from view which sort of negates the whole purpose of being at the game. That said, if ever I was gonna sit on the edge of a seat, this was a comfortable one to do it in. 

Additionally, because the seats are in their own box, you don't have to stand up to let people by. You aren't subject to the insipid conversations of everyone around you. My bag was safe on the ground because the only person with the ability to spill anything on it was me. The bathrooms were twenty steps away and there was a stand alone beer vendor selling Stella right outside the door to our seats. If you're gonna watch a game, this is a pretty amazing way to do it.

Shortly after the Jumbotron fiasco, I went and got a dog and a soda because due to the gym to station to ballgame route, I hadn't eaten after the gym and was gonna gnaw my arm off. And after that my dad did the go in, go out, go in, go out thing with my stepmom and her entourage to get them to club level. Because that's the thing about club level: you need to show your ticket to get on the level but it's not scanned. So you just flash anyone's club level ticket to gain entrance. There are now five of us on our disco platform, sitting on the railings that border us, watching the TV and the game. Here's what the set up at the seats looks like:

Now, I have horrible recall, which is partly why I write everything down, so if you want a play by play you're in the wrong place. What I do know is that we got on the board first, and then often, and the entire park was rocking and fun and that's when the beer started flowing and I was keeping up with my stepmom which is always just moronic. Strangers would stand behind our seats, as we had a walkway behind us, and make conversation. My favorite exchange being that even with six runs on the board, my dad is as pessimistic a fan as I am and said, "If we had three more, I think I'd feel comfortable." A few minutes later a guy standing adjacent to our seats says to no one in particular, "If we had a few more, I think I'd relax." Insane fandom! A universal! There were a few annoying strangers, the lady who stood next to my seat for way too long and thought the usher, who we had made friends with due to our big overflowing group, asking her to leave just meant snuggle closer to our seats comes to mind. But mostly, if you're ever gonna be lucky enough to go to a game 7 (and this was the first in AT&T Park (and beyond? I'm not looking this up right now) history), THIS is the way to do it. 

But it would get even better. Because the rain started. That weird October rain. Now, I got to watch it all and comment on its majesty from my covered seats, nary a drop falling on my head, but even still it was downright cinematic. Tears in your eyes as you wait for Randy Newman's The Natural score to start playing and the lights to cascade into fireworks cinematic. (Serious missed opportunity by the Giants PA to not play that, by the way.) 

I've been to games in the rain before. Mostly LSU football games that are only stopped for weather if there's lightning in the area. Baseball? It's not played in inclement weather. The first sight of sprinkles usually brings a tarp to the field and a stoppage of play. 

But this game. This game was in the 9th inning. A stoppage in play would have been annoying. And because it's the playoffs, they can't call a game after the 7th inning and have that score hold the way they can during the regular season. All games have to be played to completion. A rain delay, a rare in SF rain delay, would have really gummed up the works. So they played on, even as it began to rain harder and harder, the infield dirt turning to mud, reminding me of that epic 1999 LSU/Florida game I attended in a soaking, cold, torrential downpour where the cheerleaders started slip & sliding on the grass in their area for fun. (Also: there were people with umbrellas. At a baseball game. As this is verboten at LSU football games, I found this extremely weird. How are you not annoying everyone behind you with your umbrella?)

But I remained covered as the rain came down and the game played on and we waited for the final out, a pop out to 2nd.

It was magical.

We'd all stay in our seats for the annoying Fox trophy presentation to the NLCS Champs, where I fully gave in to hockey superstition and thought, "I wouldn't touch it." Until I get the trophy for the whole thing, I wouldn't dare pick it up. I may be slightly unhinged. We'd yell over Erin Andrews, we'd whoop every time any of the owners/managers/players pandered to us and said, "THESE FANS!" We'd stomp and cheer and do disco dances in our private box with two recliners at the Giants Game 7 NLCS win.

They never did play "I left my heart..." after the win, unless I missed it, which I doubt. I cared because it would have been a great cap on an amazing night. Not that it wasn't amazing anyway. Here we are, in the rain, headed to the World Series, after being down 3-1 in the NLCS. Baseball!

But the night wouldn't end. We'd head to Momo's for a couple drinks on the ramp. Things would start to get weird there but we'd leave, my dad picking us up after getting a ride back to the station from his coworkers, and we'd then head to say thanks at the restaurant of the guy who got us tickets to the games because HOW ALL OUT EPIC WAS EVERYTHING THAT HAPPENED SO FAR?!

He wouldn't be there. Instead they would be hosting a special fundraiser dinner with the super hot chef of this Italian restaurant around the corner. He'd made osso buco with polenta, homemade and delicious and then serve some sort of short rib ragu with hand made pasta to warm me after the cold of the patio at Momo's, as I talked to the gorgeous bar manager of the other place around the corner and drank a wine I really liked even though my normal attitude towards wine is "Made with grapes? It's good then." (I think it was called Peju? I should look it up. Or should have taken a picture of the label because smart phones! But I didn't because alcohol!)

I'd then feel all warm and fuzzy and call up my amazing wing man and head to Marina bars which was probably a mistake and drink too much and be stupid and get sick and eat McDonald's at 3 a.m. because I am an idiot. So. Ya know. It can't all be magical, mythical, rain falling down Game 7 wins.

Or can it? Because the giants are up 2-0 on the Detroit Tigers right now and though my pessimistic nature says that can all fall apart at any second and we came back being down 3-1 twice, the Tigers can do the same, it's still really nice to be the moment.

So I'm just gonna revel in this for a bit and be thankful for an LSU bye week to focus on baseball and head to the Grand National Rodeo tonight, something I haven't done in several years but used to do every year with my dad from ages about 4 to 18.

Sometimes SF is pretty damn awesome. 

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